Written by: David Wylie
Gray Monk’s restaurant has a fresh look — and an even fresher menu. The unbeatable view of vineyards and Okanagan Lake remains front and centre, and its new name reflects that: The Lookout Restaurant at Gray Monk.
“There are very few places where you can get this kind of experience,” said Paul LaGrange, the front of house manager. “Come and do a tasting and see where the grapes are grown. Sitting on a patio looking out at the vineyard where your wine is from, eating food that’s grown right here — and with this view, it’s pretty hard to beat.”
Along with updating the look to a modern bistro, they’re changing the entrance experience to be more welcoming with lounge space. “The service will be unobtrusive. It’s that fine line between sophisticated and casual,” said LaGrange. “We want people to feel welcome and feel comfortable.” The menu is rooted in fresh local ingredients, said executive chef Maurice Desharnais. “I’m making it my personal commitment to source the menu as locally as possible,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of local farmers. I drive five minutes to work and I pass 10 farms.
I was from out east and everything from out east is from the Okanagan. Now that I’m in the Okanagan, I plan on buying everything as locally as I can.” All the seafood is from the West Coast and sustainable. Desharnais sources small farmers for the meat he uses. “The menu will be smaller but changing frequently,” he said. “Seasonality will be a huge factor. Whatever vegetable comes up next, that’s what I’ll be putting out next. The weather tells me what I can use and then I pair off them, so that’s why the menu will be changing based on whatever I can get my hands on.”
Desharnais worked for more than a decade at Peller Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. When he was offered a position in the Okanagan, he took it. He said he’s excited about the duck confit, which will be based off deconstructed wine profiles, served with a black pepper and pretzel spaetzli. “Everything in the kitchen is either made with wine, made for wine …. or I drank a lot of wine coming up with the recipe,” he said. Desharnais said he wants people to learn about the wine flavours and properties as they experience them through food; for example, the crispness and acidity of a Riesling. The wine flavours will shine through caramels, sauces and vinaigrettes.
Gray Monk is an iconic Okanagan property. Established in 1972 by George and Trudy Heiss, it was recently purchased by Andrew Peller Limited. The estate is comprised of 75 acres of lush vineyards overlooking Okanagan Lake. It has produced some of the world’s finest wines.
“There has been a great reputation for Gray Monk in the past. They’ve been around for a long time and the wine speaks for itself; the estate speaks for itself,” said Desharnais. “We’re just going to add to that.”
LaGrange has a personal connection to the winery. “In the mid-80s I drove out from Alberta,” he said. “This is the first winery I ever visited and the first place I bought wine from in my life.” During the warmer months, Gray Monk draws visitors from all over the world. Lake Country is continuing to increase as a destination within a destination — the Okanagan Valley. The Lookout is also a draw for locals. “This is a place where people can meet somebody for a glass of wine and a charcuterie board at the end of a work day, or they can come here for their anniversary dinner,” said LaGrange.
Some wine will be added here from the Peller holdings. Wayne Gretzky selections will also be available soon.
Good to Know
• The restaurant opens May 1
• On weekdays, lunch starts at 11 am, with dinner from 4:30 to 8 pm
• Weekend brunch starts Saturday and Sunday at 10 am
• Small plates are served every day from 3 to 5 pm
For more information, graymonk.com.