I worked at the National Arts Centre for two years straight out of university, and a perk of that job was my employee discount at the in-house restaurant, then called Le Café. The space was upscale and classy with armchairs and white tablecloths, the food was lovely, and I could bring a single guest with me for lunch as part of that discount. I hosted each of my parents in turn, my then-boyfriend-now-husband, and my best friend, and always felt like a high roller.
So walking into the recently renovated space in early September brought back some great memories, even as I marvelled at the transformed room with its new, shiny central bar and cozy round booths. Same great view out to the canal, though. Suitably, for a performance venue, the re-christened 1 Elgin (the NAC’s enviable street address) has planned a season’s worth of rotating resident chefs to bring freshness and regional flavours to the menu, overseen by Executive Chef Kenton Leier.
The September 13 media event showcased the talents of Chef Rich Francis, a Canada’s Top Chef finalist and owner of Seventh Fire Hospitality Group in Saskatoon, where he creates authentically indigenous food using techniques he acquired in Nunavut and northern Ontario. Tasty bites on offer included sous-vide caribou (you cannot imagine how good this is), pulled elk, seared arctic char, wild rice and corn salad, and smoked duck drizzled with honey taken from the NAC’s own rooftop beehives. The collaborative menu created by Chefs Francis and Leier will be available until the end of November at 1 Elgin, and I definitely recommend you stop in to see what else they’ve put together. Wine pairings for this menu hail from British Columbia’s Nk’mip Cellars (both very tasty, I can happily report).
In January, Alberta’s Ryan Hotchkiss will premiere his collaboration with Executive Chef Leier, followed in March by Helena Loureiro of Montreal and in May by Newfoundlander Jonathan Gushue. Each chef will host a tasting event near the start of their run, and details will be posted on 1Elgin.ca as they become available. Or just book a table for lunch or dinner to see what treats they have in store.
The NAC’s mandate is to bring artists from all parts of Canada to the nation’s capital and show off their talents, and it’s great to see their restaurant getting in on that action, along with a fresh face to match the recent updates to the rest of the building. Bravo!
1 Elgin is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Visit them at 1Elgin.ca for more information or to make an online reservation.