Most of us are familiar with the Fairmont Palliser’s opulent lobby and classic guest rooms, but while the Oak Room bar definitely had its devotees, most Calgarians hadn’t exactly made a habit of dropping into the hotel’s now defunct Rimrock Room for dinner over the last few decades.
Clearly, management knew it was time for something new — the hotel hadn’t launched a new restaurant concept in over 60 years — so when it came time to develop the brand-new Hawthorn restaurant, it pulled out all the stops. Frank Architecture (the design firm of the moment, it seems) not only totally revamped the former Rimrock dining room but also built a new lounge in the east half of the lobby. The old Oak Room has been converted into a banquet room (much to many patrons’ dismay), but the classy lobby bar fits in so seamlessly it’s actually hard to remember what the lobby looked like without it. If you happen to find yourself sitting in one of the plush swivel chairs, be sure to order a cocktail made with the hawthorn berry gin created exclusively for the restaurant by Eau Claire Distillery.
The dining-room side looks just as timeless. Original touches like the hotel’s original fireplace and Charles Beil’s 1962 cowboy-themed mural the Heraldic Badge were incorporated into the tasteful retro design. The food, however, is what makes Hawthorn feel current. Like most modern chef-driven restaurants, emphasis is on local and seasonal ingredients, which mostly come in the form of rotating “sociable” share plates featuring fresh veggies and rich proteins like raw oysters or tartare. The kitchen also serves a small selection of larger format plates (also meant to be shared) showcasing things like lamb sirloin or roasted chicken with chimichurri.
In order to serve hotel guests, Hawthorn is open late into the night as well as in the early hours of the morning, meaning it serves solid breakfast, brunch and lunch items — something we can all take advantage of, even if we’re not staying in the hotel.
133 9 Ave. S.W., 403-260-1219, hawthorndiningroom.ca