Sunday, January 29, 2017

Eating up the Hill: Made to order pasta in the new Wellington cafeteria

After much anticipation, the cafeteria in the newly renovated Wellington Building opened its doors to the Parliamentary public last week. They had actually been open earlier getting ready and testing appliances and what not -- I offered my taste-testing services but, sadly, the offer was declined.

It was worth the wait though. Bright and airy, with big windows bringing lots of natural light in as well as views of Bank and Wellington streets, there is plenty of seating in the new cafeteria with a mixture of open tables and comfy booths. It was actually pretty busy for lunch much of the week, but I'm sure the novelty will wear off as people try it out and return to their own buildings.

Wellington seems designed to replace the old East Block cafeteria which, I vaguely recall from my last Hill stint well more than a decade ago, was the go-to Hill caf offering more than the standard fare. Wellington has several things you won't find in the regular caf -- for example, pizza slices every lunch hour, and a made to order omelette bar during breakfast.

During lunch, that made to order bar will be alternating between pasta and stir fries and, on Fridays, Pho. I'm looking forward to Pho-Fridays. And to sampling the stir fry. But this week, I ended up trying out a made to order pasta dish.

 Now savvy hill diners will know made to order pasta isn't exactly new to the Hill. It's long been a staple in the Centre Block caf, but only in the afternoon during sittings, after the lunch service. Pierre Poilievre is such a regular that the pasta maker knows his standing order by heart -- I offered to let him pass me in the pasta line one day, but he graciously declined.

Now, however, made to order pasta will be a regular option in the Wellington cafeteria on alternating days, so I'm looking forward to having it more regularly -- even if it does take a little time.

There were quite a few protein options available -- I opted for sausage, but chicken and bacon were also available. Quite a few veggies too -- mushrooms, cucumbers (what? -.ed), red onions, green onions, bell peppers. Do I want garlic? Of course I want garlic, good sir. It can be finished with a meat sauce, a red sauce, pesto -- I went with roseta. Or is it roset? Google is failing me. Red sauce with cream.

If I have one note here, it would be to offer more variety in pasta selection. With all the choices in veggies and proteins, there was only one pasta on offer -- penne. Penne is a very overpowering pasta which is not usually my first choice. It would be great if they had a second, more subtle choice, like shells or spaghetti.

Still, a hearty and satisfying lunch. Looking forward to the return of Parliament next week, and to stir fry and pho.

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