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Published May 25th 2015
Artisanal fine dining in a beautiful, parkland setting
Only after spending a magical evening sitting on the terrace of River Café Restaurant, enjoying fine dining in the parkland setting of Prince's Island Park, did we discover that we had just eaten in one of the restaurants listed in '1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die.'
River Cafe Restaurant, Prince's Island Park, Calgary
I don't know how a restaurant qualifies for a place in this hefty tome, described as 'the next best thing to reaching the culinary pearly gates', but we certainly had an evening to remember with delicious, exquisitely cooked food, attentive but non-intrusive staff and a buzz that comes from feeling totally relaxed and happy simply to live in the moment.
This rustic eaterie, with its wooden beams and open fireplace inside and terrace overlooking the Bow River lagoon outside, was founded by Sal Howell in 1995. Her commitment to sourcing high quality locally and regionally sourced ingredients from producers dedicated to the best, sustainable practices, means that the menu changes seasonally under the skilled, artisanal hands of Chef, Andrew Winfield.
We started with Prince Edward Island Scallops, beautifully presented with eggplant puree, tangy birch ponzu and millet crisp, followed by a main course of halibut with seasonal accompaniments that tasted divine. For dessert we chose Maple wild rice pudding and Willowview Farm rhubarb pavlova, also delicious. There were eight to nine items on each of the appetizer and main course dinner menus, ranging from CN$14 to CN$21 for appetizers and CN$36 to CN$52 for mains, the latter including boar and bison meat dishes, one or two choices of fish and a vegetarian dish. Desserts come in at CN$10 to CN$19.
River Café's international wine list is extensive and you can order by the glass, half bottle or bottle. You may also bring your own wine, for which there is a corkage fee of CN$20 per 750ml bottle, except on a Sunday when there is no charge.
As well as evening fare, River Café serves lunch, an early bird dinner and a weekend brunch. If you feel like a picnic instead, perhaps while enjoying a performance of Shakespeare by the Bow in Prince's Island Park, you can order a CN$29 per person River Café picnic basket to take with you. These are available from June to September and must be ordered in advance.
River Café Restaurant is easy to find once you are in Prince's Island Park, which is pedestrianised and accessible by bike, in-line skates, or on foot via one of the bridges crossing over the River Bow. We managed to reserve a table a few hours prior to eating on a Thursday evening, but advance booking is advisable as this is a very popular spot with Calgarians.
Why? One of the 1001 restaurants you must experience before you die
When:Weekdays: Monday to Friday from 11am to 10pm (11pm summer) Weekends: Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 10pm (11pm summer) Weekend Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 10am to 3pm We are closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and for the month of January.