The Exchange   (50 Rideau Street, Ottawa, Ontario - theexpub.com)

Jay

I’ve often wondered if there is anything good about the Rideau Centre, and the answer has always been no.  It is usually crowded, rowdy, and dirty – likely due to its location between two critical transit hubs.  There is always a notable presence of hired security patrolling the lower level to discourage aggressive panhandlers, and parking is never free. Considering all this, how can you expect anything good to come from a restaurant that operates in this environment?

As unlikely as it is, The Exchange could be the benchmark to which all other Ottawa area restaurants compare themselves.  From floor to ceiling, it is obvious that this restaurant was designed with a clear vision, using quality materials to create a clean, open, yet intimate setting.  Equally well done was the presentation of the food and drink, such as serving the mussels in the stainless steel pot they were prepared in, or the kielbasa garnish served with the caesar.  Realizing that preparation does take time, especially in a busy restaurant, the food did not come quickly.  Nonetheless, the staff didn't appear to sacrifice any amount of quality to make up for lost time, as even my stacked Brit sandwich was perfectly balanced in stature and flavour. 

The Exchange might actually be one of the best restaurants in Ottawa, and in my opinion, it is the only good reason to visit the Rideau Centre.  The atmosphere is brilliantly designed, the menu has great variety, and the price is totally reasonable.  Do I love it?  Yes, but at the same time, no.  The Exchange is so close to perfection, your first impression will be nothing short of amazing.  Unfortunately, I can attest that with each subsequent visit, you will be slightly less enamoured than you were the time before.  This slight, delicate, but inevitable disappointment is no fault of The Exchange.  It’s just a terrible truth about life.

Sue

To celebrate the engagement of some friends of ours, Jayson and I suggested we have dinner at The Exchange, a local dressed-up pub in the Rideau Centre.  The reason I call it ‘dressed-up’ is this: The Exchange is decorated like a pub, it offers food like a pub, and it’s located where a pub used to be (local residents will remember the Elephant and Castle).  But everything is just a little more fancy than just a pub.  Instead of dim bar lights, it is lit by gorgeous modern chandeliers, and instead of old wooden chairs, very comfortable plush seating.  As well as regular pub fare, it offers lamb burgers, Scotch Eggs and their specialty Caesar made with some unusual but delicious ingredients.  The overall feeling is that you’re at a fancy restaurant, but you can feel at home at the same time.  And the prices are very reasonable. 

The great part about The Exchange is that they haven’t tried to dress up their original fish and chips.  That’s one dish that never needs improvement!  On this night, that is what I ordered, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Perfectly done fish that actually tasted like fish, and not too much batter.  Some may disagree, but that’s just right in my books.  They offer Cod and Halibut, and I would recommend the Cod every time.  It’s cheaper, and yet so much tastier.  There is an option to order sweet potato fries with the fish, and it’s actually pretty good as well, although not as classic as the original chips.  However, one highlight of ordering sweet potatoes is that they come with an amazing tomato aioli. 

If you’re sick of the pub, but don’t want to spend too much on a quality dining experience, try out the Exchange.  It’s a great restaurant with a great atmosphere and pretty awesome food.

 

(Click to expand pictures)

 The Exchange Pub + Restaurant (aka The Ex) on Urbanspoon