The visual drama of this restaurant takes place entirely outside, and La Terrasse is open only on nights when being outside is pleasurable. Which is why it’s taken me many tries to get here. On 35-above evenings I want air-conditioning. If threatening skies, I want a roof.
But this particular July night was as splendid as you could possibly want and I sat on La Terrasse at a table closest to the canal below, just pinching myself.
For here was a rowing eight-shell blistering along the Ottawa River. Here were bagpipes somewhere in the distance (played by someone who knew his instrument). We arrived to a sun lowering over the Gatineau Hills and left at dusk, after a stunning light show.
All these fine things, along with the forest of trees that flanks the east block of Parliament Hill, were in our sights. We were in the heart of the city, but also in its lee, perched on padded chairs in near-complete privacy, on the hidden patio of the Fairmont ChÃ¢teau Laurier.
Yet on this night of nights, wonder of wonders, La Terrasse is near empty.
On most of this city’s patios-with-a-view-of-water the food is forgettable. Not so here. I bring you the experience of just one meal, mind, as at my second planned visit La Terrasse was closed for a wedding, and my third attempt was on a night with a downpour. But I can tell you about two starters, two main dishes and two desserts — all pretty satisfying.
First up, a very good gazpacho, ripe with summer flavours, well balanced in terms of tang and spice, and with a refreshing lemon-basil yogurt squiggled on its thick, red surface.
A little wooden bench equipped with three paper cones containing seafood treats was our second starter. In the bottom of each cone we discover a bit of sushi rice and a little seaweed salad, and on top, a big sparkling shrimp, or a tasty lobster and dill salad, or, in the third cone, albacore tuna, thin slices of the pink fish, flash-seared tataki style. Very fresh, very nice.
We are told O’Brien Farms (from Winchester) supplies the beef for the “Capital Burger” and whether it’s the quality of the beast or of the thick smoky bacon, the old Balderson cheddar or the mustard mayo, this is a superior hamburger in every way.
I would have enjoyed the seafood fettuccine more if the price hadn’t seemed out of whack. It was a tasty dish, the pasta and fish properly cooked, well sauced, the charred tomatoes a nice touch, but at $32 I would hope for more than two shrimp and a smattering of lobster pebbles.
You may eat more simply (and more affordably) than we did here.
The menu tries to please a variety of tastes and needs, so on it you also find chicken wings and nachos, plus things like clubhouse and pulled pork sandwiches ($16). You also find steak and lamb and fresh fish.
Desserts are designed to make a kid happy, with a couple of tossed-in adult treats. Here are banana split boats, ice cream sundaes, and brownie bombs, plus chocolate panna cotta (delicious) and lemon meringue pie (lovely, served with a raspberry sauce and a crÃ¨me anglaise that tastes of eggs, cream and vanilla).
La Terrasse offers a condensed drinks list (all wines, brief as the offerings are, available by the glass) and a children’s menu. Kiddies under five eat “on the house” on this secret patio.