It’s hard to argue that Central Memorial Park in the heart of Calgary’s Beltline is not one of the most beautiful urban green spaces we have in the city’s core, save perhaps Prince’s Island Park. The park, studded with statues, pathways and trees embraces all seasons. Whether it’s blanketed in white in December or bright green with its fountains full-motion, there is a rarely a time that is doesn’t seem inviting.
To be a restaurant nestled into a small building in such a charming environment is a lucky one indeed, so when Boxwood Cafe announced that they would be closing their doors after five years in the park, I’m sure it only took mere moments for other restaurateurs to strive to attain it. Now with new owners, Jackie Cooke and Kirk Shaw of Avec Bistro, and a glossy new name, Provision, the cozy park restaurant is ready to show you what it has to offer.
“We built our concept around the size of the cozy space, including the plates, glassware and grazing style of eating,” explains co-owner, Jackie Cooke. “Our chef, Daniel Pizzaro has previously worked at the Michelin-starred L’Arpège and Spring in Paris. He has been wanting to focus on vegetables for a long time and to have more creative freedom with the menu [than with the French bistro]. We aren’t focusing on any particular culinary region, which is definitely different to the French-style of food people enjoy at Avec.”
The bare bones of the restaurant space have always exuded a certain coziness with warm wooden beams running across the ceiling and plenty natural light from west and north-facing windows. Designer, Connie Young (10 Foot Henry, Workshop) has further warmed up the interior with banquet seating that wraps the entirity of the room, more or less complemented by brass accented tabletops and leather chairs. The central open kitchen is now framed by big slate tiles and Caribbean blue tiles pop on the front of the bar that surrounds it.
The dishes here my remind one of Avec’s visually, but the comparisons end there. With vegetables front of mind, chef Pizarro is encouraging patrons to have a little less meat with their meal and discover how delicious winter vegetables can be. The crispy, roasted brussel sprouts come on top of a rich lemon butter sauce, accented by garlic, thyme and shaved pecorino. Then there is the plate of smoky baby potatoes with brown butter, roasted garlic and greens topped with a soft-poached egg. Charred kale with earthy oyster mushrooms and the list goes on…
Taking an interesting approach to the proteins here, as a means to compliment the vegetable creations, diners can opt for either three or six ounce portions of black angus beef tenderloin, sliced duck breast with anise and rooibos glaze, roasted pork belly or lamb sirloin with black garlic.
Over the lunch hour, Provision serves up the aforementioned vegetable dishes along with a mix of sandwiches like the roasted chicken clubhouse on house-made sourdough bread and a house-ground burger. Pastry chef Kevin Yang is in charge of the bread program here, so whether you’re having toasted bread beside a bowl of soup or biting into a burger bun, it’s likely been baked that morning. As well, Yang –who was previously working as the pastry chef of Market– is also busy in the kitchen, making cookies, buttery scones and artistic dessert plates like his intepretation of a carrot cake in the form of a carrot and mascarpone cheesecake with vanilla carrot puree, walnut milk gel and walnut brittle.
“The park is amazingly beautiful and has such a rich history, including being a memorial landmark,” explains Cooke shortly after opening her new restaurant in Central Memorial Park. “We really wanted to consider this when we named the restaurant Provision and also with subtle underlying design that Connie Young has brought to the space. This park is very special to a lot of people and we feel very lucky to be here. Now we can’t wait for warm weather and the gorgeous patio!”
340 13 Ave S.W.