Oat Couture Oatmeal Cafe really started as a breakfast bowl idea. Our founder Brian Montgomery, who comes from an investment management background, had always wanted to do a cafe that presented perhaps a new riff on breakfast. He wanted to do something that had never been done before – and settled on a cafe featuring all types of grains, cereals and porridges. This idea morphed into doing a cafe exclusively with oatmeal.
Oatmeal seemed to be stuck in the breakfast category and many of us have memories of porridge and oats from our childhood – and not always good ones! Humans though have been putting stuff on oatmeal for centuries- but mostly sugary things like syrup and brown sugar to help with the bland taste. Brian thought that oats, like any grain, could be so much more. Oatmeal could be enjoyed all day. Savoury. Sweet. Baking. All oats – all the time. Why should rice and quinoa have all the fun??
After a push from his wife Jenn, Brian approached notable and fun-loving Ottawa chef Ben Baird of the Urban Pear and Streat Ottawa food truck fame and tried to get him interested in partnering up on this cafe. Ben thought that this was a crazy idea! And he basically dismissed it! But with a little push from his wife Elyse, who ate oatmeal every morning, Ben decided to explore some ways of making oats differently. After hours of cooking and experimenting Ben finally came back to Brian, who was repeatedly pestering him, and told him OK let’s do it!
Ben set about to create an amazing menu with 18 bowls – some savoury, some sweet, some muesli, and some mighty (our four bowls with no refined sugars) + baking and smoothies.
While Ben was creating the menu, Brian hired an experienced restaurant manager, and the two of them went about finding space and building the business. They settled on 1154 Bank Street in the heart of Old Ottawa South, a building that had hosted dozens of businesses in its life going back to the early 20th century. With brick and pine walls, soaring ceilings and the feature of a bank safe in the corner (now our guest bathroom! ..and the safe door is our coffee bar!) the store was beautiful but unloved, and with a fiery past! Fires in the 1980s had compromised the front and back structure of the building and so a complete renovation was commenced.
Matt Edwards of Felt Spaces Design and Rob Brunetti and Mike Kearney of Ottawa Commercial Interiors completed a total transformation of this space over eight months. With its beautiful light from a south-facing exposure, visitors are awed by the attention to detail. Authentic Tolix chairs (not knockoffs!), oats-imprinted concrete table tops, the twin hanging rattan chairs in the window, and the mixed material of stainless steel, concrete, Corten steel panelling are all elements to showcase our original oatmeal bowls.
Our little oatmeal shop has captured the imagination of the neighbourhood and of the whole food-loving Ottawa community. Click on these links to see what the media is saying about us: