From soaring ceilings and sleek black-on-white paneling to the classic cowboy mural adorning the back wall, the new Hawthorn Dining Room at the Fairmont Palliser is an exercise in contrast. While it’s a restaurant in a hotel, it feels much more like a stand-alone than your typical, formal dining room experience. The Hawthorn is steeped in the history of its 1914 Palliser home, yet pops with a modern design aesthetic and exciting new menu. Walking the fine line between elegance and accessibility, lunch at the Hawthorne has a little something for everyone…and we had almost all of those “somethings.”

Beginning with the impressive cocktail list, we tried the Sparkling Collins Royale featuring Belvedere Vodka, Cucumber and Veuve Clicquot Champagne. It was light, flavourful and a delightfully tangy accompaniment for lunch.

We were treated to the highlights of the lunch menu, which included a perfect beef tartare, lox toast with the silkiest cream cheese, a sweet and hands-on duck confit with lettuce wraps and our personal favourite (because who doesn’t love grilled cheese?) a robust, savoury croque madame.

Dessert continued to wow with a perfect-for-spring warm strawberry and peach galette, a mouthwatering salted chocolate caramel tart with dulce de leche whip and a grown-up twist on Saturday-morning cartoons with the cinnamon toast crunch mille crepe with caramel.

Under the leadership of General Manager Dustin Makarenko (most recently with Vintage Chophouse and Tavern) and Executive Chef Bern Glatz (who joined the team from Ten Foot Henry) the Hawthorn is not just about excellent food and drink, but also about innovation, community and connection.

A partnership with the local Lowen’s Natural Skin Care, Hawthorne will soon  have custom wild mint and juniper soaps and hand cream in its restrooms.  Also worth dropping in for is Eau Claire Distillery’s Hawthorn Gin – made especially for the restaurant  as well as Last Best Brewing Company’s Our Daily Bread beer, which uses leftover bread from the kitchen to ferment its pale ale. Order the Daily Bread and Hawthorn will donate a dollar to the Calgary Food Bank.