Travel trends: Vancouver
The chicest spots to stay, shop, drink, and dine—plus expert tips from the city’s coolest insiders.
by : Laura deCarufel- Jul 19th, 2011
Image courtesy of Tourism BC/Tom Ryan
WHERE TO STAY
Moda Hotel (modahotel.ca, 900 Seymour St., 604-683-4251)
The Moda has taken the boutique formula—clean lines, sleek furnishings—and added a welcome dose of personality. The vintage framework is a fine starting point for this cozy-luxe downtown hotel. The hardwood floors date back 80 years; the lobby’s mosaic tiles are 100-years-old; the Douglas fir beams double that. Moda’s modern sensibility is evident in the chic silver and red accents, organic amenities from local Skoah Spa, and the new condo-style suites available in the building across the street. Just off the lobby, there are two great dining options: Cibo Trattoria (scroll down for details), and UVA Wine Bar, a stylish spot for a morning latte and a fennel and hazelnut biscotti—or, post sight-seeing, a glass of sauvignon blanc from B.C.’s Lake Breeze Seven Poplars vineyard.
Deal sealer: The location. In the heart of Yaletown, the Moda is walking distance to Granville Street, Robson Street, even Gastown.
WHERE TO EAT
FOR BRUNCH: Café Medina (medinacafe.com, 556 Beatty St., 604-879-3114)
You’ve got to love a breakfast spot where the La Santé (“Healthy”) dish features prosciutto and grilled ciabatta along with avocado, tomato, tapenade, and a soft-boiled egg. And Café Medina is nothing if not beloved: Every weekend, crowds gather before the doors open, anticipating favourites like the Fricassé, which takes the traditional two-egg breakfast and throws in braised short ribs, arugula, and applewood cheddar. There is an ultra healthy granola and yogurt option on the menu, but even diet devotees must try the signature Belgian waffles, which can be ordered individually for the ultimate sweet after-taste.
Don’t miss: The indulgent waffle toppings, from raspberry caramel to white chocolate pistachio rosewater.
FOR LUNCH: Jules Bistro (julesbistro.ca, 216 Abbott St., 604-669-0033)
If Midnight in Paris sparked a craving for all things français, Jules Bistro is sure to satisfy. This sweet spot in the heart of Gastown offers French favourites like croque monsieur, salade Niçoise, and classic French onion soup.
Don’t miss: The $24 lunch special of mixed greens (or your choice of soup du jour); steak, salmon, or mussels; and a lovely chocolate terrine.
FOR DINNER: Cibo Trattoria (cibotrattoria.com, 900 Seymour St., 604-602-9570)
When enRoute named Cibo Trattoria the best new restaurant in Canada in 2009, the charming bistro solidified its rep as a go-to destination for inventive Italian cuisine with a strong focus on local, seasonal ingredients. Executive chef Neil Taylor (formerly of the River Café and Kensington Restaurant in his native England) oversees a constantly changing menu of upscale-yet-homey fare. Highlights include the handmade spaghetti with prawns, garlic, and basil, and the chicken cooked under a brick (for ultra crispy skin), served with morels and peas from Williams Lake.
Don’t miss: The dessert menu. The espresso panacotta comes with amaretti cookies and Roman brandy, while the flourless Chocolate Nemesis cake is a favourite River Café recipe.
FOR A CULINARY EXPERIENCE: Hawksworth Restaurant (hawksworthrestaurant.com, 801 West Georgia St., 604-673-7000)
David Hawksworth’s first eponymous restaurant was always going to be an event. The Vancouver-born chef is a culinary star, with Michelin-starred restaurants on his resume and the distinction of being the youngest chef inducted into British Columbia’s Restaurant Hall of Fame. Somehow, with all of the hype, Hawksworth exceeds expectations. Located in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, the space is both elegant and inviting, with the creativity in the kitchen extending to the choice of artists featured in the dining rooms (ask to sit in the Art Room, near the custom piece created by Rodney Graham). The dinner menu is refined without being fussy—think slow-cooked halibut with chorizo, artichoke, and basil, or the olive oil poached salmon with eggplant caviar.
Don’t miss: The summer tasting menu ($72, $114 with wine), a six-course experience, featuring creative takes on regional cuisine, including Pacific octopus confit.
mage courtesy of Tourism BC/ Tom Ryan
WHERE TO DRINK
FOR AN AFTERNOON PINT: The Irish Heather (irishheather.com, 210 Carrall St., 604-688-9779)
Cozy and comfortable, the Irish Heather also boasts a vast beer selection and the best whiskies in town. The drinks menu isn’t the only draw—since Chef Alvin Pillay took over the kitchen last fall, the food menu has expanded to include sophisticated dishes that retain their pub grub heritage, like steamed local Manilla clams with bacon, fresh chillies, and parsley, fries served with curry sauce, and toasted Agassiz hazelnuts sprinkled with B.C. sea salt.
Bonus: The pub’s Long Table Series (ltsmenu.blogspot.com). $16 buys you dinner, a drink, and a spot at the Heather’s 40-foot communal table. New friends come free.
FOR CREATIVE COCKTAILS: Granville Room (donnellygroup.ca/granvilleroom, 957 Granville St., 604-633-0056) A young crowd frequents this downtown bar, which ups the nightlife ante with a menu of perfectly crafted cocktails. Start the night here with a classic Old Fashioned or a deliciously tart Mint Julep.
Bonus: The Modern Classic drinks menu, which includes insta-favourites like the Gin Gin Mule, a mix of fresh mint, ginger beer, lime juice, and yes, plenty of gin.
FOR LATE-NIGHT: The Diamond (di6mond.com, 6 Powell St., [email protected]) If the insidery indie vibe and heritage building—think enormous windows and exposed brick—doesn’t seduce you, the Diamond’s drinks list will. The menu is divided into three sections: Delicate (try the Isabella, made with sparkling wine, mango, ginger and basil); Proper (order the Bicicletta #2, a heady blend of campari, Italian vermouth, gerwutztraminer, with a grapefruit twist); and the Notorious (top marks go to Tommy’s Margarita, a mix of Reposado tequila, lime, agave nectar).
Bonus: The Diamond’s authority. Its proprietor is Josh Pape, an award-winning Vancouver mixologist, and the bar also offers its own bartending lessons.
WHERE TO SHOP
FOR A VINTAGE VIBE: One of a Few (oneofafewblog.blogspot.com, 354 Water St., 604-605-0685) With its vintage mirrors and twinkling chandeliers, the space at One of a Few is just as lovely as the clothes on display. The vibe is ultra-curated indie romance, with pieces from labels like Wren, Pour La Victoire, and Rachel Comey.
Celeb you’d expect to see browsing: Zooey Deschanel
FOR ACCESSORIES: Erin Templeton (erintempleton.com, 511 Carrall St., 604-682-2451)
Erin Templeton studied shoe-making at Cordwainer’s College in London (Nicholas Kirkwood is a fellow alum), and her expert craftsmanship is evident in the bags and belts she creates for her eponymous line. Highlights? The structured totes and slouchy bucket bags in sexy distressed leather, all made in-house and by hand.
Celeb you’d expect to see browsing: Sienna Miller
FOR CULT FASHION FINDS: Nouvelle Nouvelle (nouvellenouvelle.com, 209 Abbott St., 604-682-2234) This cool-kid Gastown boutique offers a mix of fashionable labels for women and men, including Cheap Monday, Boyfriend/Girlfriend, Marais, Quail, and jewellery from In God We Trust. The clothes may be fit for serious shoppers, but Lily, the adorable shop bulldog, keeps things from getting too intense.
Celeb you’d expect to see browsing: Chloë Sevigny
Image courtesy of Tourism BC/Tom Ryan
BLACK BOOK: MARC BRUNET
Founder of BeautyMark (beautymark.ca), the city’s top destination for cult beauty brands.
Top shopping spots: Rowan Sky, Rick Rayburn, Walrus, and The Cross Decor and Design. I love independents!
Favourite patio and go-to cocktail: A Tom Collins at Goldfish.
Best new restaurant you’ve checked out this summer: Les Faux Bourgeois.
Favourite place to check out art: The Vancouver Art Gallery.
All-time favourite spot in the city: Walking the dog in our Douglas Park area.
BLACK BOOK: NICOLE BIDGER
Nicole Bridger (nicolebridger.com), a designer whose eponoymous line of eco-friendly fashion has made her Vancouver’s reigning queen of green.
Top shopping spots: I buy shoes at Gravity Pope, baby stuff at Hip Baby, and yoga wear at Lululemon, all in Kitsilano near my store.
Favourite patio and go-to cocktail: Before baby, we would go to the Boathouse at Sunset Beach. It’s lovely to watch the sunset there. After a long day, I love a nice cold beer, like Nature Land Organic Lager.
Best new restaurant you’ve checked out this summer: Hands down, L’Abattoir is my favourite.
All-time favourite spot in the city: Locarno Beach.
BLACK BOOK: DAVID HAWKSWORTH
David Hawksworth, chef at Hawksworth Restaurant (hawksworthrestaurant.com), and one of Canada’s top culinary authorities.
Top shopping spots: Les Amis de Fromage for the incredible selection of local and international cheeses, Oyama Sausage Co. on Granville Island for a selection of over 200 house-made charcuterie products, and Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks for the latest cookbook on my list. When I have to go clothes shopping, Basquiat in Yaletown is my one-stop shop. When shopping for the house or for gifts, I like The Cross Decor & Design.
Favourite patio and go-to cocktail: The Royal Vancouver Yacht Club in Jericho for the incredible ocean views and wild Sockeye salmon burger. My favourite cocktail is the Hotel Georgia Cocktail, a reworking of a 1940s gin-based original by Hawksworth bar and lounge manager Brad Stanton.
Favourite place to check out art: The Vancouver Art Gallery, across from Hawksworth Restaurant and Winsor Gallery.
All-time favourite spot in the city: Playing with my 4-year-old son, Heston, at Jericho Beach in the summer, and on my skis at Cypress Mountain in the winter.
BLACK BOOKS: KRISTEN FORBES & BRENDA BAILEY GERSHKOVITCH
Kirsten Forbes and Brenda Bailey Gershkovitch, co-founders of Silicon Sisters (siliconsisters.ca), Vancouver’s first all-female gaming studio.
Top shopping spots:
Kristen: I’m a high/low girl—my expenditures at Holt Renfrew are nicely balanced out by shopping on Main Street or in quality consignment stores like Turnabout or Deluxe Junk. I’ve always loved The Bay for purely nostalgic reasons, like memories of being taken there for new school clothes with my mom, but now I also love it for their post-renovation layout and new fashion lines.
Brenda: My favourite store is the Fluevog store in Gastown. Fluevog shoes are the source of so much happiness!
Favourite patio and go-to cocktail:
Kristen: My favourite cocktail is a simple Grey Goose martini. My mother always said I was part of the instant gratification generation and I’ve never disagreed. The place I go to get instantly gratified, martini-wise, is The Cascade Room where the bartenders are excellent and home is mere blocks away.
Brenda: The Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar, for their Don Margarita.
Best new restaurant you’ve checked out this summer:
Kirsten: I’ve had a couple of occasions recently to gather some girlfriends at Oru in the Fairmont Pacific and I now find myself manufacturing reasons to get groups of friends together there. As in “Hey everyone, it’s 11-and-a-half years since we met, let’s go to Oru to celebrate!”
Brenda: Rogue opened in Waterfront Station and has been packed since. Great food, good prices, awesome vibe. Love the sushi bombs!
Favourite place to check out art:
Kirsten: Only the Vancouver Art Gallery will do for me. I love the hallowed halls, the great displays, and the delightful restaurant on the second floor.
Brenda: I like lots of the little art galleries around town. There is one funky little place attached to a restaurant, Havana, on Commercial Drive that has really interesting art shows rotating through—plus good Cuban food.
All-time favourite spot in the city:
Kirsten: The top of the cross country ski trails at Hollyburn. It takes about 40 minutes to skate-ski to the highest point the grooming machines can reach where there’s a little plateau and an incredible view of Howe Sound.
Brenda: Picnic lunch, kayak, Deep Cove.
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