Daryl Banke and Mark Hussey are living a glittering life. The recently retired financial planner and IT specialist earned their good fortune, but chance and the Four Diamond award contest sponsored by the CAA North and East Ontario last fall delivered a sumptuous five-course tasting menu at Stephen Beckta’s iconic Dining and Wine Bar located in the historic Grant House on Elgin Street.
The prize was to celebrate Beckta and his team for earning the prestigious CAA/AAA Four Diamond rating, which the restaurant group has done for an unprecedented 18 years in a row.
The Four Diamond rating is reserved for an elite group of restaurants and hotels, representing a tiny 4.2 per cent of the industry.
Only three restaurants and two hotels in Ottawa earned the Four Diamond rating in 2022 from the CAA and its American AAA partner, with Beckta’s restaurant the biggest draw across the region.
“Set in a grand, historic building in the heart of downtown, this restaurant welcomes visitors into its warm interior for a refined, chic dining experience,” notes the CAA/AAA inspector, who visited, dined and rated the experience with gusto.
“The decor is reminiscent of a former time mixed with touches of modern elegance. Dishes are handsomely plated and prepared with fine ingredients.”
The inspector reserved special praise for service, both in the formal dining room and the more casual wine bar, lauding staff for their attentiveness, knowledge, style, timeliness and refinement. Beckta and staff earned a Four Diamond rating for “distinctive fine dining, well-serviced amid upscale ambience.”
For Banke and Hussey, the experience was all about savouring the food and environment.
“Mark is a good cook, but he was glad not to be in the kitchen,” says Banke, adding after mentioning allergies, staff modified the exotic menu of yellowfin tuna crudo, veal sweetbreads, duck Marget Jerusalem artichoke and a delectable citrus lemon creme.
“It was better than fries,” he adds, with a chuckle, remembering the February dinner, the quiet environment, pristine white tablecloths, the comfortable chairs and outstanding service. “It was all fashionable and elegant.”
The two have a short list of favourite restaurants close to their downtown condo, often dining at the storied Elgin restaurant before concert and symphony performances at one of their top haunts, the National Arts Centre.
A few days after their night out, the couple left the snow and ice for south Florida, soaking up the sun and walking the long sandy beaches along the Atlantic. There was also a spring jaunt to New York for a Broadway show, before taking the wraps off their motorboat and urban cruising along the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers.
These are early retirement months for the men, who met in Halifax, moved to Ottawa in 2001 and married in 2003. There are plans to hit the highway in the summer, heading east and visiting family and friends. “We now have the time to enjoy ourselves,” says Hussey.” The dinner was a treat.”
Stephen Beckta is also planning a private Four Diamond Cocktail Party on May 1 for lucky customers and staff who have supported him for the past 20 years.
“We have a large core staff who have been with us since Day One,” says General Manager Candace Battig. “We want to celebrate and say thank you.”
Beckta is also planning a 20th anniversary tasting menu with wine pairings during May. There are plans for a winemaker’s dinner with Cave Spring, which produces Beckta’s house sparkling wine, Blanc de Beckta. Tickets go on sale in the spring.