Solo Lunch: Holt’s Cafe

Sometimes I am forced to be timely with my restaurant reviews, particularly when new establishments open up. Other times, my good intentions never pan out, and reviews are pushed back in favour of different posts. My recap of a solo weekday lunch at Holt’s Café falls into this latter category.

In late summer, when the weather was more reasonable than it is now, my first choice of lunch at Fo Guang Tea House was dashed with the temple’s closure for a special event. I thought about my nearby options, and settled on Holt’s Cafe inside Holt Renfrew, which like Fo Guang, is essentially only open for lunch. I had been there once before several years ago, and though I found the meal satisfactory, haven’t been able to return because of their limited operating hours.

So book in hand, I settled down at my table and watched as the downtown lunch crowd trickled in after me. I should note that the waitress was particularly great – she was warm, and made conversation without ever overstepping her boundaries (for example, she saw that I was reading My Life in France and asked if I had seen the movie). At the end of my meal, when I requested more water, she brought me a  pretty wine glass filled with ice water – a nice touch.

The menu had changed since my last visit, featuring some more upscale fare (and changed again in October). Though the vegetable fritters sounded like an interesting appetizer, my waitress steered me away from them, stating that they were dry. So instead, I chose the truffle potato chips ($6). For my main, the spring pea and lemon risotto with mascarpone and shiitake mushrooms ($15) sounded like the comforting dish I was looking for.

The truffle potato chips were merely fried potato crisps drenched in oil and sprinkled with salt. Unfortunately, the simplicity didn’t mean perfect execution, and it was overdressed in every way – the potato was barely discernable underneath it all.

Truffle Potato Chips

Thankfully, the risotto fared much better. The rice was creamy, accented nicely by the mascarpone with additional texture from the crisp peas and silky mushrooms.

Lemon Risotto with Mascarpone and Shiitake Mushrooms

If you’re looking for a restaurant in the heart of downtown for a solo lunch, or for a quiet place to catch up with a friend, Holt’s Cafe is worth a try.

Holt’s Cafe (inside Holt Renfrew)
10180-101st Street NW
(780) 425-5300

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