Business Spotlight: The Living Room Restaurant
Living rooms. They are about being cozy, welcoming, and a place where you always feel at home. You will get that feeling when you dine at the Living Room, Calgary's destination for award-winning, contemporary, interactive cuisine.
With so many wonderful places to eat in Calgary, what has set the Living Room apart for 18 years, and why does it have close to a perfect 5/5 rating from nearly 200 people on Google? John Gignac, general manager, tells us why.
"It's about doing the right things right, with the right kind of people," he smiles. "We put a strong focus on our customers and have high expectations on delivering an exceptional experience."
The experience includes a chef tasting menu, small plates, sharing plates, full dinners, and sumptuous desserts. The staff are as passionate about the wine list as they are about the food – and all of that food is built around organically raised meat and dairy, and local artisan products.
"In past menus we got caught up in thinking we needed to be safe but we quickly realized that our chef is so talented, we just had to let him be creative. Chef Cody Fummerton has delivered in a big way. Our food has never been better," says Gignac of the Living Room's evolution. "However, we will never change our beef tartar recipe because it is perfect the way it is!"
Guests of the Living Room are always in for a treat.
"I think the arc of an evening at the Living Room is different from any I've ever seen," Gignac admits. "We need to be adaptable from table to table and we know we can get busy up to the last minute before close, so we always need to be on our toes."
The staff are comfortable on their toes, though.
"We have incredible staff and our ownership are the kind of guys you'd be happy to go to war for."
Calgary is changing as the economic situation of Alberta shifts and the province diversifies into new sectors. The Living Room, like all small businesses, is not immune to those changes. A strong ownership and business plan keeps things going, enabling the restaurant to focus on giving diners the relaxing experience they deserve — no matter what is going on economically or politically.
Gignac says, "We believe if we can create an experience you can't get anywhere else, we will be able to overcome the difficult financial restraints put on a small business. We serve dinner and drinks while creating a comfortable experience with friends; when you get to do that everyday it's easy to get motivated. We've had to make adjustments to our day-to-day operations and not all of them are popular, but we feel the value is in the experience of an afternoon or evening like no other in Calgary."
He and the team love the city and are happy to be part of its business scene.
"My favourite thing about Calgary is the giving back culture we have. I feel close to my neighbours at home and at work. We have a great relationship with our neighbours and truly want everyone to be wildly successful. The people in Calgary are what makes Calgary so incredible," notes Gignac. "We have a lot of food and wine knowledge as a community. Knowing I could have an in-depth conversation with anyone about food, wine, cocktails, craft beer, and dining experiences is another opportunity to gain knowledge."
The Living Room gives back by participating in Mealshare, an organization that partners with restaurants to give meals to food-insecure families. For diners, helping a family in need is as simple as ordering a designated Mealshare item on the menu. The restaurant and the organization do the rest.
There are many great things to try on the Living Room menu, including the lamb saddle, which has been called "life changing."
"It has a date barbeque sauce that is a perfect match for the delicious lamb saddle!" Gignac makes our mouths water. "It's served with couscous and roasted root vegetables." But that's not all… "Our most popular drink is a cocktail invented at the Living Room called The Shaft, and our beef tartar is our most popular menu item. It has been on the menu for 18 years — since the day we opened."
Whether you have enjoyed the Living Room in the past or have yet to enjoy it's delicacies like Cornish game hen with baby beets, or a cheese fondue made with 6-year aged white cheddar, there is plenty to look forward to now and into the future.
"We have an incredible chef who is creating some of the best food I've ever seen," concludes Gignac, "and our cocktail program created by Lee Peppinck continues to blow people away. Everyday I walk into our kitchen and am in awe of the level of cooking our chef and his team are creating. We expect a new winter menu for early 2019. We are also planning a private dinner series that will showcase the talent of our back of house team. We have a great private dining space that is starting to see its full potential. We are also developing a wine program and we hope to get it noticed by the large wine syndicates. There is a lot to get excited about."