Canada: Victoria View
| November 13th, 2009
When my husband calls t o ask how things are going on a long weekend in Victoria, I haven’t the heart to tell him how good. My breakfast (eggs Benedict and French-press coffee) has arrived and, through floor-to-ceiling windows, I’m watching a floatplane land in the Inner Harbour from my room at the Inn at Laurel Point.
Ah, Victoria. British Columbia’s island capital has certainly come into its own in the last decade. It’s not Vancouver nor does it try to be. Visitors are encouraged to slow down, relax and embrace the long-standing farm-to-table sensibility. Culinary tourism is booming and is one of the most appealing reasons to visit.
HOME BASE Rushing is never recommended at the Inn at Laurel Point, a waterfront downtown hotel that recently completed a $5 million makeover. The slightly pricier Erickson Wing offers luxe Molton Brown bath products (picture a hot soak apres-dinner in your spa-like marble bath) and balconies with spectacular views of hotel gardens and city harbour. Order in or venture down to Aura Waterfront Restaurant and
Patio, a 62-seat stunner where Brad Horen, 2007 Canadian Culinary Federation chef of the year and three-time Culinary Olympics gold medal winner, blends Japanese and European flavours with fresh local ingredients.
INN AT LAUREL POINT, 250-386-8721; AURA WATERFRONT RESTAURANT
LOCAL LEGEND No trip to Victoria would be complete without a visit to Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, a well-loved micro-brewing pioneer. Prepare to roll up your sleeves and dig into one of the most creative menus going. Chef Ali Ryan offers a six-course masterpiece, which on my visit included Comox Valley pork tenderloin on tiny rafts of
baby carrots, pan-seared albacore tuna, Saltspring Island Blossoms blue cheese, Cowichan Bay Farm organic duck breast and dried red beet chips from Sooke. Sommelier Brian Storen paired an endless variety of straight-from-the-tank-fresh ale and local wines with each course including dessert — Guittard chocolate truffles paired surprisingly well with Spinnaker ales.
SPINNAKERS GASTRO PUB, 250-386-2739,
A GOOD ‘HOOD Locals say Fernwood, an artsy neighbourhood 10 min-utes from downtown, has come a long way. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than at Stage, a small-plates bistro and wine bar. Be it a romantic tete-a-tete or boisterous bantering with friends, guests share edgy, innovative tapas-style cuisine showcasing the best of Vancouver Island’s produce, wines and cheeses. Think everything from crispy local octopus (it’s good) to goat’s milk cheesecake — and chic candlelight.
STAGE, 1307 GLADSTONE AVE., 250-388-4222
GREAT DAY Daylong indulgence? Start with a private tea tasting with owner and Chinese tea master Daniela Cubelic at Silk Road in historic Chinatown. Then, stroll some of Victoria’s quaintest neighbourhoods: Chinatown is small but the oldest in Canada; LoJo offers fresh, hip and mostly local shopping; the Design District satisfies any home decor fix. Plan lunch at Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse, a 10-acre organic farm on the Saanich Peninsula where guests can pair a flight of European-styled cider with exquisite plates of organic cheeses, chutney, jellies, sausage, hazelnuts and chocolate. End the day in Sidney, 25 minutes north of Victoria, with a Custom Gourmet Yum Facial at the upscale boutique Sidney Pier Hotel and Spa. My skin never felt so soft.
SILK ROAD, 250-704-2688 EXT 2; SEA CIDER FARM AND CIDERHOUSE, 250-544-4824; SIDNEY PIER HOTEL AND SPA, 250-655-9445