a peek inside the fishbowl

23 Jul, 2017

Dinner in the sky (a.k.a. Sky Lounge, the Ottawa edition)

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Ottawa|travel talk

I’m bummed that I haven’t had a lot of time to write here these past few weeks. Part of this is because we were away camping this past week and the week before was overfull with (a) work and (b) life. But that’s the way it goes sometimes.

Sidebar: I totally feel like Little Miss National Capital Region this summer. I got a sneak preview of the new Canada History Hall, attended the Picnic on the Bridge, poked around Gatineau (you can read part one and two here), and I can’t even remember what else. What’s left on my list: Kontinuum and La Machine. (If there are any other Ottawa-centric things you think we should see and do this summer please leave me a comment!)

The other special Ottawa 2017 adventure I had before we left on holidays was dine in the Sky Lounge*. You can read more about it on their official website, here, but to summarize: it’s you and a bunch of other people sitting around a special dining table that is hoisted up by a crane and dangles 150ft in the air while you drink and eat a fine meal. It’s an elevated dining experience, to be sure. (Ha. See what I did there?)

Before I launch into the nitty-gritty of how it went down (or UP, in this case), I should confess that I briefly debated accepting this invitation. The idea of being strapped into a seat with no escape, not to mention the height, was almost enough to guide my fingers to tap out a “thanks but no thanks” email reply. BUT, then I thought better of it. Was I going to let fear shape my decision-making process? Lead my life for me? No way. And so, that is how I ended up standing right here, on a warm evening in July, wondering what the heck I had just signed up for:

Sky Lounge, Ottawa

Note the choice of site: Ottawa City Hall. When I first heard it was going to be in this location I really wondered. Was this the best they could do? What kind of view could diners get over Marion Dewar Plaza? (As it turned out, the view was pretty great, but more on that in a bit.)

Our group gathered at the appointed time and drinks were poured. I was cautious of how much I was ingesting in liquid form because, hey, there are no bathrooms up there in the air. I had expected portable washrooms would be available for the last-minute relief of nervous bladders but the closest one was inside City Hall. (No biggie in my books, but it may have been for some.)

I watched the apparatus descend and started to sweat, profusely.

Sky Lounge Ottawa, on its way down

Everyone else was looking cool as a cucumber but my stomach was flipping over and folding onto itself. As I rocked back and forth on the balls of my feet I debated whether not I could really do this. And then the rational side of my brain gave me a stern talking to.

Rational me: For chrissakes, Andrea. Get a grip. NOTHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOU.
Scardy cat me: But something COULD happen. You don’t even know all the things that could happen.
Rational me: Ok, yes. I was wrong. Something could happen, YOU MIGHT HAVE FUN. And if you walk away you will always regret chickening out.
Scardy cat me: But what if I fall out of my seat? Or need to pee?
Rational me: You’re not a baby! You will be so distracted you’ll forget all about your bladder, and everything else.
Scardy cat me: FINE. Shut up already.

Actually, what helped seal the deal was knowing that we can be lowered in a minute or two if there was an emergency. I was also consoled by the safety debriefing. This was serious business and it was clear it was a zero-tolerance zone for tomfoolery.

I appreciated my contact’s tips not to wear flip-flops and a dress to this occasion because one side of the harness is secured under the seats and goes upward between your legs, which could have been awkward for all involved. And surprise surprise, I got one of the coveted corner seats, which is when I remembered that THEY SWIVEL.

Trying not to freak out before Sky Loungs liftoff

We were strapped in and suddenly, it was liftoff, and I had no choice but to leave my fears on the ground.

A funny thing happened on the way up. I forgot to be afraid. The wine was being poured, everyone was all smiles (and selfies) and the environment was especially celebratory.

Sky Lounge offered participants an option to sign up for cocktails only or a three-course dinner version of the ascent. Ours was dinner, so I should really include a word about the food. Chef Stephen La Salle of Andaz Hotel’s Feast+Revel is a big name in this town and I was really looking forward to seeing what was on the menu, especially since Mark and I sadly haven’t yet made it out to his restaurant.

First course, Sky Lounge Ottawa

In the preceding days, I had been asked if I had any allergies or dietary requirements. I mentioned I don’t eat beef. I was mildly surprised to have been marked down as a vegetarian. No problem, I love vegetables! When the first course appeared I saw a droolworthy smoked salmon dish being unveiled to all the diners. However, the vegetarians in our group (there were two of us), got a salad, which totally reminded me of those chopped salads my mother used to make and serve in those faux-wooden bowls.

Untitled

Sky Lounge, the Ottawa edition

My main dish was spectacular: a beet/cheese/pasta dish was so light and full of flavour. Honest to god, I must eat that again before I die. Maybe 20 or 30 times before I die. I was dangerously close to licking my plate.

Vegetarian dish, Sky Lounge Ottawa

There was a bit of space for a small purse on the bar (which I referred to in my head as a dining ledge, you can get a better sense of it in one of the photos above), as well as a basic table setting. The only challenge was that eating while strapped to your seat can be a worry if you don’t want to drop a beet-covered bit of pasta on your lap. It’s hard to tell by this photo, but there is a fair amount of space between myself and the dining ledge, just enough for me to want to pick my plate up and hold it under my chin while I ate:

Distance between self and plate, Sky Lounge Ottawa

I asked one of the staff if anyone had dropped cutlery (they keep extras on hand) and the answer was yes, but it’s a non-issue because the space underneath the dining area is kept free of pedestrians. Phew.

The wine flowed, no one dropped anything, or had to pee, and the scene underneath and beyond our “lounge” was a dreamy, once-in-a-lifetime, bird’s eye view of Ottawa.

The atmosphere was loud-ish and convivial. If you were expecting a quiet and intimate fine dining experience for two (among a table that seats 20) you’d be disappointed. At one point our hosts distributed costume hats and noisemakers. Maybe they should have called this a Sky Party instead of Sky Lounge? But this is neither here nor there. I found it most enjoyable, and am glad I had the chance to partake in this bucket-list worthy experience.

Me, during my Sky Lounge experience in Ottawa

There was obviously a lot of selfie-taking and recording of video (it’s a media event, after all) but after a while I put away my phone and focused on the food and the amazing view. Photos couldn’t do it justice anyway, and I wanted to enjoy the tiny breeze and file it all away in my memory banks as opposed my hard drive. I even got up the nerve to swivel my seat a bit, which allowed me to enjoy an unobstructed view. This went well, as long as I didn’t over think things too much (e.g. how high up we were, all the tiny people, etc.). I felt a bit like a kid munching on PB&J in a treehouse; looking down and savouring a panorama from an untouchable height. This was the adult version of course… leaps and bounds past peanut butter sandwiches eaten among leafy branches.

Sky Lounge view, golden hour in Ottawa

Sky Lounge, the Ottawa edition

It was over too soon. Before I knew it we had descended, unbuckled, and disembarked. I had to say goodbye and run off. The rest of my group was continuing on to Kontinuum but we were leaving for camping the next day and I still had packing to do.

I felt my insides sparkling as I walked away. I was dazzled by the whole thing, I admit. It was a delight to see our beautiful city in a new way, in a golden light; to eat, drink, and be merry.

My only wish is that I’d been able to get this post out before Sky Lounge came to an end. Yesterday was the last day and tickets were sold out.

* I attended Sky Lounge as part of a media event hosted by Ottawa Tourism, which means my tab was covered. I was under no obligation to write this post and opinions are my own. Check out all of the other Ottawa 2017 events on the official website.


2 Responses to "Dinner in the sky (a.k.a. Sky Lounge, the Ottawa edition)"

1 | Ross Brown

July 24th, 2017 at 12:20 pm

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Having a fear of heights, especially on things that move/vibrate/sway, I could never do this and hold down my meal, so thanks for bringing us along.

The important question is, was it good value? Now that you’ve done it, if you had to pay to do it again, would you?

Cheers!

2 | andrea tomkins

July 24th, 2017 at 4:32 pm

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Hi Ross! Thanks for your comment. I think the answer depends a little bit on (a) one’s income and (b) how much a person values these “bucket list” style experiences. I’d rather pay to do something, than own something. Does that make sense?

I’ve been known to pay $$$ for fine dining, but can’t afford to do it as much as I would like, which is why we limit it to special occasions. This is a different type of fine dining experience. Would I recommend Sky Lounge for someone who is struggling to put healthy dinners on the table? No. Save your pennies. That being said, it definitely WAS worth doing and I would attend again (and pay my own way) if it was in a new/different location. Make sense?

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (18) and Sarah (16). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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