a peek inside the fishbowl

17 Aug, 2017

Andrea’s Tuesdays: food, flowers, and films about flowers

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Ottawa

To review: every other Tuesday is my day off and I’m trying to use this time to recharge my batteries. No work, no meetings, minimal errands. Last time, I biked to Tavern on the Hill for beer and hotdogs! 

When I started being a bit more mindful of how I spent my days off I swore up and down that I wouldn’t work or do groceries, but I almost always end up doing a bit of both. This is what happens when you don’t work a traditional 9-5 job.

So I got work stuff out of the way in the morning so I could grab lunch at the Aquatopia Conservatory Cafe. It’s on March Road as you approach Almonte; a bit of a trek, for sure, but I was looking forward to a peaceful lunch. Here’s what it looks like on the outside, from the parking lot:

Aquatopia Conservatory

When you step inside there are some plant displays here and there, and a long counter and cash register. At first I was at a bit of a loss. Cafe sounds and smells were audible. Should I go straight in? Wait for the staffer to return to the desk? (I hate having to worry about these things, but I do.)

I opted to wait, and a young lady brought me around to the back. I was given a choice of seats and picked one near the back.

Inside the Aquatopia Cafe

It’s a neat idea, that is, to have a cafe in a greenhouse. It’s a tranquil and pretty setting, for sure, with the plants, ponds, and sound of water spilling gently into pools. I had a bit of time to look around and absorb the views.

Sidebar: As I waited for a server to come over I thought a lot about my previous experiences as a solo diner. The way a restaurant treats its solo diners is a real test of their customer service skills. I don’t expect special treatment but I do appreciate when hosts and servers are mindful. For example, in one restaurant, I was seated at the head of a harvest table that stretched across the back of the room, even though there were plenty of other seats available at smaller tables. Newsflash, solo diners usually don’t want to be the centre of attention, eg. at the centre of a room, featured prominently at a massive table for 12, or plopped down next to the washrooms! I also appreciate it when servers whisk the extra cutlery away and pour me a glass of water, and generally speaking, not treat me like a weirdo for eating alone. (“WHAT? TABLE FOR ONE? Okaaaay.” It’s happened.)

But getting back to the Aquatopia Cafe, where I started to feel a bit neglected after awhile. No menu was forthcoming, not even an “I’ll be right with you” nod, which I appreciate and accept. Heck, I know people are busy! It’s a real art, isn’t it? Servers want to give people space and privacy, but it’s a fine line between that and neglect. And it differs from person to person. As a solo diner, my sense of time is distorted because it’s just me, alone. If I’m with someone else there is chatting and joking around, which makes one’s sense of the passage of time very different. Waiting for a menu for 15 minutes is different when you’re alone and hungry to boot.

ANYHOO, once the server eventually came around, my situation improved. I ordered an iced tea to start (it was excellent) and browsed the menu, which looked pretty good. I ordered the Delectable Pear & Brie, which is described as “sliced pear & brie cheese drizzled with a light honey mustard dressing on a dense, artisan cranberry-walnut bread.” Here it is:

Brie and pear dish at Aquatopia Conservatory Cafe

I’d probably give this dish a 6/10. The idea of it is better than the execution, and it’s entirely the fault of the mustard. I will admit, I misread the menu. The word mustard didn’t even register. My brain read honey – fullstop –  so I expected the bread to be drizzled with honey, not honey mustard. I wouldn’t have ordered it had I known. (I don’t think mustard pairs well here. Or maybe it’s just me?)

What made up for everything, was the service (yes, even after the initial delay). The server was very friendly, and I especially appreciated her guidance as it pertained to dessert.

Dessert at Aquatopia Conservatory Cafe

She described it as a French sticky bun made by someone locally. She called it what I first thought was a Queen Aman. After a quick Google search I realized it was probably KOUIGN-AMANN. The Washington Post has an interesting little article about it right here. Online, this pastry is often described as a flaky pastry, but this one was a bit denser, dare I say cake-like, but without the kind of dry crumb that is usually part of the cake eating experience. All this being said, it was the highlight of my visit and went perfectly with my cappuccino.

After lunch, I went for a little wander around the small greenhouse area.

I am a sucker for succulents (Aquatopia Conservatory)

at the Aquatopia Conservatory

I’ve shown succulents in this post but the focus here is on ponds, and of course, I found myself wishing we had one by the time I climbed back into the car for the drive home. :)

Somewhere between there and home I decided to catch a rare afternoon matinée at the Bytowne (rare for me, that is!). Strangely, it totally played into the theme of my day. The Gardener offers a lovely glimpse into a world-famous garden in Quebec called Les Jardins des Quatres-Vents. I bought a large popcorn and settled in. (Here’s the trailer.)

It was a great film; inspiring, touching, and even funny in parts. I’m not much of a gardener myself, but I can fully appreciate the artistry, time, and labour that goes into a garden. It’s like painting, in a way, combining colour and shape, but in this case, it might take years for those colours and shapes – the artist’s vision, really – to be fully realized.

Funny thing: (1) I was one of the youngest people in the audience. THIS is where retired people go! (2) A lady sitting next to me fell asleep and started snoring. She wasn’t directly beside me, there was a seat between us, but I really debated whether or not I should wake her. The next day, I asked the Fishbowl Facebook followers what they would have done in my shoes. For the record, I let her sleep, and most readers said they would too. (That is, unless the film was over and the house lights had come on.)

On the way home I stopped at the Clocktower in Westboro to meet Mark and the eldest daughter for  a snack. I ordered Kimchi Fries and a beer… and it turned out to be dinner:

Kimchi fries at the Clocktower

So there it is. A pretty good day off! Tell me, what should I do for my next Tuesday?

1 Response to "Andrea’s Tuesdays: food, flowers, and films about flowers"

1 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Andrea's Tuesdays: down in the doldrums - a peek inside the fishbowl

September 1st, 2017 at 3:08 pm


[…] To review: every other Tuesday is my day off and I’m trying to use this time to recharge my batteries. No work, no meetings, minimal errands. Last time, I visited the Aquatopia Cafe and caught a movie at the Bytowne Cinema. […]

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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 dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (24) and Sarah (22). During the day I work as a writer at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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