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Andrew Morrison

Vancouver Island Restaurants

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Thanks Brenda and Merlin, both the Bengal Lounge and Blue Crab sound like good options for us.

Finally I report back.

We ended up going to Spinnakers for brunch. I found the food a little carbohydrate heavy for a "gastropub" - for example, a chicken pot pie fully encased in pastry perched atop a mound of mashed potatoes with a few woody carrots propped alongside. I'd like to hear recommendations of what on the menu is more "gastro". I seem to come away feeling slightly disappointed each time I'm there. The beer is good, the service has been good and there's a pretty view, but the food is hit and miss in my experience.

We did get to the Bengal Lounge for a drink, but they were having a bad day. There was lots of staff around but the service was indifferent. But the room is comfortable and we were beside a window on a sunny day, so it really didn't matter.

On a more positive note I finally made it Brasserie L'ecole for not one but two excellent dinners earlier this month. One night I sat at the bar for oyster and veal short rib tagliatelle with chanterelles. The next I was in a back table with a good view of the room for endive salad, ling cod with bacon and more chanterelles and a creamy rice pudding. Excellent wine service, friendly and professional staff, and very reasonable prices - I loved this restaurant.


Cheers,

Anne

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We ended up going to Spinnakers for brunch. I found the food a little carbohydrate heavy for a "gastropub" - for example, a chicken pot pie fully encased in pastry perched atop a mound of mashed potatoes with a few woody carrots propped alongside.  I'd like to hear recommendations of what on the menu is more "gastro". I seem to come away feeling slightly disappointed each time I'm there. The beer is good, the service has been good and there's a pretty view, but the food is hit and miss in my experience.

I'm so glad to hear you say that. J & I have been there 3 times, and each time I keep wondering what I missed (after reading all the glowing reports here and elsewhere). Good to know I'm not alone ... about Spinnakers, and about Brasserie.

Re: Bengal Lounge ... last visit to Victoria, we were looking for a lounge to pass away an afternoon in ... a la Bacchus at the Wedgewood. Apparently the Bengal is no longer such a place? If so, are there other options? (big leather chairs a plus ....)

A.

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I'm so glad to hear you say that.  J & I have been there 3 times, and each time I keep wondering what I missed (after reading all the glowing reports here and elsewhere).  Good to know I'm not alone ... about Spinnakers, and about Brasserie.

Re: Bengal Lounge ... last visit to Victoria, we were looking for a lounge to pass away an afternoon in ... a la Bacchus at the Wedgewood.  Apparently the Bengal is no longer such a place?  If so, are there other options?  (big leather chairs a plus ....)

A.

Spinnaker's lost their chef a while back, when he left to open Smoken Bones Cookshack. I have been to Spinnaker's a couple of times since then, and recommend you stay away from the pub food (nachos, burgers, pot pies, etc) and stick to the more interesting entrees. While things in the kitchen may have gone downhill a little since Ken left, the food on the last few occasions has been terrific. Maybe not quite as good as the IPA, but close ...

Also, make a point of sitting downstairs, in the restaurant. I find the service is on a different level than the upstairs pub.

As for hotel lounging, I can personally vouch for the lounge at the Marriott Inner Harbour. Big, comfy leather chairs, those famous $1000 bar chairs, big, handsome plasma screen, big, handsome bartender, and big hotel prices. Last time I was there it was still construction central in the Humboldt Valley, but things should be pretty much done by now.

Also, there is 1/2 price prime rib for dinner (uhh, I assume it's still good even though I no longer make it :) with some restrictions regarding time. Phone ahead.

-- Matt.

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barolo:

I cannot think of anything that I have had during walks [we usually stay at the Delta near the Johnson Street Bridge] to Spinnaker's that stood out apart from the beer which was the primary purpose for going there in the first place.

Last trip in November my wife had a monstrous order of natchos...yes, not gastropub while I had a nice plate of smoked fish as I tried to pretend it was still summer with some "heffe-weizen" [sp?] and "tasters" of Averil Creek pinot gris and pinot noir.

We have never taken Matt R's advice and eaten downstairs, maybe next time.

Usually stick to pretty non-exotic fare like the standard fish and chips and/or ploughman's lunch and the like. But again, the reason we go there is the beer...and now the wine as they do have a very good wine list which surprised me with its size and variety including the quirky and NOT cheap Venturi-Schultz that I know James Kendal features on his wine list and they still do at the Jasper Park Lodge due at least in part to his time there.

Have to love that edive salad at Brasserie don't you? Nice combination of vinaigrette, mustard with the drippings from the lardons complemented by the hazelnuts.

Marc's wine service is always a treat. We were acquainted with some basic, good valued reds on our last visit including a minervois that we quite enjoyed.

However, upon returning to Alberta with our "find" noted that Wine Access was trumpeting the St. Esmeulie as the best French and overall best red in their article on the best wines available in Canada under $20 or $25.

Unfortunately, although I tracked down two stores in Calgary that had been ordering it in on a somwhat exclusive basis, they could not be convinced to ship some up north.

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OK, it sounds as though I need to adjust my expectations around Spinnakers. As for the Bengal Lounge, Arne, we were in some kind of "no service" zone. It may just have been a bad day, but somehow I don't think so.

Thanks for your recommendations Matt.

Merlin, the endive salad and everything else at the Brasserie was very good. My expectations were high, which often leads to disappointment. But not this time.


Cheers,

Anne

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Too bad about the service at the Bengal Lounge. Perhaps with the takeover by the Fairmont people and the loss of some long-time servers, things have changed and not for the better.

The Spinnaker's food doesn't sound very "gastro" at all. I haven't been there in ages.

Glad that Brasserie made up for the other places. We were there a few weeks ago, and my husband had a delicious braised shortrib with gnocchi, and I had steak frites (I usually go for a fish course there) because I was feeling carnivorous. We were very hungry, and we left very happy.

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Too bad about the service at the Bengal Lounge. Perhaps with the takeover by the Fairmont people and the loss of some long-time servers, things have changed and not for the better.

Hi Brenda, just to clarify CP Hotels purchased Fairmont in 2000 not the other way around.

Service issues have nothing to do with the change of the flag over the door, I would hazard a guess and say it has a lot to do with the overall shortage of labour that the island is facing, as well as an aging workforce (The Empess has some of the longest term CP/Fairmont employees in the whole company) and not being able to replace them as they retire.

Colin


Colin Dunn

Burnt Out Exec Chef

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Too bad about the service at the Bengal Lounge. Perhaps with the takeover by the Fairmont people and the loss of some long-time servers, things have changed and not for the better.

Hi Brenda, just to clarify CP Hotels purchased Fairmont in 2000 not the other way around.

Service issues have nothing to do with the change of the flag over the door, I would hazard a guess and say it has a lot to do with the overall shortage of labour that the island is facing, as well as an aging workforce (The Empess has some of the longest term CP/Fairmont employees in the whole company) and not being able to replace them as they retire.

Colin

Interesting. I honestly don't know how some restaurants are going to survive as young people have so many choices right now re jobs.


Edited by Brenda (log)

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We are going to be in Victoria this weekend. Any quick thoughts on 2 restaurants we should make sure we get to for dinner on Fri and Sat? It sounds like Brasserie L'Ecole is a sure thing. True? And if so where else should we go?

We will definitely try Choux Choux for lunch and Mo:Le and the Lady Marmalade sound worthy of a visit.

Any recommendations gratefully received.


Cheers,

Karole

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I wholeheartedly endorse the suggestion of Brasserie l'Ecole. It is a regular stop for us during trips to Victoria as is Cafe Brio which I also recommend.

At the risk of "offending" [smile] "the real Sparky" who ventures to this list from time to time the only downside is that there are some similarities between the two which is fine for us but you may want something different.

The Rosemeade was very good the one time we have gone, just about a year ago.

I have heard very complementary things about Paprika but to date despite many visits to the coast have not gone.

We find with limited time and wanting to revisit popular favourites our "dining dance card" gets filled up pretty quickly.

Let us know what you discover as we'll be heading out that way at the beginning of March.

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WF had the same query pop up yesterday. For something new, I suggested Sanuk and The Superior. Both welcome additions.


Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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I ate at Brasserie l'Ecole two nights in a row the last time I was in Victoria - like Merlin, I heartily endorse it.


Cheers,

Anne

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Yes, apparently a method invented by Thomas Keller

Escoffier

steve


Cook To Live; Live To Cook

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http://www.cowichanbay.com/

http://www.butchartgardens.com/PDF/Wine_features.pdf

http://www.wineislands.ca/

http://wine.appellationamerica.com/wine/li...nd.html?all-all

http://www.abbeymoore.com/services/wineries.html

Alderlea Vineyards, HERITAGE HEARTH, Duncan BC 9.50 50.00 500ml

“Alderlea Vineyards Maple Bay, Duncan, BC

Roger and Nancy Dosman operate Alderlea Vineyards near Duncan on the slopes

above Quamichan Lake in the Cowichan Valley. Established in 1992, winemaker Roger

is dedicated to growing high quality grapes and producing 100% estate grown wines.

All products are made from the vineyard's grapes, including superb white wines, red

wines and port-style wine."

It was a damp and shadowy night, a week after New Years, so everyone was at home relaxing watching home movies in the comfort of their own warm and soft couch. Although for me after a solid week of helping with an opening of a restaurant at one of the oddest times of years, this night was my only respite given for the week. I had to take complete opportunity of this limited free time so I thought a walk and investigation trip was in order. So off we went to Cowichan bay for a walk and perhaps some food.

We parked away from the center of this beautiful and quaint bay side place of Cow- Bay and meandered our way through one of the islands highways checking out the living museum that has some of the west coast oldest buildings. Cow Bay has one of the oldest grass tennis courts in the British Commonwealth. I could not help but think how much this Real Estate costs when I saw a “For-Sale” sign out on one of the water front “BB”. It will be sad day if they let all these old buildings decay and crumble for the sake of profit and development.

Getting my way back to what was at hand, moments of rest and drain of the anxieties of organizing many in a kitchen which was pulled out of its soft warm place inside like a baby from its mothers grip, pushed out before her or his time into a cold a windy winter week. Power off and on, back up generators; much needed- not working, then again slowing progress in this slow moving Island world.

We ran into a great restaurant called the Masthead where we proceeded to eat and drink our way to an incredible fever, perhaps the door to enlightenment had opened; but maybe not……..maybe it was the week at hand! This was my time now, I was with friends and we had a good time and the service was great…. The owner away! -- did not lessen a great restaurant; hey you could say that it was slow. I say if you can not get it right with one table—who is to say you will function well with TWO!!!!!

I leave the critics to judge the food—as I digress into once again the wine!

Alderlea Vineyards

When I found out they had 2003 Pinot Noir---my fav wine of 2006—I was all over it like *&^% on *&^%; then again I enjoyed one of the last few bottles in the valley. This wine in very limited production is sod after. At least by me, I could drink this wine all the time ….So sad, that we can not get the same wine all the time. Although, good classic French Wineries seem to deliver year after year and this is a good thing. Sure they have the highlights but this year (Alderlea) for me was so grand. I feel that the Alderlea being so young has that great quality. Time will tell! ……..Although I am sure that last year will be great,; round the valley the realization of the new wine release in the spring; I can hardly wait!


Cook To Live; Live To Cook

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Steve:

Nice to hear from you.

Our past two trips to the island we have attempted without success to visit Alderlea. Mind you we did as a result see some beautiful country in and around Maple Bay despite having to brake hard for a couple of beautiful bucks who left into our path. I will have to get better directions for the winery next time.

I really enjoy their pinot noir, especially the reserve and their copper hued salmon-berry coloured pinto gris. In fact I prefer the latter my other BC favourite of this type of pinot gris, the Kettle Valley from the Okanagan.

Also have enjoyed their Heritage Hearth, one half bottle left stached away in the basmt.

How is the pub going in Duncan? We are out in March and may rent a car and drive up.

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Two places my family has been to recently and loved are Adriana's on Amelia Street (mexican) and The Black Olive on Pandora. Great service at both places.

And, I really hate to let this cat out of the bag...but the Crow and Gate Pub in Cedar is a great place for a cold pint and a beef dip. You'll have to find your own way there, though. The Crow and Gate could be one of the Island's best kept secrets and we like it that way! :wink:


Edited by SodaPop (log)

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Wild Saffron was EXCELLENT when I went in the summer. The service was phenomenal, and the presentation was fabulous also. The flavours of the dishes were very good, and I thought they were quite creative, with very reasonable prices.

The only thing I was upset with was the creme brulee, which was very sour (passionfruit flavour) and not thick... in fact, it was near soup texture, and drooped off my spoon.

Fire and Water has the best creme brulee I've ever tasted in my life, although the food there isn't anything special. For an after dinner dessert though... an option :wink:

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From my one and only visit to Wild Saffron, I would say don't bother - there are much better options out there. We had a milestone birthday pre-planned and everything, room was not even half full, should have been a slam dunk... and it still somehow fell flat.

Granted this was a while ago, maybe they have changed for the better. But if you're on a vacation with a limited number of dinners out and you want a sure thing, I'd suggest Brasserie, Brio, Paprika... strongly suggest Rosemeade if you want to go all hoity-toity (sp?).

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Hi Merlin:

The pub is going good.

We are open tues- sun 5-cl

Opening for lunch soon

We still have some construction happening and plenty of logistics.

We have a wood burning grill which has been a logistic nightmare--- it needs a back up generator for the hood, with all the power outages it had delayed the usage of the equipment which delayed that part of the menu-- We are working through things. All will be good

Steve


Cook To Live; Live To Cook

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Has anyone been to Drift in Nanaimo? I'll probably go there next week.

No, but please tell me more - what and where is it. I'm a regular visitor to Nanaimo so I'm always hoping for more and better dining options.


Cheers,

Anne

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And, I really hate to let this cat out of the bag...but the Crow and Gate Pub in Cedar is a great place for a cold pint and a beef dip.  You'll have to find your own way there, though.  The Crow and Gate could be one of the Island's best kept secrets and we like it that way!  :wink:

I don't really think this is much of a secret :raz:


Cheers,

Anne

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Drift is just down the road from Gina's Mexican cafe. It's where the old Souvlaki House used to be. I think there's"world cuisine" on the sign (could be great, could be awful).

I think I'm going to drag my husband there this week, and I'll report back.

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And, I really hate to let this cat out of the bag...but the Crow and Gate Pub in Cedar is a great place for a cold pint and a beef dip.  You'll have to find your own way there, though.  The Crow and Gate could be one of the Island's best kept secrets and we like it that way!  :wink:

I don't really think this is much of a secret :raz:

Probably not much of a secret amongst foodies.

My husband and I moved back to Victoria this fall, after five years on the Lower Mainland. Even though I lived on the Island for roughly 20 years before that, the Crow and Gate's existence was a mystery to me. A friend in Burnaby told me about it last month, and we stopped in on our way home from Mt. Washington. We love food, but we're in no way hard core in our knowledge of the local restaurant scene.

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Went to "Drift" in downtown Nanaimo last night. It's a pretty room, nicely lit with huge windows looking back towards Mount Benson (yes you have to look past the Tim Horton's and the car dealerships, but, hey, that's Nanaimo). There's a nice bar. They brought us some good bread right away, a selection of warm baguette slices, olive bread and spicy pappadums. I drank Cono Sur Viognier and my partner had an Italian red recommended by the server which he enjoyed ( I can't remember the name).

The food was pretty good. The seafood seviche was delicious with prawns, squid, grapes, lime, and basil. My partner had the lamb shank which was indian spiced with daal and potatoes. I had the ling cod pakoras. The frites that came with it were excellent, but the pakoras were really just cod coated in a slightly soggy batter. If they could crisp that batter up, it would be a good dish as the sauce with it was tasty, a chili/lime mayonnaise.

We finished with a creme brulee with two teeny spoons.

I would definitely go back. Nanaimo really needs a place like this.

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