By Kate McGregor
[ezcol_1half]When I first heard that brothers Simon and Ross Fraser were opening a new restaurant in the Glebe called The Rowan, I was beyond the moon. Their eight-year-old eatery, Fraser Café in New Edinburgh, is one of my favourite go-to places in Ottawa for creatively prepared food and outstanding service.
The first thing I noticed on a recent visit to The Rowan was the classy, slightly understated wooden sign hanging outside. Its shape speaks to the rich heritage of British pubs, clan crests and emblems. The name, The Rowan, is a tribute to the small mountain-ash tree that is associated with Scotland. It grows throughout northern Europe and parts of North America, and is the subject of many old myths and songs. A five-point white star appears at the top corner of the sign, a symbol of the small white blossom found at the bottom of rowanberries.
The Fraser brothers are no strangers to the food industry. Born to Scottish and English parents, they cut their culinary teeth in restaurants across Europe and Canada, including the former Domus Café run by celebrated chef John Taylor. Both are passionate about creating fresh, homemade food. And both are committed to focusing on the diners who support their culinary vision. Ross spends his time at Fraser Café while Simon focuses on The Rowan.
From the start, Ross and Simon knew they wanted to open up their second restaurant in the Glebe, a great neighbourhood that seemed like a good fit. Located at 915 Bank Street where the ZaZaZa pizza eatery operated, the brothers secured their new location with the support of their longtime partner, restaurateur Ion Aimers.
The Rowan opened in July 2015 following three and a half months of renovations done in close collaboration with PLOTNONPLOT, an Ottawa-based architectural firm. The interior has a cool, contemporary feel, designed with relaxation and casual dining in mind. The design has an open kitchen at the back of the restaurant and a bar at the front. A large original mural of a stag graces one wall as a nod to the stag that appears on the Fraser family crest. The garage door on the wall facing Bank Street will open in summer, offering patrons a chance to feel like they are dining on an outdoor patio. The interior seats 47 diners on the floor, including bar seating.
[/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end]Chef de cuisine Kyle Decan – former chef at Fraser Café – and manager Carmen Dunn are the busy duo in charge of creating the meals and keeping the diners happy. And what about the food? As a way of connecting to their British heritage, the Fraser brothers have created an intriguing menu that highlights simple, flavourful, local food without too much manipulation; familiar British dishes with a slightly modern twist including ling cod sticks, strip loin steak and eggs, fenugreek dahl and aubergine fritters, and bangers and Yorkshire pudding. The team also wants the menu to evolve naturally, informed, in part, by the seasons and by what diners are looking for.
While Ross Fraser acknowledged that, “restaurants are extremely challenging businesses to run,” he said that he and his brother are not intimidated by competition from Lansdowne restaurants like Joey, Jack Astor’s and Milestones, just a stone’s throw away. In fact, they firmly believe that the Glebe can accommodate a multitude of eateries. And what The Rowan is learning through its proximity to Lansdowne is how to anticipate and accommodate a flux in business right before and after a game or special event when families and game fans drop in.
In a fickle business driven by diners who vote with their wallets and their feet, restaurant owners need to adapt to changing times and palates or risk closing their doors like Glebe eateries The Urban Pear and Naji’s. With their extensive culinary experience and continued success at Fraser Café, the Fraser brothers have what it takes to make The Rowan a quality destination for lovers of inspired eating in the Glebe. As Ross said, “In this industry, the fact that we are able to cook the way we do and with the ingredients and the freedom we have, is rewarding.”
Kate McGregor is a certified Integral Master Coach™ and writes the Business Buzz column for the Glebe Report. To inquire about her services: 613-884-1864; email@example.com; www.kmcoaching.ca