It’s fair to say we are all done with lockdowns and border restrictions. Since I still can’t travel to the U.S. for leisure and global travel remains a maybe for spring, the best option for escape is a weekend getaway without a trip to the airport.
Truth be told, there’s something undeniably appealing about staying in a hotel room in the heart of your own city, or a location a short drive away.
Versante is the first luxury boutique hotel in Richmond, the Vancouver suburb known for its Asian cuisine and shopping finds. As a travel writer who loves weekend getaways in gorgeous surroundings and one who lived in Richmond for nearly four decades, I was intrigued. So, a few weeks ago I found myself with small suitcase in tow, heading back to my old hometown for a luxe staycation.
The captivating, Instagram-worthy lobby is like a symphony of light, colour, and vibrancy. My eyes immediately went to the large rug depicting a boat in a storm, before landing on the striking contemporary art pieces by world-renowned Vancouver artists Andy Dixon and Marie Khouri that adorn the walls.
Then, add 100 guest rooms and suites with rainfall showers and Nespresso machines, an upscale restaurant, a cool cafe/wine bar, and a beautiful rooftop terrace with outdoor salt-water pool and hot tub offering spectacular 360-degree skyline and mountain views, and you have a hotel quite unlike anything Richmond has ever seen.
In addition to accommodation, food is always important when you opt to stay at a luxury hotel. Oozing style with plenty of personality thrown in, the hotel’s flagship restaurant Bruno’s décor is as creative and exciting as the cuisine.
Executive chef William Lew’s menu focuses on locally sourced ingredients that are organic and Ocean Wise approved. If you have eaten at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and Fairmont Pacific Rim’s restaurants, you will have indulged in his culinary talent and artistry. Inspired by local ingredients and modern-day indulgences, Lew has created a carte du jour at Versante that takes guests into a culinary journey that includes artistic plating.
“When the team at Versante Hotel approached me, I realized that I could have license to create innovative dishes with full autonomy,” says the affable young chef. “For me, it’s all about the concept, understanding the environment and incorporating all of the amazing ingredients we have here in B.C.”
The grandson of a chef from Vancouver’s Chinatown, Lew originally dreamt of being a musician. Those plans changed when he was offered a part-time job washing dishes at the original Glowbal restaurant.
“I fell in love with the industry from the first day I started work there,” Lew says. “For me, it’s telling a compelling story through food, and the ingredients are the canvas, the art.”
He loves interacting with guests and seeing how they react to his dishes. He takes that same enthusiasm and gets to know the farmers, artisans and purveyors who are supplying his produce.
From my first plate, a shared Burrata Summer Orchard Salad ($23), I knew I was in for an incredible meal. The beautifully plated assortment of stone fruits, berries, heirloom tomatoes avocado, baby cucumber, walnuts, and summer harvest greens came paired with a balsamic gelee verjus vinaigrette. Divine!
Before long, Lew brought over Dungeness Crab Croquettes & Iberico Ham ($24), torched oysters ($36) sitting on a bed of hot rocks, and two Wagyu flank steaks ($29 each), resting on hay presented in a suitcase before grilling … THIS is not a misstatement — it is how Lew’s creative mind works.
As each subsequent course arrived, I let out a gasp, and then reached for my camera to immortalize the edible artistry.
The following morning, I breakfasted with David Curell, Versante’s general manager, who stated that in today’s luxury hotel landscape, it’s about going above and beyond your guests’ expectations each and every time.
“Having spent almost 20 years managing boutique hotels in Canada and the U.S., I can’t overstate how special a property Versante is,” says Curell, who has managed some of the most iconic boutique hotels in North America. “We’re proud to be Richmond’s only independent boutique hotel, and locally owned and operated. Our guests are independent spirits who seek out fresh and innovative experiences everywhere they go.”
This dreamy, chic hotel is one you might just want to linger a little longer in — I know I did.
More About Versante Hotel
Address: 8499 Bridgeport Road, Richmond, BC (see map below)
Room Rates: Introductory rates start from $249, parking included. Check the hotel’s website for booking details.
Features: Pet-friendly, Versante includes 100 guestrooms and suites boasting state-of-the-art technology and 11 different layouts and five distinctive, bold décor themes that are at once unique yet tasteful – each curated to evoke a unique personality.
Amenities: Versante Hotel offers guests the use of Peloton bikes and Mirror workout technology—a first in Canada. Another distinct feature is the hotel’s View smart windows, which optimize daylight and are known to improve sleep, productivity, and cognitive ability.
Parting Note: I loved the Centium Satin bed linens – I did my research and these creme-de-la-crème sheets are touted to be the finest sheets and pillow cases in the world, and found in the most luxurious hotels around Europe and North America. Then, there are the plush bath towels and robes, personal care products from Red Flower, and ridiculously fast-working Dyson Supersonic hair dryers.