Patio season is also prime time for British Columbia restaurants. Some exciting celebrations and happenings are taking place at several establishments in the province. Here are just a few choice highlights to consider as you venture around the west coast.
Chambar: Fifteen years in the restaurant business is a feat to commemorate and that’s what local favourite Chambar is doing this summer. The restaurant known for its Belgian-influenced menu — think delectable mussels and fries, marvellous waffles, and one of the city’s best beer lists — has a few new menu and cocktail items. It has spruced up the patio on Beatty Street as well, adding to its ambiance that resembles a contemporary European lounge.
Pourhouse: In preparation for his new job, recently appointed executive chef Alessandro Vianello did what any sharp culinary mind would do — he gave himself a research assignment. Vianello sought out recipes from the Prohibition era of the United States in a search for menu fixtures that were an ideal match for the drinks at Pourhouse, one of Vancouver’s leading cocktail bars. Vianello says he came across recipes that could be adapted for modern tastes.
“I found some cool inspirations and wanted to do our own interpretations on them,” says Vianello, who previously worked at nearby Wildebeest. “What we came up with is classic Americana but with my twist to it. I do have an Italian background and I wanted to bring my heritage into it, too. To tell my story in the food.”
The best example of Vianello’s research coming to life is Pourhouse’s version of Chicken à la Maryland, a dish that is said to date to the early 1900s. Inspired by southern American cuisine, the entree is a classic example of comfort food. The fried buttermilk chicken is served with mustard cream, cheese grits and braised greens.
Vancouverites and visitors to the city have been dropping into the Pourhouse for a decade to enjoy its brilliant cocktails. The cuisine now adds another reason to settle into the Gastown hangout.
Tableau: Located on the ground floor of the Loden Hotel, Tableau recently launched a Bubbles & Brunch promotion for the weekends, melding some sensational flavours from the kitchen with Champagne imported from France specifically for the restaurant’s menu. Diners of course can opt for mimosas to go with their eggs Benedict or French toast. For those looking to celebrate Bastille Day, the annual French national holiday that takes place on July 14, this French bistro is a top choice in Vancouver.
Ancora: Executive chef Ricardo Valverde has flourished with his Peruvian-inspired flavours and top-notch sushi selections at Ancora’s flagship location on False Creek. Earlier this year, Ancora Ambleside debuted in West Vancouver, improving the quality of food and drink in one of Canada’s pricier districts. Adding to the focus on fresh fish and seafood, the restaurant has steadily rolled out exciting events at both locations, including a celebration of National Rosé Day that featured paella cooked on the waterfront patio. It also brought back its Pescatarian Tasting Menu for the month of April, showcasing the oceanic ingredients of the Pacific northwest.
Ancora is doing some exciting things with its brand and its menu — which is always great to see from those restaurants that could simply settle on their location to bring diners in. Home to a patio that’s among the best in the country, it’s worth at least one visit every summer.
Sidecut at Four Seasons Resort: One of Whistler’s venerable restaurants has upped its casual-dining and cocktail game in the past couple of years. The Thursday beers and barbecue series is hugely popular with locals and hotel guests, and the outdoor patio camper that debuted in 2018 is back for summer 2019 to offer campfire-style ambiance while serving boozy hot chocolate, s’mores and marshmallows. It’s quintessential Canadiana in a luxury setting.
But the real reason to visit Sidecut right now is for its newly invented cocktail program, led by young bartender Rory Baker, who humbly says he is underqualified for the position. After bartending for only a couple of years, Baker has shown that he’s a quick study of his craft. With influences from Hong Kong and elsewhere, he has helped to create a cocktail list — dubbed Spirit of the Mountains — that’s fun, detailed and, most importantly, tasty. The drinks are well-balanced and inspired by global ingredients. They also come in eye-catching vessels that are stories on their own. A drink named after Easter Island arrives in a container shaped like one of the famous monuments on the Chilean island, for example. Another, Volcano de Fuego, is derived from the names of the natural wonders of Guatemala.
New for summer is The Oracle, a rum-and-sherry-based cocktail that is infused with applewood smoke and comes attached with a tarot card. The tarot card is chosen by a member of the bar team and is clipped to the glass.
Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club: Fairmont guests have for years raved about the buffet in Wildflower, the Whistler hotel’s flagship restaurant. Its decadent offerings include everything you could want in a breakfast selection, but could you eat like that every day for five, six or seven days? Probably not. So the hotel has smartly decided to add a breakfast menu at its golf club. Served on the patio overlooking one of the province’s most revered courses, the menu includes delicious choices like steelcut oats that are pan fried with maple syrup and salmon bowl with eggs. Whether you’re teeing off or just looking for a lighter way to start your day in the mountain town, the golf course is a choice place to begin.
Liquidity Bistro: In 2018, its Chardonnay won a global competition to be named the world’s best. Connoisseurs will be happy to know Liquidity Wines’ on-site bistro is a match for its stellar grapes. Overlooking Vaseaux Lake, the bistro serves beautifully plated west-coast fare that includes luscious dessert options as well.
The chef is in his early 20s and is clearly prospering in a laid-back environment with some of Canada’s leading farms in the vicinity. Liquidity is in Okanagan Falls, less than 30 minutes by car from either Oliver (to the south) or Penticton (to the north), and a must-visit destination during your travels to Interior BC.
Vanilla Pod: Located at Poplar Grove Winery, the Vanilla Pod delivers a dining experience that is in itself a reason to visit Penticton. Not surprisingly, its cuisine pairs brilliantly with Poplar Grove’s wines. Pinot gris is suited for the clams-and-mussels starter, or the sablefish main course. The bold and elegant Syrah can pair with the striploin, paella or Wagyu beef carpaccio. The Vanilla Pod has been operated by restaurateur Paul Jones for decades but he is retiring and the restaurant will be taken over by the Holler family that owns Poplar Grove.
UCLUELET & TOFINO
Pluvio: Former Wickaninnish Inn executive chef Warren Barr has ventured a half-hour south to launch a restaurant that is one of the most anticipated new establishments in the BC dining scene. Pluvio’s name is a reference to organisms that thrive in rainforests such as what you find on the west coast of Canada. Its menu relies on some of the fabulous flavours of the west coast, including Dungeness crab lettuce wrap, caramalised sablefish, salmon with teriyaki sauce and lingcod served with XO Sauce.
Summit Bread Company: Although it’s not a restaurant, Summit Bread Co. is definitely worth noting among Tofino’s culinary highlights. In June 2018, another former Wickaninnish Inn culinary alumni, Brendan Foell, started this fantastic bakery with his wife, Cassidy McCaughan. The crème brûlée cruffin (half croissant, half muffin) should be enough of a temptation to make you stop. The croissant is baked in a muffin pan with the custard filling the centre and burnt sugar coating the top. “It’s not something we invented,” McCaughan says. “We just think it’s awesome.” And there’s no doubt you will too!
Check the recent Vacay.ca article on some of the highlights in the provincial capital, including why craft-beer aficionados should make a point of raising a glass in thanks to pioneering Spinnakers and many reasons to put Saveur at the top of your dining list when you visit the city.