Really, is there a nicer, cozier place to have lunch on a winter’s day than *River Café, in Calgary’s Prince’s Island Park? The imaginative and immaculately prepared food is usually beyond my road tripper’s budget. But during downtown Calgary’s Big Taste week (on until March 16), I can savour a three-course, scratch-made lunch for the bargain price of $15.
It starts with a sublime celeriac and kale soup—the garlicky polenta croutons are fabulous—accompanied by a complimentary basket of warm bread and a two small glasses of paired wine, if you want to kick in another $12. This is followed by the standout: Seared, line-caught tuna with puffed wheat, wild rice, roasted heirloom carrots and a few things I’ve never heard of—purslane, a tonnato sauce and vadouvan spices. I know it sounds pretentious, but it adds up to one of the best, most beautifully presented meals I’ve had in quite some time.
We finish off this leisurely lunch (believe me, you don’t want to rush a meal at River Café) with a little bag containing two cookies, featuring chocolate, cranberry and oatmeal. I pair this treat with an Americano that would put many high-end coffee shops to shame.
We drag things out with an animated conversation with our server, Leah, about wild game and the exemplary efforts of River Café to lessen its impacts on the environment. And then we just quietly gaze out the window at snowy nature, a stone’s throw from the chrome-and-glass towers of downtown Calgary.
25 Prince’s Island Park, Calgary
Weekdays 11 am-10 pm, weekends 10 am-10 pm
Note: Reservations highly recommended during Big Taste (403-261-7670); you might find some available tables for a late lunch