Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
MALAHAT, BRITISH COLUMBIA — I didn’t know this place existed was a phrase I repeated to myself while I stayed at Villa Eyrie in June.
It is an Italian-style villa set atop the Malahat Summit, about 30 minutes by car north of Victoria. Thoughts of the Renaissance fit the property in more ways than one. Villa Eyrie had been closed since 2009 — when it was previously called the Aerie Resort — and its relaunch in late 2017 marks an ascent for Vancouver Island’s hospitality landscape.
The hotel joins the category of pinnacle places to stay on the eastern side of the island and should very much be on your vacation plans.
Rooms are massive. Many feature wrap-around balconies with sweeping views of the coastal mountains and the Malahat region. You’ll no doubt catch yourself staring long and into the distance at Finlayson Arm, which is a body of water at the southern end of Saanich Inlet that splits the mountainous terrain.
Inside my 665-square-foot Master Suite was a deep, opulent soaker tub, gas fireplace, Romanesque columns, and luxurious appointments, including beds with comfortable pillow-top mattresses and designer furniture. The hardwood floors created a warm atmosphere that suited the natural surroundings of the resort.
Villa Eyrie Charms With Italian Aesthetic
The Summit Restaurant was a revelation. Its kitchen team takes advantage of an on-site farm and local producers from the Cowichan Valley and British Columbia’s Gulf Islands to serve cuisine that is dedicated to being as local as possible. The breads are exceptional and made in-house. The delicious tapenade that is served with the bread is created from olives on Salt Spring Island. Seafood includes mussels and oysters from within a short drive of the area, and meats come from Vancouver Island’s farms. The wines are diverse, with a good number of Italian choices, as you might expect, and a few selections from Vancouver Island wineries, which are growing in stature.
All of that plus a blow-you-away view from 1,156 feet (352 metres) atop the mountain. You can spy the coastal mountains of British Columbia’s lower mainland in the distance while in front of you is that epic view of Finlayson Arm, surrounded by forests rising to the skies. Eagles are often carouseling in the air, spying food as they circle or seeking a favourite branch on which to perch. There are few better views in the province to toast with a glass of wine and admire the sunset.
The culinary team includes restaurant professionals with ties to outstanding properties in BC and abroad. Ryan Bissell, the corporate executive chef, has held positions at Whistler gems Araxi and the Barefoot Bistro, and executive chef Mario Gross has worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Germany. Pastry chef Matthias Conradi, the man behind the exceptional bread program at Villa Eyrie, has worked at Sooke Harbour House and operated his eponymous pastry shop in Tofino.
Villa Eyrie is owned by GAIN, an automotive group headquartered in Victoria that specializes in sports cars. As such, the car motif is visible throughout the property, which underwent a more than $2-million renovation before reopening. The gift shop is filled with auto-related souvenirs and apparel, the restaurant’s decor features historic Formula-1 posters, and a vintage car (a 1980 Alfa Romeo 2000 Spider Veloce) is outside for you to admire and, if compelled, book for a drive.
Though the rooms are first-rate, the service is friendly and professional, and the restaurant is outstanding, there are some drawbacks, including: a lack of elevators, which creates accessibility issues; no room service or concierge; and an absence of bell service (though front-desk staff are helpful with luggage).
Still, Villa Eyrie is a star, and as word continues to spread there’s no doubt there will be some fast company heading to this destination in the hills.
MORE ABOUT VILLA EYRIE
Location: 600 Ebedora Lane, Malahat, BC (see map below)
Getting There: Villa Eyrie is located on the Malahat Highway, which is along a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway. If travelling north from Victoria, turn left at Whittaker Road and follow signs to the resort. If coming south, turn right at Whittaker Road. Be aware, the turn-off points from the highway are dangerous, because of the speed on the highway.
Nightly Rates: Deluxe rooms start at $249 per night and includes breakfast for two. Check the hotel’s booking engine for reservations.
Menu Price Range: Summit Restaurant’s dinner menu changes seasonally; it features entrees ranging from $26-$35. If it’s on offer, you must try the Wild Halibut, served with morel mushrooms, leeks and a saffron sauce ($35).
Notable: The spa and gym facilities include a mineral pool as well as complimentary fitness classes.