My Ottawa dining experience, 150 feet in the air


My feet were dangling 170 feet above the ground when another airhorn went off.

“We’re at 170 feet!” a staff member controlling the music at the Sky Lounge half-yelled.

Originally, the floating lounge suspended by a huge crane was supposed to go to 150 feet but the weather was sunny and nearly perfect, so we ascended an extra 20 feet.

The lounge is one of the “signature events” from the Ottawa 2017 Bureau, the organization responsible for attracting tourists and hosting festivities in Ottawa for Canada’s 150th anniversary.

On Thursday evening, roughly 19 members of the media filled the Sky Lounge’s seats for a 20-minute sneak peak of the experience. The Sky Lounge officially opens Friday and runs until July 22.

On the lift there is a heavy rectangular table which seats 22 people, not including spots for the two staff members who prepare and serve food and drink in the centre of the lounge.

The restaurant’s roof has you covered, literally, in case of rain. On our way up it was a bit breezy but we were assured the table could sustain winds of up to 30 kilometres. The only time the lift won’t operate is if there’s a thunderstorm, we were told.

Ottawa Citizen reporter Lauren Malyk and Ottawa 2017 executive director Guy Laflamme took part in a media preview of the Sky Lounge experience on Thursday, July 6, 2017.

Seats are similar to those in a Formula One race car, with three seat belts, two running vertically between your legs to your chest and another belt across your lap. And volunteers help to strap you in safely. But if you’re counting on sitting with friends, there are no reserved seats. Seating is designated prior to lift off, though staff will try to accommodate seating requests.

My tablemate, Guy Laflamme, head of the Ottawa 2017 Bureau, said to get the full experience people shouldn’t be afraid to swivel their chairs to get different views as they’re lifted into the sky.

It was good advice. From the platform there are stunning views of the capital, including Parliament Hill and Confederation Park.

“My goal was to show the city from a different angle and perspective,” said Laflamme as the crane hoisted up our table.

When the Sky Lounge tickets went on sale, Laflamme said tickets were scooped up so fast that they had to add on an extra week. He said the majority of the extra spots have been booked.

Pre-flight guests are encouraged to arrive 30 to 45 minutes beforehand, allowing time for the washroom on the ground and to start and end the party with drinks at two lounge tents.

Ah yes, the washroom. You might be wondering about that. And as you might have guessed, the Sky Lounge does not come equipped with a Sky Toilet. Make sure to use the facilities prior to lifting off.

And the food? There are two options, both supplied by the ByWard Market’s Andaz Feast+Revel restaurant’s Chef Stephen La Salle and his team. The first option is a 20-minute cocktail experience, which includes appetizers and cocktails. While you’re only in the air for 20 minutes, the entire outing lasts about an hour. The second option is the gourmet dinner experience, which is a three-course meal lasting two hours, with one hour in the air.

It costs $150 per person for the cocktail option and $250 for the dinner option.

Media were invited to an early preview of the Ottawa 2017 Sky Lounge experience on Thursday, July 6, 2017

Media were invited to an early preview of the Ottawa 2017 Sky Lounge experience on Thursday, July 6, 2017.

As staff lifted off the shiny silver covers concealing our food, guests joked about how to keep their napkins from blowing away as they nervously ate Labrador tea-cured Arctic char and pickled onions on top of two bagel chips, the appetizer from the gourmet dinner.

At some point we were refreshed with a rather Canadian drink: a caesar.

Although the idea of food cooked up in the air seems exotic, that’s not exactly how the Sky Lounge prepares it.

Chefs prepare the set menu in a booth on the ground and then the almost-done dishes are brought up and served by two staff who put the finishing touches on the meals in an open section in the middle of the platform. Rest assured, there are no open flames 150 feet up in the air.

During our brief dining experience, the blaring airhorn mixed with music consisting of Shania Twain’s ‘I Feel Like a Woman’ and later on Justin Beiber’s ‘Despacito,’ gave the restaurant a club-esque vibe.

The music would sometimes disrupt my conversation with Laflamme, leaving me struggling to hear what he was saying.

As well, with all the noise and the table’s height, there’s a chance some guests could fall ill. If that happens, however, there is a plan in place. The lounge’s crane operator will be radioed and the platform will be lowered to the ground within two minutes, before being raised again for the rest of the party.

As for what happens if something, like your phone, falls?

“Too bad, so sad. It’s gone, gone, gone,” said Laflamme, “You might have a pretty spectacular video for the last couple minutes of your phone’s life.”