Food & Drink

Where To Take Your Clients: Riviera

Where: 62 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ont.

What: Restaurant, New Canadian Cuisine

There’s a feeling that thoughtfully designed restaurants give you: it’s a mix of giddy anticipation, permission to indulge, and ease. Riviera conjures up all those feelings, and more. Riviera has soul.

When it comes to food and drink culture in Southern Ontario and Quebec, Ottawa’s the underdog. How can it compete with the polish of Toronto or the mastery of Montreal? Thankfully, if there were any food guys who were capable of purging the notion that Ottawa isn’t at the top of its food game, it would be Matthew Carmichael and Jordan Holley, the chefs behind El Camino and Datsun (where the city goes for its best tacos and steamed buns). We’re not discounting their former grub hubs, but at Riviera, they’ve upped their craft.

Housed in a 1920s Art Deco building, Riviera is alluring, expansive, and rock and roll. The sky-high, white-plaster-tray ceilings, marbled walls, and 70-foot-long brass bar are well matched to the diplomat-type that dines here (fun fact: this is Sophie Trudeau’s lunch spot).

Look closely enough and you’ll realize the crowd isn’t just suits. On one end, a couple in their 60s, at another, millennials coming down from a day at the office.

The open kitchen showcasing tattooed chefs in their well-orchestrated scurry sets the tone for the place: they’re just regular guys doing good food. No fluff here; no gastronomic shock and awe, no lengthy explanations necessary. Riviera is soul food (grilled octopus with blistered shishitos, pig head macaroni, chicken kiev) for real eaters, which is why people keep coming back.