With options like the Fresh Food Company, Tim Hortons, and Oasis, dining at Carleton often gets stuck in the realm of casual fare. But students can enjoy classy, restaurant-quality food for a reasonable price – they just need to know where to look.
Tucked away between Tim Hortons and the CUSA office on the fourth floor of University Centre is Baker’s, a full-service restaurant serving breakfast and lunch made with local, seasonal ingredients. It’s even licensed to serve alcohol, for those days when Ollie’s or Mike’s Place are full.
It’s a surreal experience, walking out of the bustling university hub into the classy and comparatively serene restaurant. Gleaming wine glasses reflect the light streaming in from big windows and skylights. Rusty-orange accents the clean black and cream-coloured tones in the décor. Countless staff hurry between tables ensuring everything from place settings to the taste of a dish is in order.
I started with the roasted pumpkin and sage soup – a good choice after having just come in from the cold. The appetizer-sized bowl was steaming hot and had a wonderfully complex autumn-inspired flavour. The sage and spice combination complimented the richness of the pumpkin, which was balanced with a light swirl of crème fraîche.
The dish came with a small “gruyere crouton,” a thin piece of toasted bread sprinkled with cheese. The crouton itself had a slightly flat flavour, but added a lovely crunch when dunked into the creamy soup. I wish I had had an extra one. . .
Course number two was from the “Light Entrées” menu. I chose “Chèvre,” a well-portioned disk of goat cheese wrapped in phyllo pastry served with roasted beets and blueberry compote.
The surprisingly light goat cheese was a little colder than I was expecting (and hoping), but the overall dish was divine. A bite with a little soft cheese and crispy phyllo, with a ruby-red beet, and a plump and sweet little blueberry made for a very decadent combination of textures and flavours. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, though, I’d choose something else.
Our very friendly and knowledgeable waiter Jonatan said we shouldn’t pass up the Nova Scotia scallops as a main course – and the dish lived up to the hype.
Served over lightly Ponzu-glazed al dente udon noodles and well-seasoned wilted greens, the three huge scallops were as good, if not better, than scallops I have had at seafood restaurants. Seared on the outside, tender on the inside, the portion was a perfect sized entrée for a light lunch. Again though, the dish could have been warmer.
Alicia Canez, marketing manager for Aramark at Carleton, said that she wants more students to know about the great value for money at Baker’s.
“When students see it, they think it’s a formal restaurant and they get the impression it’s expensive,” she said. But she compared the prices to restaurants off campus and she said students will get a better deal here.
“Here there is a beef dish for $14, but at a restaurant off campus you’d pay around $20 for it.”
My three courses – soup, goat cheese, and scallops – came to a total of $28 before tax. Try finding those prices in the Byward Market!
With a price tag of only $4 more, I couldn’t pass up the amaretto crème brûlée. The almond liqueur didn’t overpower the surprisingly light and creamy dessert, and with a chocolate straw and bright strawberry garnish, it was a truly sweet end to a delicious meal.
Baker’s is open Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The menu is available on the Carleton website.