In 1914, Fairmont Palliser was built to support Canadian railway travel. Today, the bar creates its own ale from the venue’s unserved bread and creates unique picnic experiences for diners.
Located in Calgary, one of the largest cities in Canada, the Fairmont Palliser is a hotel with a lot of history. Built to support Canadian railway travel at the start of the 20th century, the venue’s Hawthorn Dining Room & Bar is now known for making its own bread-based ale, as well as serving up a range of traditional cocktails.
The hotel’s Executive Chef, Eraj Jayawickreme, believes that the inspiration of rail travel – along with the site’s online presence and exquisite meals – has contributed the long lasting, high-class reputation of the venue.
1. What made you choose your location and what makes you different?
“Hawthorn Dining Room & Bar is located inside Calgary’s most iconic and historic hotel, Fairmont Palliser. Since 1914 Fairmont Palliser has been a part of our city’s history, built to support Canadian railway travel through our province and serving as the gateway to the Canadian Rockies. From its inception, we were dedicated to making Hawthorn feel more contemporary and accessible, instead of being seen as just a historic hotel restaurant to only visit for special occasions. The beauty of Hawthorn starts with the inspiration of the building’s history, rail travel of yesteryear”.
2. Talk us through your décor.
“We worked with Frank Architecture & Design on the re-envisioning of the space, which included careful consideration of operational and functional goals to create a fresh boutique dining experience, while honouring our hotel’s nostalgic old-world charm. We worked to create a design that preserved and incorporated many of the historic features of the space, highlighting the hotel’s unique railroad history while balancing these details with fresh and innovative touches. My personal favourite historic features are the original 1914 fireplace and the 1962 Western mural by Charles Beil”.
3. What do you believe has helped you become a successful bar?
“From the beginning it was paramount that our offerings be distinct and authentically Hawthorn. One project that we were exceptionally proud of was a local partnership with Last Best Breweries to create our own ale called ODB (Our Daily Bread), which was created by repurposing unserved bread from the hotel. As it was created by a local partnership and fueled by the consciousness of food waste, it was apropos to donate $1 of every sale to the Calgary Food Bank. Furthermore, we are driven by all things Alberta, (framers, producers and artisans) which has established an amazing culinary experience, curated by restaurant Executive Chef, Dave Bohati”.
4. Do you think there is anything you have done which has helped you stand out from other bars?
“Hawthorn does not just ride on its beauty, but rather continually redefines the culinary experience using local farmers, artisans, and producers to celebrate the finest of what Alberta has to offer. To further embrace the farm-to-glass philosophy, we partnered with Eau Claire Distillery to create Hawthorn Gin. Our London-dry style gin is infused with hawthorn berries creating sweet and sour notes and a smooth honey finish”.
5. Do you believe your online presence has helped business?
“While I do believe that the Hawthorn experience speaks for itself, the conversation can go so much further online. We love seeing our guests take photos of themselves, the cocktails, and their food to share the experience with others. Taking the conversation online has encouraged recognition beyond Calgary, including being awarded Canada’s 100 Best and Canada’s Top 50, celebrating the best restaurants in the country”.
6. In today’s current climate, using outdoor space has become particularly important, could tell us how you use yours?
“Although we don’t have a patio space, we think of Calgary’s downtown parks and river pathways as our outdoor space. During the warm weather, guests can dine outdoors with a Hawthorn Picnic complete with a bottle of wine and picnic blanket”.
7. What inspiration do you believe other bars around the world can take from your venue?
“By being inspired to provide authentic dining experiences, focused on delivering extraordinary service, and committed to culinary excellence”.