Discover Ottawa's top hotel bars

Hotel bars aren’t a mere convenience for hotel guests. Some of Ottawa’s best are grandly sumptuous: perfect venues for a milestone occasion. Other bars are stylish and sleek, ideal for a dress-up date night. There are those where friends meet after work, and a couple that are perfect for the T-shirt-jeans-and-bottle-of-beer set. One thing our favourite hotel bars have in common, though, is decent drinks and nibbles.

The Shore Club

1
1-11 Colonel By Dr, Ottawa, ON K1N 9H4

The Westin Hotel’s Shore Club is half steak house, half lounge and 100 per cent chic. Styled in dark wood with flickering candles (even mid-afternoon) and dramatic lighting over its long, black marble bar, it’s quietly contemporary and seriously upscale. Even the drink coasters are monogrammed linen. What to set on yours? One of 26 wines by the glass, a mug of Blanche de Chambly or a blueberry bourbon ice tea. During happy hour (weekdays 4 to 7 p.m.), buck-a-shuck oysters are on offer and wine by the glass is cheap.

The Albion Room

2
33 Nicholas St, Ottawa, ON K1N 9M7

Yes, those fresh herbs on the bar were grown in the planters just outside this Novotel lounge. But then, everything in your innovative cocktail is fresh, whether it’s simple syrup or tobacco-leather bitters (“made with pipe tobacco and the sole from my old shoe,” jokes chief mixologist Stefan Wenek). The visually stunning drinks include long-time favourite Burning Star, mixing rum, single malt Scotch, maple syrup, lemon juice and house-made, lemon-blueberry bitters. For food, try the buffalo-style rabbit livers or charcuterie plates of locally sourced meats and cheeses. The room is a fusion of industrial stark and butcher-shop warm.

Arc The Hotel

3
140 Slater St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5H6

This bright, contemporary space at boutique ARC The.Hotel – the sort of place that’s all browns and grays – attracts 30-something couples and business peeps. Settle into a black leather couch and set chef Jason Peters’s lamb belly appetizer on one of the small tables fashioned from tree trunks. (More substantial fare includes shrimp orecchiette and grilled skirt steak.) The signature drink, an apple-flavoured vodka martini called Arctini, may call your name. If not, go for one of the rotating draft beers on tap; a recent visit found Spearhead Brewery’s session ale named after the Sam Roberts Band.

Sheraton Ottawa Hotel

4
150 Albert Street, Ottawa, ON K1P 5G2

The Sheraton Hotel bar poses a quandary the moment you arrive. Do you choose the bright lobby corner, cossetted in an overstuffed navy leather chair, or the quiet club room, with dark panelled walls and subdued lighting? Choices continue as you consider the wine list: order several two-ounce servings or fewer five-ounce glasses? If Ricardo is on duty, you might try his eponymous vodka martini with green apple, Chambord and cranberry juice. If Micco greets you, ask for Sasha’s martini with Baileys, crème de cacao and milk. Small plates include grilled eggplant and Spanish tortillas.

Lord Elgin Hotel

5
100 Elgin St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5K8

Photos of former Prime Minister W.L.M. King grace the lounge of the Lord Elgin Hotel, reminding patrons of his role in construction of this storied art-deco beauty built during the Second World War. The bartender can fill you in on the details as you sip the unusual Bloody Mary, based on tequila and port, or down your after-dinner salted caramel martini. (Eight draft beers and 15 wines by the glass are available for those with more mainstream thirsts.) Perched at the mahogany bar or an intimate table, snack on such bar menu items as vegetarian perogies and Thai curry mussels.

Brookstreet Hotel Corp

6
206-525 Legget Dr, Kanata, ON K2K 2W2

The stand-up bass and Miles Davis portrait at the entrance should be clue enough: Kanata’s Brookstreet Hotel bar is huge and all about jazz. Photos of icons such as Oscar Peterson line the walls; trumpets (and a washboard) perch atop the liquor shelf; a red piano graces the corner stage; live jazz is scheduled seven nights a week. Even the signature cocktail is blue. The menu includes margherita pizzas and a club sandwich made with maple bacon and pulled chicken. The sleek, black furniture, scattered around a circular bar, permits views of the upscale hotel’s golf course.

Ottawa Marriott

7
100 Kent St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5R7

Hotel bars cater to business travellers, but this Marriott Hotel lounge is one of the few to address this fact head-on. Two long high-top tables are kitted out with electrical outlets and device chargers. Banquettes and standard arm chairs are available, too. Linger over a glass of wine (17 on offer, each available in three, six or nine ounces), a local draft beer or a mojito (bartender Byron smacks rather than muddles the mint and lime). If the bar’s spiced nuts don’t satisfy, the menu from the adjacent dining room is available. Consider the moules et frites or chickpea masala.

Delta Hotels Marriott, Delta Ottawa City Centre

8
101 Lyon St N, Ottawa, ON K1R 5T9

Lift yourself to the Delta Hotel’s mezzanine, and enter its recently remodelled lobby-style bar. There’s local craft beer on tap, wines by the glass in five- or eight-ounce pours and such cocktails as an amaretto sour made with house lemonade. Seating choices are varied: sleek, white stools at the blue-lit bar, couches in a book-lined alcove (quiet unless there’s a game on TV), Swedish-modern chairs by the huge windows overlooking Lyon Street. The full menu from the adjacent kitchen is available, boasting that if it doesn’t list what you’re looking for, they’ll try to accommodate you anyway.

Black Bear Pub

9
160 Bay St, Ottawa, ON K1R 7X8

The kilted servers and tartan carpet give it away: this bar at the Albert at Bay Suites Hotel is an ersatz Scottish pub. Accordingly, you come for single-malt scotch. Bottle after bottle is on display — some two dozen in all. Common varieties — Glenfiddich and the like — are stocked but so, too, are rarer malts: 1997 Aultmore, 2000 Glengossie, 12-year-old Leinburg. Scotch not your thing? Drafts on tap range from imports such as Leffe and Tennents to ubiquitous Labatt 50. The kitchen can be uneven; stick with the Scots theme and order haggis. Pizzas are good, too.

True enough, Ottawa ain’t the city that never sleeps, but that’s not because of a caffeine shortage, especially in Lowertown where coffee shops abound. If you can’t find something to give you a java jolt among these options, you really are sleepwalking.
Maybe it’s because our summers are short that all Ottawa citizens flock to restaurant patios as soon as the snow melts, and stay till it falls again. Some eateries plop down a couple of tables just about anywhere outside, abutting busy roadways where they snarl sidewalk traffic. But we’ve found great al fresco dining – from gourmet fare to burgers ‘n’ beer – that eliminates both sunstroke and exhaust fumes.
Whether it’s the Spanish with tapas, the Greeks with meze, the Italians with cichèti or the Indians with thali, it’s clear Canadians aren’t the only ones with a big appetite for small plates. Sometimes you’re just not that hungry, or are indecisive, or want to share. At times like these, you’ll thank the food gods for these small-plate gems.
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