It was exciting to arrive in Vancouver, the first stop on my five-month world trip. During my week in the city I sampled the finest food, explored the versatile local culture, enjoyed out-of-town expeditions and even made it along to an ice-hockey match! Here is a rather long list of my favourite discoveries…
Rosewood Hotel Georgia – this 12-storey historic hotel in downtown Vancouver opened in 2011 after a five year multi-million pound refurbishment. It is possibly the most sought after accommodation in the city, with lavish rooms, grand facilities and a destination restaurant where we enjoyed a memorable and delicious brunch. If you are feeling particularly flash, ask for a transfer in the resident Bentley or book yourself in for a treatment at the award-winning Sense spa.
The Burrard – this affordable hotel stands out with its retro theme and unique appeal. First opened in 1956, the venue has since updated the bedrooms but kept its cheeky charm. Make use of the Burrard bikes, perfect for exploring the city.
Pidgin – This modern and minimalist space lets your mind focus entirely on Makoto Ono’s Asian-French inventions. Dishes such as foie gras rice bowl with chestnuts, daikon and unagi glaze will challenge but excite any discerning foodie. We loved the shishito peppers with parmesan and pine nuts, and the addictive fried chicken wings, a perfect balance of texture and flavour.
Meat and Bread – I am still dreaming about the food from this tasty lunch spot. There are a few branches in Vancouver and we visited the Cambie Street restaurant, sharing one of their celebrated Porchetta sandwiches. It was a winning combination of tender flavoursome pork, crunchy crackling, vibrant herby salsa verde with a peppery kick from the creamy homemade mustard. It was perhaps the best sandwich I have ever eaten and for just $9 (£4.50)!
Salt Tasting Room – This hip, industrial space is a brilliant place to catch up with friends and is popular for dates. Each wine flight trio is the equivalent of 1.5 glasses of wine, which you try with accompanying meat, cheese and condiments. It is a simple and brilliant concept, encouraging wine education and allowing visitors to sample a wide range of delicacies without spending a fortune.
Maenam – Known for serving the best Thai food in Vancouver, Maenam was a must try on my list. The small venue in the heart of Kitsilano has a cosy and friendly neighbourhood feel inside. The restaurant prides itself on offering authentic Thai cuisine with a modern twist. Don’t miss the 3 flavour paradise farm pork ribs (moo samrot) – they are spicy, sweet and utterly indulgent.
Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie – Bao Bei means precious in Chinese, and this unique little eatery in Chinatown certainly feels special, a modern gem in a historic area of Vancouver. Inside, the venue is design conscious but authentic feeling and the menu offers a delectable range of Chinese and Taiwanese delicacies. I loved the marinated eggplant with soy, garlic and ginger and the fragrant Shao Bing (sesame flatbread with cumin lamb sirloin, pickled red onion, green pepper, cilantro and salted chillis). With your meal, order a light and refreshing Taiwanese can of beer, the perfect accompaniment, and at the end of the meal ask your waiter if there are any caramel doughnuts left (every day the kitchen make just 15 for diners in the know!).
Tacofino – Another great lunch stop. Owners Jason Sussman and Kaeli Robinsong noticed that everyone loved tacos and started up Tacofino food truck in Tofino. A few years on and there are now several brick and mortar restaurants offering the famous tacos and burritos for eat in or take away. The fish taco is the favourite but we enjoyed the Crispy Chicken Burrito which includes rice, chilli mayo, sriracha, cabbage, cilantro, guacamole and the most addictive crispy chicken.
Wildebeest – This restaurant is a meat eater’s dream. The open kitchen concentrates on nose to tail cooking, serving up plates of unusual cuts with quirky ingredient combinations. The crispy chicken terrine with chilli & chive aioli and pickled shallots were seriously tasty little mouthfuls and I loved the handmade pappardelle with braised quail ragu, a buttery and comforting rustic dish. If you are a cocktail fan don’t miss the expert drinks from bartender Thor.
Café Medina – If you want to try the Café Medina brunch delights you will have to arrive early, as a queue develops before 8am on Sunday mornings. This stylish restaurant has become known for its fine Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, great coffee and the best Belgian waffles in the city. The plates of food are beautiful, even my modest avocado and bacon on toast looked too good to eat, and it tasted even better.
Beaucoup Bakery –Jackie Kai Ellis’ bakery creates French-inspired pastries and childhood favourites. After a day of sightseeing, Beaucoup was a lovely place to settle for a cup of ‘49th Parallel’ coffee and a peanut butter sandwich cookie. The bakery is also known for its unbeatable breakfast pastries.
L’Abattoir – Arguably the best brunch spot in town, L’Abattoir succeeds in the style and food departments. The select menu offers hearty savoury dishes including poached eggs with burrata cheese, tomato fondue and grilled bread, or if you fancy something sweet go for the house baked scones with cream and raspberry jam.
Earnest Ice Cream – This is THE place to stop for fine artisan ice-cream. A couple sold their products from a bicycle but soon moved into a permanent location to meet the growing demand. The smooth, creamy goodness is made with the best local seasonal ingredients; try the ‘London Fog’ earl grey, a deliciously subtle floral flavour.
Keefer Bar – Everyone I spoke to in Vancouver recommended Keefer bar for the best cocktails in town. Found on the outskirts of Chinatown, in a historically significant but previously rundown building, Keefer are now leading the cocktail culture revolution in Vancouver. We sat at the bar, to enjoy the drama of the mixology, and tried a variety of delicious drinks. Many of the quirkier cocktails cleverly use unusual Chinese ingredients, readily available from this district of town. I loved the Bold Fashioned, a strong drink with Wild Turkey Bourbon, Coconut Gomme and House Bitters, similar to the familiar Old Fashioned but with an hint of exoticism.
Matchstick Coffee Roasters – This cool, contemporary cafe is serious about good coffee, hoping to elevate your morning mug to a something a little bit more special. The team roast their own beans, brew each cup individually and serve with a smile. I loved the calm open space, fruity smooth coffee and flaky buttery croissants.
Revolver Coffee – Coffee enthusiasts are likely to know about Revolver Coffee before even arriving in the city. This popular Gastown café serves top coffee from their favourite North American roasters. For diehard caffeine fans opt for a ‘brew flight’ featuring either a single coffee prepared in three different brew methods or three different coffees prepared in the same brew method.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden – After a day in the chaotic city this serene and calming garden is the perfect “refreshment for the heart”. It is the first Chinese garden built outside of China using all materials from China and constructed with ancient methods (no glue or nails). Take a guided tour and learn about its history or just admire the jade green pond, koi fish and 150-year old miniature trees.
Canucks NHL match – Canadians take ice hockey very seriously so it’s worth going to see what all the fuss is about when in Vancouver. Tickets range in price, and if you’re lucky you can get a seat for as little as £15-20. We went along to the Rogers Arena to see the local team, the Canucks, against their rivals, the Calgary Flames.
Vancouver Lookout – Offering a 360’ view, this is a great way to see the city and all its landmarks in the day or at night.
Stanley Park – Hire bikes from Spokes Bicycle Rentals and venture into nearby Stanley Park. Cycle all the way around the scenic seawall and take in the views, you may even spot a seal in the sea.
Museum of Anthropology – It is worth venturing outside of the town centre to see this spectacular building and all the interesting artefacts it houses. Founded in 1949, and recently upgraded after a multi-million dollar renewal project, the museum is best known for its collections from the North-West Coast of British Columbia.
Grouse Mountain – You can take the skyride cable cart to go up and down Grouse Mountain or challenge yourself and do the infamous ‘Grouse Grind’ (a steep 2900 metre trek that ascends 853 metres). I was told my 72 minutes wasn’t bad, but later found out that the unofficial course record is 23 minutes and 48 seconds! At the top there are various activities to get involved in, I loved seeing the grizzly bears in the wildlife refuge.
Capilano Suspension Bridge – A free shuttle runs every 10 minutes from various locations in downtown to this Vancouver attraction. Built in 1889 the 460-foot long bridge magnificently hangs above the Capilano River and leads tourists into the forest where an array of treetop adventures awaits.
Secret Location – A highly exclusive concept store selling couture items from international designers. Wander around in awe, but don’t touch anything you can’t afford… the staff have white gloves for any handling of the accessories. There is an adjoining restaurant for creative foodie experiences.
Old Faithful Shop – I could have bought everything in this modern day general store. For a souvenir, buy one of the lovely bottles of Noble hand-crafted bourbon maple syrup, or a brightly coloured Short Stack Edition cookbook – each specific to one inspiring ingredient.
Neighbour – This style savvy shop offers fashionable garments and objects, showcasing interesting and creative brands from all over the world. The success of the men’s shop led to the recent opening of a female store.
Kit and Ace – A clean and tidy shop selling the softest cashmere garments. Treat yourself to a fine 100% cashmere scarf or choose a more practical ‘technical cashmere’ tee designed for a luxurious but active lifestyle.
Nouvelle Nouvelle – The flagship Gastown store offers a stylish selection of designer clothes, accessories and other desirable objects. The shelves offer true staples and up-and-coming brands.
Vancouver Island – Take a speedy 35 minute Helijet flight over to Victoria, Vancouver Island for a day or two. Here you must indulge in afternoon tea at The Empress and explore the independent shops on Johnson Street.
Many thanks to Tourism Vancouver for their help with this trip.