CALGARY’S economic fortunes may have been bumpy this year but there’s no slowing down on the dining scene, with new restaurants opening and established ones coming up with new offerings to satisfy the city’s growing appetite for sophisticated, inventive cuisine. To make it easier for busy people to take a restorative break during their work day, Essence Bistro at The Westin Calgary has introduced a quick lunch menu that will work for brief business meetings, a casual catch-up with friends, or if you’re really in a rush, a meal to grab and go.
The Westin is bang in the middle of downtown Calgary, close to shops and offices and just a block from two popular lunch spots — the Riverwalk that meanders along the banks of the clear-running Bow River, and the lovely Prince’s Island park. If you choose to dine in, Essence Bistro’s sleek and modern décor, in calming hues of seafoam and beige, echoes the tones of Calgary’s natural surrounds.
The In & Out menu offers a selection of starters, soups, sandwiches and mains, with cookies for dessert. But this is no ordinary brown bag lunch — the man in the kitchen is Westin’s Executive Chef Michael Batke. Batke helped create Calgary hotspots CharCut, CharBar and Alley Burger — a fast food truck that went viral. All of his culinary ventures share a focus on creative use of quality ingredients, locally sourced when possible. From fine dining to street food, he knows how to dish it up.
I loved the Ancient Grains salad from the In & Out menu — farro, quinoa, shaved fennel, dehydrated carrot, cucumber ribbons and shaved radishes, dressed with an orange and Okanagan pinot gris vinaigrette. Sautéed tiger prawns were an optional extra but the dish would have been fine without. The club sandwich, oozing with smoked cheddar cheese, was a mile-high showstopper. Comforting and creamy mushroom risotto made with brown rice was topped with a shower of award-winning grizzly gouda cheese from local dairy Sylvan Farms. Kennebec potato fries with smoked tomato aioli rounded out a seriously delicious lunch.
If you have time to linger over a bottle of wine, or would like a glass with your meal, there’s an interesting list of wines that have been chosen for taste rather than cost, so even at the lower price point you’re likely to find a pleasing drop.
I was too full for the cookies, but as Batke pointed out — they’re in a bag so you can take them back to the office, or — if you’re feeling generous — give them to a friend.
Kennebec fries and cookies bagged to go.
Protein choices include fish, chicken and steak.