Great Space | Grand Slam
The Cameron is a tennis-club eatery with a cottage-chic vibe
He’s known as the man behind The Belmont, a tiny Old Ottawa South haunt renowned for its cool snacks and even cooler cocktails. Now Adrian Vezina has taken his creativity to a new venue, partnering with the Ottawa Tennis and Lawn Bowling Club to turn the club’s second floor into The Cameron, a hopping neighbourhood hangout (yes, it’s open to non-members) with a cottage-chic vibe and a casual menu.
Vezina got talking to club management last fall after a club member toured him around the upstairs dining hall and kitchen. He immediately saw the potential for the underused space but jumped into renovations only this past April once the weather warmed up (the circa-1920 building is a three-season space, closed for the winter).
The tennis club has always pushed the idea that it’s “a cottage in the city,” so Vezina ran with that theme, getting rid of all the banquet-style tables and chairs and replacing them with picnic tables. “I had in my mind a big, friendly camp mess hall — but with better food!”
The timelines were tight. With opening day set for May 5, Vezina had just a month to get things ready. “I had a picture in my head of what I wanted to do and what I wanted it to look like, but with the season coming up fast, we really were just winging it a lot of the time.”
A display of vintage tennis racquets above the hearth centres the room. They were donated by a collector who just happens to be a regular at The Belmont and offered them to Vezina as a decor element. The racquets were beautifully evocative, but how to get them up on a wall? That’s where artist Danny Hussey came in. The owner of Central Art Garage and his partner, Bridget Thompson, stopped by and saw that Vezina had the racquets arrayed on the floor in a huge Spirograph pattern. Vezina was wondering how best to arrange them — and how to mount them without causing any damage. Hussey had a few ideas that involved leather straps and screws. “I said to him, ‘You seem to have a clear vision — why don’t you take this over!’”
A refresh of the space also included painting, retiling the area around the kitchen, and adding live-edge bars on both sides of the fireplace. Vezina then dug through the boxes of memorabilia collected over the club’s 137-year history, choosing archival photos to hang and trophies and pennants to display. “I like the design to happen naturally,” he explains. “It’s always in transformation.”
Bigger design changes may be in the offing. Vezina dreams of removing the drop ceiling, which currently hides a dramatic beamed roof. The 200-seat spot has been crowded since day one with tennis and volleyball players, people from the neighbourhood, Belmont regulars, and Vezina’s fellow food-industry friends. Now, as summer begins to wane, he’s already planning for next season. “On the day the restaurant opened, some of the longtime club members cried a little when they saw it — they were so happy,” he says. “In my mind, we’re not even close to done yet, but seeing how happy people are with The Cameron so far, that’s a really nice feeling.”