em>Victoria restaurant recognized for extensive and diverse wine program
Victoria, BC (July 4, 2019) – The Courtney Room, located in the heart of Victoria at the Magnolia Hotel & Spa, received prestigious recognition for its wine program this week with an Award of Excellence in the 2019 Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards.
One of 2,447 Award of Excellence winners from around the world, The Courtney Room was recognized for its extensive wine list, sourced from quality producers, with a particular focus on Canadian wine, which matches the menu in both style and price.
“We are excited to be recognized by one of the wine industry’s leading authorities,” says Anna Romeyn, Wine Director at The Courtney Room. “We have worked hard to curate a compelling collection of wines that not only represents the best of British Columbia, but also pairs with and complements the food from our talented kitchen team.”
One of four Victoria dining locations to receive the award, The Courtney Room offers 16 wines by the glass, including Charme de L’Ile from Unsworth Vineyards, Pied de Cuve Chardonnay from Little Farm Winery, Stella Maris from Sea Star Vineyards, and Pinot Noir from Kitsch Wines. This award rounds out an impressive first year for The Courtney Room, with other recent accolades including: #10 Best New Restaurant in Canada 2018 by Air Canada; #94 in Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants 2019; and an honourable mention in YAM Magazine’s 2019 Restaurant of the Year category.
Wine Spectator began its program to recognize the world’s best wine lists in 1981. There are three levels: the Award of Excellence, the Best of Award of Excellence and the Grand Award—with 2,447; 1,244; and 100 winners this year in each respective category.
“We’re pleased to shine a spotlight on the destinations around the world that show devotion to their wine program, while also creating a comprehensive global dining guide for our readers to enjoy,” said Marvin R. Shanken, Editor and Publisher, Wine Spectator. “Both novice wine lovers and seasoned sommeliers alike actively seek and frequent restaurants with exciting, well-curated wine lists. Bravo to all the 2019 recipients—we raise a glass to you.”
The complete list of award winners is available in print in Wine Spectator’s August issue, on newsstands July 16, and online at Restaurants.WineSpectator.com, where visitors can search and access exclusive content on the 3,800 restaurants.
To learn more about The Courtney Room’s wine program or to make a reservation, visit www.thecourtneyroom.com or call 250.940.4090.
About The Courtney Room
Old world meets new at The Courtney Room, Victoria’s newest dining destination, voted #10 in the 2018 Canada’s Best New Restaurant Awards. An extension of The Magnolia Hotel & Spa’s award-winning boutique hotel experience, The Courtney Room is a modern dining space where locals and visitors alike can enjoy genuine hospitality and a menu that honours both land and sea, showcasing Vancouver Island ingredients with classic cooking techniques. Gather at the bar for fresh-shucked oysters, unwind with friends over sharing plates in the lower brasserie, or savour an elevated experience in the upstairs dining room with impeccably prepared local seafood, steak and fine wine. www.thecourtneyroom.com
About Wine SpectatorWine Spectator is the world’s leading authority on wine. Anchored by Wine Spectator magazine, a print publication that reaches around 3 million readers worldwide, the brand also encompasses the Web’s most comprehensive wine site (WineSpectator.com), mobile platforms and a series of signature events. Wine Spectator examines the world of wine from the vineyard to the table, exploring wine’s role in contemporary culture and delivering expert reviews of more than 15,000 wines each year. Parent company M. Shanken Communications, Inc., also publishes Cigar Aficionado, Whisky Advocate, Market Watch, Shanken News Daily and Shanken’sImpact Newsletter.
em>Boutique British Columbia wineries include Sea Star Vineyards, Kitsch Wines and Unsworth Vineyards
Victoria, BC (March 11, 2019) –
Victoria’s The Courtney Room will host three wine dinners, celebrating the best
of boutique British Columbia wines, with delicious menus from chefs de cuisine
Chris Klassen and Brian Tesolin.
The first winemaker dinner,
taking place on March 17th, 2019 will feature an exceptional selection of wine
from Sea Star Vineyards ($120 per person), crafted from grapes grown
organically in ocean-side vineyards on Pender Island and Saturna Island. The
six-course menu includes: Dungeness crab with koji and mushroom custard,
paired with the winery’s Siegerrebe; squab with rhubarb, Du Puy
lentil and guanciale, with Blanc de Noir; and apple tarte tatin with
Sea Star’s dessert wine Prose (Riesling with a touch of local apple). Both Sea
Star’s winemaker, Ian Baker and owner David Goudge, will be attending to share
their knowledge and passion with guests.
“Our team has long admired these
three exceptional wineries and are proud to feature each on our restaurant wine
list, which received a Silver award at the Vancouver International Wine
Festival last week,” says Anna Romeyn, wine program director at The Courtney
Room. “Our chef team has worked carefully to create menus that draw from the
unique characteristics of each wine, pairing them with the best ingredients and
flavours from Vancouver Island to ensure a perfect match.”
The Courtney Room is also
offering family-style dinners every Sunday evening for $35 per person. Enjoy
four shareable courses with family and friends in a relaxed long table
Old world meets new at The
Courtney Room, Victoria’s newest dining destination, voted #10 in the 2018
Canada’s Best New Restaurant Awards. An extension of The Magnolia Hotel &
Spa’s award-winning boutique hotel experience, The Courtney Room is a modern
dining space where locals and visitors alike can enjoy genuine hospitality and
a menu that honours both land and sea, showcasing Vancouver Island ingredients
with classic French cooking techniques. Gather at the bar for fresh-shucked
oysters, unwind with friends over sharing plates in the lower brasserie, or savour
an elevated experience in the upstairs dining room with impeccably prepared
local seafood, steak and fine wine. www.thecourtneyroom.com
I had no idea what Chaider was until the spicy aroma tickled my rosy red nose when I walked into the familiar warmth of the lobby at Victoria’s Magnolia Hotel & Spa. I has just wheeled my carry-on two blocks up Courtney Street from the Harbour AirSeaplane Terminal in the historic inner harbour on a blustery winter’s day. The glimmering urn next to the check-in counter contained chai-spiked cider, a twist on the usual welcoming beverage served up to all guests, and a taste of the hospitality and charm that has earned the hotel nation-wide awards and accolades.
I first visited the Magnolia on a girls weekend with Keira-Anne back in 2010. We spent the weekend alternating between spa flip flops (downstairs) and the slippers provided in our room, gazing out at the twinkling Legislature buildings. Since that time I have been back with John a few times for delicious menu introductions, romance packages, and even a few work trips (for both him and me).
Along with the lobby cider (or lemony iced tea in the summer) there are other touches we enjoy year-over-year. The glass bottle of water in our room when we check in, along with a chocolate and apple for each guest. Robes and slippers in the closet, and Saltspring Soapworks bubble bath perched on the tub.
The Magnolia team thinks of everything, and while it’s tempting to lay about in your robe in front of a Diamond Room fireplace all day and watch rainbows form across the harbour(which I did rather enjoy over the Christmas holidays) they have handy Curated Trail Mapsso that you can get out and experience the very best of the capital city.
If you’re looking for teas, tapas, running routes, bike trails, and more, they have colourful cards that can be your guide.
The Courtney Room
Of course there have been some changes over the least decade, including room renovations, tech upgrades (even minor conveniences like updated iPhone docks next to the bed that don’t require an adapter) and the hotel’s restaurant. The Courtney Roomsprang to life in the spring of 2018 after a complete down-to-the-studs remodel. The restaurant has an inviting Art Nouveau refresh and Chef Chris Klassen’s menu celebrates Canada’s local and seasonal products with a classic French twist – including house-smoked meats. It’s had such a great launch that it was recently name #10 Best New Restaurant in Canada!
Charme de L’Île
Island charm, Vancouver Island’s own style of sparkling wine and in particular the bubbly – from Mill Bay’s own Unsworth Vineyards – that goes into a French 250 in the Courtney Room along with Empress 1908 gin, local honey and lemon.
Enjoy Instagram-worthy cocktails in the lounge, which definitely taste as good as they look. There are inventive house cocktails listed in the menu or you can ask the mixology staff for recommendations based on your taste or preferred spirit. I had The Legend of Massimo with vodka, house made limoncello, Manitou, fresh lemon, pistachio syrup and a sprinkling of nutmeg on top. Not too sweet or sour, it was sinfully smooth and I’m a sucker for any house made limoncello.
You can head to the dining room upstairs for a decadent dinner with options like Cheam View Pork Belly & Scallops, Yarrow Meadows Duck Breast, or Beef Tenderloin Oscar, or stay in the lounge for hearty Happy Hour treats like the signature Potatoes Courtney, Mushroom Stuffed Mushrooms, Fried Chicken or Gruyere Mac & Cheese.
There’s a reason that year after year, the Magnolia Hotel in Victoria has been named one of the top hotels in the country for luxury and romance. Their aforementioned packages really can’t be beat! Coming up this winter/spring they have their Bed, Bubbles and Brunch special:
Indulge in an elegant room with two-poster bed and floor to ceiling windows, sink into a deep tub with Saltspring Soapworks sparkling bubble bath and pop the cork on a bottle of sparkling wine. Linger over brunch in The Courtney Room restaurant the next morning before exploring beautiful Victoria’s shopping, galleries and museums.
Book online or call 1-877-624-6654 to find out more. The package runs until March 31, 2019 with rates starting from $235 per night. Rates are for double occupancy, exclusive of tax and vary by room type and travel dates.
You’ll love the location, the room decor, brunch, and your soothing baths (complete with whisk to whip up the biggest bubbles). Even better yet, take a Harbour Air seaplane from Downtown Vancouver to Downtown Victoria. It’s 35 minutes and aside from getting there quickly, it’s so scenic! Definitely a great start to any island getaway.
Finally, if you go, please report back to me to let me know what the lobby welcome beverage was being served so I may grab a virtual to-go cup and be vicariously whisked away to this dreamy location. Much appreciated!
em>Enjoy a romantic escape to Victoria’s award-winning boutique hotel
Victoria, BC (February 1, 2019) – Indulge in a romantic escape with the Magnolia Hotel & Spa’s Bed, Bubbles & Brunch package, reigniting the spark with relaxation, delicious food and valuable time together.
“We love to help our guests reconnect at the Magnolia Hotel & Spa and this package is designed to enhance time together,” says General Manager Bill Lewis. “With our luxury boutique accommodation and curated guest experiences, guests can unwind in comfort while exploring Victoria’s vibrant Inner Harbour, and the city’s flourishing culinary scene.”
Available until March 31, 2019, the package includes brunch at The Courtney Room, named Canada’s #10 Best New Restaurant in 2018 and the new jewel in Victoria’s culinary crown. Chef Chris Klassen’s menu celebrates ingredients from Vancouver Island paired with classic French-cooking techniques. Guests also receive a bottle of sparkling wine and Saltspring Soapworks sparkling rhubarb bubble bath to enjoy in the stylish surrounds of their guestroom.
Named Canada’s Most Romantic City by Amazon Canada (for six consecutive years), Victoria’s heart beats to the rhythm of romance. From hand-in-hand strolls along the picture-perfect Inner Harbour to innovative cocktails and memorable meals in a cozy yet elegant setting, Victoria is the perfect location to plan a getaway for two.
Recently recognized as the #2 Top Hotel in Canada in the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards, the Magnolia Hotel & Spa encourages guests to explore the city’s independent and artisan offerings with Curated Trail maps, each with a different theme. Newly added Bikes, Blooms & Brews map showcases the city’s most colourful spring blooms with recommendations of the best places to stop for a tea, coffee or beer.
To book the Bed, Bubbles & Brunch romance package, visit www.magnoliahotel.com/specials or call 1-877-624-6654 to find out more. The package runs until March 31, 2019 with rates starting from $235 per night. Rates are for double occupancy, exclusive of tax and vary by room type and travel dates.
About The Magnolia Hotel & Spa
Just steps from Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour, The Magnolia Hotel & Spa wins over guests with its unbeatable location and service. #6 Top Hotel in Canada in Condé Nast Traveler 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards, #1 City Hotel in Canada in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2017 readers’ survey and consistently recognized by Forbes, Condé Nast Johansens and in the annual TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice® awards, the Magnolia Hotel & Spa is one block from the Inner Harbour and the city’s best restaurants, shops and entertainment – exactly where you want to be during a stay in Victoria. Now home to The Courtney Room, voted #10 Best New Restaurant in Canada’s Best New Restaurant 2018 Awards presented by Air Canada and American Express. www.www.magnoliahotel.com
Base yourself at the luxurious Magnolia Hotel & Spa. Start your day with a five-minute walk to Discovery Coffee’s Blanshard Street location for an Americano and a Yonni’s doughnut before wandering down Fort Street and into the many antique stores. Shop for old-school gems and retro treasures at funky Zeitgeist Vintage Store and at Charmaine’s Past & Present Home Collection. After a lunch of Crispy Chicken Tacos at Tacofino on Fort Street, walk 20 minutes to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria to admire the paintings of Emily Carr, a Victoria-born legend. Then, walk 25 minutes down View Street to Government Street for a little shopping at Sitka, a local surf, clothing and lifestyle store. Return to the Magnolia for dinner at the hotel’s recently opened restaurant, The Courtney Room, an elegant spot known for its seasonal cuisine.
How do you choose the 50 best hotels in Canada? When we set out to make this honorary list, it sounded so simple: Choose hotels our editors and highly experienced travel writers have stayed at and like for their service, design and amenities, and then shorten the list down to 50.
But with such an extensive number of exemplary properties in the country, it proved to be more difficult than that. So, our senior editor, Michele Sponagle, our regular contributors, Waheeda Harris, Sandra MacGregor and Doug Wallace, one of our guest contributors, Karen Burshtein, and I laid out our individual lists. We each chose hotels that are not necessarily the fanciest or the most expensive—although there are properties in the final list that are pretty darn posh—but ones we felt have exceptional service, great ambiance, quality amenities and superb style.
Miraculously, there were some hotels we all agreed should be on the list; others, we discussed and, yes, there was even some cajoling involved as we stood up for our favorites. Finally, we reviewed what our readers had suggested and created the final 50.
From there, each writer, myself included, independently chose our top 10 hotels in order from the list. The ones with the most votes, determined their final placement. With rare exception, at least one member of our team has stayed in each of the properties that made the final cut; hotels that weren’t reviewed directly by us had to be highly recommended by a number of respected, independent reviewers.
Here, then, we’re pleased to offer our 2018 list of the 50 best hotels in Canada, as determined by our team—some of the best professional travel writers in North America with more than 100 years of collective experience reviewing hotels.
15. The Magnolia Hotel & Spa, Victoria, British Columbia
With only 64 rooms, this contemporary independent hotel has the capacity to give better-than-good service. The location of The Magnolia Hotel & Spa is good, too—close to downtown, the inner harbor, government buildings and the courthouse. The destination restaurant, The Courtney Room, helmed by chef Sam Harris, is superb. Do try the tasting menu.
(Photo courtesy of Leila Kwok/The Magnolia Hotel & Spa)
Vancouver Island is fast becoming a national culinary powerhouse, and no wonder — it boasts a remarkable bounty of fresh, local produce.
Updated: September 6, 2018
Is there something in the water? The soil? The air? Or simply the kitchens?
Whatever the magical ingredient is, it seems that Vancouver Island — from Victoria to Tofino to the surrounding Gulf Islands — has suddenly become a national culinary powerhouse.
Take this year’s enRoute Magazine nominations for Canada’s best new restaurants. Two Island restaurants made the list of 30: Victoria’s chicly French-accented The Courtney Room and the casual smoke-scented 1909 Kitchen in Tofino.
Lest you think this is an aberration, just glance back at the last few years: To 2016, when Victoria’s Agrius came in at No. 4 overall; 2015, when tiny Pilgrimme on Galiano Island was No. 3; and 2014, when Tofino’s Wolf in the Fog took first place in all of Canada. That’s a lot of recognition for an area with only about two per cent of the nation’s population.
So just what’s cooking over there across the Strait of Georgia?
Escape from the city
“It’s a sign of the times,” says Paul Moran, executive chef of 1909 Kitchen. “People are moving out of the big city and spreading themselves across the province.”
As in so many other industries, Vancouver’s astronomical real estate prices are driving talented young chefs out of town to smaller, more affordable communities. Chris Whittaker, formerly of the Listel Hotel’s Forage and Timber, is just one. He recently packed his knives and headed off to Quaaout Lodge in the Shuswap, where he can hunt, forage and raise his young family in a beautifully bucolic setting.
The island, though, has a special draw beyond budget-friendly accommodation. It also boasts a remarkable bounty of fresh, local produce that presents a delicious palette for a creative chef.
From the Saanich Peninsula and Cowichan Valley in the south to the Comox Valley in the north, almost everything grows on or around the island: dairy, poultry, lamb, orchard fruits, berries, vegetables, wine grapes, even exotica such as lemons, olives, kiwi fruit and tea leaves.
“We have some of the best produce in the world, and we have some of the best seafood,” says Sam Harris, executive chef at The Courtney Room.
Moran adds, “All the different micro regions on the island and the different ingredients they produce, whether it’s east coast or west coast, are definitely what appeals to me.”
A recent evolution
The culinary scene wasn’t always like this.
Vancouver Island’s culture has long been influenced by its British colonial history. That meant you could always find a decent bowl of chowder or basket of fish ‘n’ chips. But good luck finding other ethnic dishes, let alone the nouvelle cuisine that was so fashionable elsewhere in the 1960s and ’70s.
Back then, Victoria had Pagliacci’s for kitschy pasta, the Empress for fancy roast beef dinners, Ming’s for Chinese, and countless tea rooms serving a proper afternoon cuppa. Up island was a bit of a culinary wasteland.
Then three significant things happened.
In 1979, Sinclair and Frederique Philip opened Sooke Harbour House, a.k.a. “Chez Panisse north,” where they served shellfish from the waters off the Whiffin Spit, chickens raised by the neighbours, wild mushrooms foraged from the forests, and a confetti of edible flowers plucked from their own gardens.
In 1984 John Mitchell and Paul Hadfield opened Spinnakers, Canada’s first brew pub, in the Victoria suburb of Esquimalt. They designed it to be a welcoming “public place” where guests could enjoy good food, good beer and good company — a marked departure from the sadly punitive drinking dens typical of the 1970s and ’80s.
Then in 1996, the Wickaninnish Inn flung open its doors on Tofino’s Chesterman Beach, and head chef Rod Butters sent his hapless apprentices cycling down to the docks for fresh crab and prawns, confident he could serve Relais & Châteaux-worthy food in the wilderness.
These three establishments proved not only that chefs could create world-class cuisine from local ingredients on Vancouver Island, but that people would travel from all over the world to enjoy it.
A community of eaters and cooks
Today the island boasts ingredient-driven restaurants in just about every community from Port Renfrew to Port Hardy, as well as dozens of food artisans, wineries, breweries and distilleries making delicious things from local produce.
But just as important as the ingredients that come from the sea and soil are the people who transform them into food and drink.
“I think we have a real movement of chefs and other hospitality professionals really embracing what we are,” Harris says.
“We have a lot of creative people who love being here and can do a lot of captivating food.”
It helps that the Island has such a strong, supportive food and drink community, which comprises, among others, the prestigious culinary arts program at Vancouver Island University, the Island Chefs Collaborative connecting chefs with farmers and food artisans, and North America’s first Slow Food Community, Cowichan Bay.
“The kind of people that are drawn to the island are open-minded when it comes to food, and really care where ingredients come from. It’s great,” Moran says.
And Vancouver Island’s food scene is still evolving, with the long overdue arrival of Asian and other world cuisines, as well as a general elevation in culinary skills, thanks in part to the availability of chef tutorials online.
“It’s an exciting time to be cooking,” Harris says. “Now there’s a bit more glamour and romance.”
A local secret no more
For now, there’s enRoute, and growing national recognition.
“To be included in the top 30 is an honour and a nice pat on the back for all the hard work we’ve done with the opening,” says Moran, who previously cooked in kitchens all over Europe and at some of B.C.’s top heli-ski resorts. “It’s a big morale booster.”
Longtime visitors to Tofino might remember 1909 Kitchen as that slightly dodgy pub on the waterfront. Today, it is coolly modern, with stunning views of Clayoquot Sound from its floor-ceiling windows. At its heart is a wood-fired oven where Moran roasts everything from pizzas to crispy cauliflower to tender, miso-glazed black cod.
“It’s ingredient driven,” Moran explains. “We try to work with high-quality products and not over-manipulate them.”
As for Harris, this is not his first dance with the awards: he was opening chef de cuisine at Agrius when it earned its Top 10 nod in 2016. But when the Magnolia Hotel decided to bring its restaurant in house and transform it into an elegant fine-dining room, Harris jumped at the opportunity to return to his roots in white-tableclothed hotel restaurants.
“I always loved that start-to-finish experience of how far you can go with fine dining … to really transport someone through the level of service and the quality of the food,” he says.
He’s delighted by the nomination, and the affirmation it brings to his “classically modern” cuisine that travels from house-cured charcuterie through to perfectly miniature mignardises.
“It’s a lot of validation,” Harris says. “And it will mean a lot of cool people will walk through the door.”
Albacore Tuna & White Radish Tacos
By Paul Moran, executive chef of 1909 Kitchen at the Tofino Marine Resort.
10 oz (300 g) daikon radish
10 oz (300 g) albacore tuna
6 Tbsp (20 g) chopped chives
2 Tbsp (30 mL) white soy sauce
10 sheets (100 g) dried nori, torn
11/3 cup (325 mL) mayonnaise, preferably homemade
4 cups (1L) canola oil
3 sheets (40 g) phyllo pastry, shredded
1 lime, sliced
12 shiso leaves, torn
Thinly slice daikon radish into 2-by-2-inch (5 cm) “leaves” and store in cool water.
Slice albacore tuna into 1/2 oz (15 g) cubes (you should have about 20 similarly sized cubes). Toss with white soy and chives, cover and chill until ready to serve.
In a blender or food processor, blend together the nori and mayonnaise until it creates a smooth aioli. Store in a piping bag with a round tip and chill until ready to use. (Note that this will make more than you need; reserve the rest for garnishing other Japanese-flavoured dishes.)
In a deep-sided fry pan, heat the canola oil to 325 F (160 C) and quickly fry the shredded phyllo until it is lightly golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from oil and drain on absorbent paper.
To assemble: Remove daikon leaves from water and pat dry. Arrange on a platter. Place a dot of the nori aoli in the centre of each leaf. Add a piece of dressed tuna and a piece of torn shiso leaf. Finish with crispy phyllo and serve with a lime wedge.
Sidestripe Shrimp Cocktail
Recipe by Sam Harris, executive chef of The Courtney Room at Victoria’s Magnolia Hotel.
1 lb (454 g) sidestripe shrimp, shell on
8 cups (2 L) water (for cooking shrimp)
8 cups (2 L) ice water (to cool cooked shrimp)
Juice from 1 lemon
½ cup (125 mL) salt
3/8 cup (100 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp (15 mL) sweet paprika
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Diced tomato to taste
Creamed horseradish to taste
Ketchup to taste
1 cup (250 mL) crème fraîche
16 chives, sliced into 1 inch (2 cm) batons
16 leaves sheep sorrel (optional)
Preheat oven to 300 F (150 C). Peel shrimp and reserve shells for shrimp oil. Place peeled shrimp in a heatproof bowl. Put ice water in a separate bowl.
Bring water, salt and lemon juice to a simmer at 175 F (80 C) and pour over shrimp. Poach for 2 minutes, then, using a skimmer, remove shrimp from cooking liquid and plunge into ice water. Cool for 5 minutes, then strain and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Chill until ready to serve.
Make shrimp oil: Place shrimp shells on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10 minutes.
Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add shrimp shells, paprika and sliced garlic and lightly sauté for about 5 minutes, until shells are pink and garlic is fragrant but not browned.
Transfer mixture to a high-speed blender and purée for 2 minutes on highest speed. Strain through a coffee filter and leave to cool to room temperature.
Make cocktail sauce: Mix together diced tomato, creamed horseradish and ketchup.
To assemble: Divide crème fraîche between 4 serving bowls. Top with cocktail sauce, shrimp, shrimp oil, chives and optional sheep sorrel. Serve with bread or crackers.
Standing on the Breakwater Barge at the Greater Victoria Harbour in Victoria, an unexpectedly strong gust of wind swayed the platform just enough to remind our group that we were actually floating on the ocean.
But looking around at the crowd enjoying local beer, cider, wine and live music, it was obvious a little wind was not going to dampen anyone’s spirits on this cool June evening. This is only the second year the Breakwater Barge has been open to the public, but the concept is has proven to be a popular one. Every Friday evening until Sept. 28, families, couples and individuals of all ages flock to the harbour at Ogden Point to check out popular food trucks, enjoy craft wine and beer, dance to local performers and take in the ocean view. Kids are very welcome, so for families it’s a great opportunity to enjoy a night out without paying for a babysitter.
There’s always lots going on in Victoria year-round, but there’s a special vibe in the summer when visitors and locals can enjoy the city and surrounding areas unencumbered by their MEC and North Face rain jackets.
During a recent visit to the Garden City we stayed at the Magnolia Hotel and Spa because of its proximity to so many attractions, including a 25-minute walk to Ogden Point and the Breakwater Barge. But staff at the Magnolia have taken visiting Victoria to a whole new level. They’ve created curated maps highlighting the best of the city for guests to use as guides during their stay — all within walking distance of the hotel — including the Rainy Day Trail, Craft Brewery Tour, Tapas Trail, Tea-riffic Trail, Beautiful Boutiques Trail, Best Places for Romance and the Running Trail.
The Magnolia is considered a “boutique” hotel because of its size — the fact it’s smaller than many of its neighbouring properties was part of the appeal for my husband and me when booking our stay. The hotel is one very short block from Victoria’s Inner Harbour and despite the fact it’s not located directly on the water, we could see the ocean and harbour from our room thanks to a view corridor between buildings.
The Inner Harbour is where you want to be if you’re considering popular activities such as whale watching expeditions, boat tours, scenic flights, horse-drawn carriage rides and double-decker bus tours. We were also just blocks away from the Royal B.C. Museum, B.C. Parliament buildings and the Victoria Conference Centre, where I was attending a three-day conference.
New to Victoria’s food scene is the Courtney Room at the Magnolia, where we enjoyed a wonderful dinner — imagine West Coast cuisine meets French bistro meets art nouveau. It’s where chef Sam Harris, formerly of Agrius Restaurant, celebrates local and seasonal ingredients with a French twist. We enjoyed some fresh-shucked oysters (of course), decadent steaks and — please take my advice and try these — Potatoes Courtney. Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside — and cooked in duck fat— this adult version of tater tots has been wowing food writers since the Courtney opened in May.
The Courtney’s commitment to buying local includes ingredients from area producers, including Madrona Farm, Umi Nami Farmand Two Rivers Meats. An extensive craft beer list and thoughtful cocktail menu are even more reasons to check out the Courtney.
As we discovered, there’s a reason this elegant, yet unpretentious, hotel has been recognized as both top hotel in Canada and top luxury hotel in Canada by TripAdvisor in the Traveler’s Choice Awards.
Every Saturday night throughout Sept. 1, visitors to Butchart Gardens can enjoy spectacular fireworks shows accompanied by choreographed music. Live entertainment takes place at the garden three hours prior to the fireworks shows. And did you know you can take a boat tour from Butchart Gardens? Tours from the gardens depart every 15 minutes from the wharf in Butchart Cove. To check out a complete schedule of event, visit butchartgardens.com/events.
Note: the World Federation of Rose Societies, held every three years, recently recognized Butchart Gardens with an award of excellence and a commemorative plaque at their recent conference.
Saanich Fair 150th anniversary
Sept. 1 to 3
Drop by the Saanich Fair to celebrate Western Canada’s oldest agricultural fair. Enjoy live music, dance performances, eating contests, auction/raffle draw, rides and concerts, including 54-40 and the Chris Buck Band.
Sept. 13 to 16
The eleventh-annual Rifflandia Festival features a diverse lineup of artists across numerous stages, all within walking distance of Victoria’s historic downtown. This year’s lineup includes dozens of popular performers, including JessieReyez, Daniel Caesar, Lights, the Zolas, Hey Ocean! and more.
V2V Vacations is a luxury ferry that offers daily service between downtown Victoria and downtown Vancouver.
The cocktail scene continues to grow around the globe, and it’s no different in Victoria, British Columbia on Canada’s west coast.
While visiting the Magnolia Hotel& Spa on Vancouver Island, I had the opportunity spend a bit of time in their newly renovated restaurant and cocktail lounge, The Courtney Room. Following a $1.5 Million renovation, the Courtney Room emerges as a bright shining star on the Victoria food and cocktail scene.
According to The Courtney Room, “Taking cues from the old grand dame hotels of Paris, Sharon Bortolotto of BBA Design was inspired by the classic French bistro. The Courtney Room boasts high ceilings and is layered with elements of Art Nouveau to create a casually elegant ambience.”
The food is amazing, and Chef Sam Harris (formerly of Agrius) has created an incredible menu that brings together the finest ingredients Vancouver Island has to offer. But more about the food in a later article… this visit is all about the great cocktails created by The Courtney Room bar team under the direction of head bar tender Clayton Thornber. On a hot summer day any choice from this trio will satisfy your thirst:
MIDNIGHT IN OAXACA
The first drink (on the left) is called the Midnight in Oaxaca (pronounced wah-ha-ka), is a variation of a “maid style” cocktail. This drink is equal parts Tequila and Mezcal, fresh lime, simple syrup, cucumber and mint muddled, and habanero bitters. Garnished with a cucumber ribbon and mint sprig, it’s served over crushed ice, leaving you refreshed and ready for another. The perfect combination for a summer cocktail.
THE OAK BAY
This drink is a riff on a classic rum punch recipe from old English times. It is rum based with a splash of bourbon, fresh lemon, water, and a London fog tea syrup. It is called The Oak Bay because of it’s connection to England, and how strong the British roots are in Oak Bay, which is a charming village community tucked into the City in Victoria.
This fluted cocktail is their local take on a French 75, while paying homage to 250 – Victoria’s area code. The cocktail features Victoria Distillers Empress 1908 gin, fresh lemon, and a honey syrup made from local Wild Mountain honey in nearby Sooke, which is then topped up with Unsworth Charme de L’ile, which is a well known Vancouver Island produced prosecco style sparkling wine.
On your next visit to Victoria, British Columbia – be sure to spend a little time in The Courtney Room bar, sipping and experience some of the best cocktails in the region.
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When considering Canada’s best food cities, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal undisputedly clinch the title. And if you press further, destinations like Prince Edward Island and Quebec City shoot up as contenders. But there’s one Canadian city that’s quietly vying for epicurean attention: Vancouver Island’s Victoria.
Victoria’s food scene gets eclipsed by nearby Vancouver, but British Columbia’s capital has long earned its culinary cred: it was home to Canada’s first brewpub; it has a neighboring wine region; it serves one of the best high teas in the country; it boasts the nation’s oldest Chinatown; and Canada’s first chocolatier started here.
Dig in to find out why you should taste your way through the Pacific Northwest’s oldest city.
The Magnolia Hotel & SpaTHE MAGNOLIA HOTEL & SPA
WHERE TO STAY
For our Victoria culinary tour, we checked into The Magnolia Hotel & Spa, and not just because the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel has an excellent location mere blocks from the Inner Harbour or because of its plush, sophisticated accommodations.
The 64-room boutique hotel offers fun self-guided itineraries for guests called Curated Trails, a number of which revolve around food and drink. Here are highlights from Magnolia’s Culinary Trailblazers, Craft Brewery and Tea-riffic Trails tours, plus some other delicious spots we found along the way.
Duck at The Courtney RoomLEILA KWOK
WHERE TO DINE
The Courtney Room
The first stop is at the hotel’s chic brand-new restaurant that debuted in April. Come for fine dining or to soak up the sun on the new patio, which gives a glimpse of the domed capitol building, one of Victoria’s most-recognized sights. Then linger into the wee hours at the white marble bar for Midnight in Oaxaca cocktails (Los Siete Misterios Doba-Yej mezcal, lime, habanero bitters, mint, cucumber) and the irresistible potatoes Courtney (duck fat tater tots accompanied by onion dip).
At dinner, order the seasonal tasting menu to see how chef Sam Harris spotlights local ingredients in French dishes. A tender Yarrow Meadows duck breast is covered with crispy skin and comes with carrots, turnips and pickled rhubarb. Local halibut goes decadent with a pool of airy, ethereal whipped béarnaise and tarragon.
Add on the caviar service. The sustainable, organic Northern Divine pearls, chives and creamy “dip” (garlic, garlic and onion powder, crème fraîche, egg yolk, grapeseed and olive oils, lemon juice) on top of a housemade chip was one of the best bites on the menu. And opt for the vino pairings — you’ll get a nice sampling of the local Cowichan wine region.
A Sampling from OloJENNIFER KESTER
The cozy space basks in a warm glow from its orange-yellow walls and birds-nest-like lighting fixtures. The food goes for an artful presentation, but it’s just as homey as the environs.
The addictive deep-fried semolina cubes with garlic mayo will have you requesting a second round. The vegetable platter gets an upgrade with a deeply smoky white bean hummus. For a seafood-heavy dish that won’t weigh you down, choose the sablefish collar with clams, potato, kale, daikon and shellfish butter.
Chef Kunal Ghose firmly established himself in Victoria’s food scene with popular restaurants like Red Fish Blue Fish and Fishhook. For his April-opened venture, he embraced Dobosala’s location fronting Pandora Avenue’s new bike lane and went with a fast-casual concept that has the only ride-through window in the city.
But it’s worth parking your two-wheeler and taking a seat inside the industrial eatery to savor Ghose’s bright, flavorful Indo-Pacific fusion. Try the crispy pakora with kimchi crema and tamari-tamarind ponzu; “squimp” onigiri — rice balls with Humboldt squid, Tofino shrimp, sockeye belly sashimi and horseradish mayo; and the adobo-gochujang chicken stuffed in a tortilla cone. Wash it down with a housemade mango-hibiscus iced tea.
Fresh, Handmade Pasta at La PastaLA PASTA
Victoria Public Market at the Hudson
At the small public market, save your appetite for La Pasta, which debuted in May. The spot churns out handmade pasta daily. Order the comforting carbonara with toothsome spaghetti and porchetta bits or the fusilli pesto topped with generous dollops of fresh ricotta. But first begin with antipasti like fried artichokes with lemon aioli for some brightness as well as the rich arancini.
Or venture over to Very Good Butchers. The first vegan butchery on Canada’s west coast, it specializes in plant-based “meat.” Try a dish featuring the smoky seitan bacon or the “pepperoni,” which gives more of a kick than its beef-and-pork counterpart.
Kid Sister Ice Cream
Hidden along Chinatown’s photogenic Fan Tan Alley — Canada’s narrowest street — sits this scoop shop. You can’t go wrong with from-scratch ice cream like the luscious salted caramel in a house-baked waffle cone, but the parlor is known for its paletas (Latin American popsicles upgraded with fresh fruit and fun ingredients) in creative flavors like quince Creamsicle; mango, black currant and lime; and mocha cheesecake.
Half a million cups of tea are poured annually at the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel, whose afternoon ritual has been a Victoria tradition since 1908. Don’t let the date fool you: the modern room overlooking the harbor makes for one of Canada’s best tea experiences.
Thoughtful details abound: the china bears the same timeless purple-and-pink pattern that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth chose for a 1939 dinner party they hosted at the hotel; the menu arrives in an elegant wooden box that also holds samples of each high-quality blend; the housemade strawberry jam uses local berries, honey from the hotel’s beehives and lavender from its rooftop garden; and servers are warm, welcoming and ready with just the right recommendations.
Even if you’re not one for tea, come for the Empress 1908 gin. The hotel’s small-batch, butterfly-pea-blossom-infused pour possesses an indigo hue that turns lavender when you add citrus or tonic. The color-changing G&T is a must for your Instagram feed, but also for its great taste, with juniper and grapefruit notes.
Phillips Brewing & Malting Co.JENNIFER KESTER
Phillips Brewing & Malting Co.
The brewery launched in 2001, but it added the city’s first tasting room in April. Head there to sample the easy-to-drink Blue Buck or Robert Service Stone Fired Ale.
But everyone will find something to sip here. Check out the all-natural house sodas — i.e., made without syrups or other artificial sweeteners — like the effervescent, Creamsicle-like Dare Devil orange.
Seek out a small neon elephant above the Pacific Transfer Building sign, enter and go to the end of the hallway for this restaurant/bar. The brick-walled, pressed-copper ceiling space is an inviting local favorite for well-crafted cocktails.
Follow the Victorians and ask for A Convicted Melon (Altos tequila, Campari, hibiscus, honeydew melon, local Olive the Senses coconut balsamic, Bittermens molé bitters) or the Gin and Tea (Boodles Gin, Silk Road’s Alchemist’s Brew and Berry Victoria teas, lime and flowers).
Silk Road TeaSILK ROAD TEA
WHERE TO SHOP
Silk Road Tea
In this tea-loving city, there’s no better souvenir than local leaves. Tea master Daniela Cubelic makes exquisite blends at her Chinatown shop. You’ll notice that Silk Road teas appear all over the city (including Little Jumbo, The Courtney Room and rooms at the Magnolia).
Pick up health-targeting teas, like the antioxidant-boosting Beau-Tea-Ful Skincare (white and green leaves, rooibos, calendula, lemon balm, peppermint, lemongrass, lavender) or sinus-relieving Allergy & Hay Fever Defense (take the green tea, peppermint, nettle, holy basil, rooibos and eucalyptus blend three weeks before allergy season to prep your immune system). Or try the 8 Immortals, a special reserve oolong with floral notes that’s supposed to help longevity.
While you can purchase Rogers’ chocolates all over Canada, Charles “Candy” Rogers started his business in Victoria in 1885. His first confection, the Victoria Cream, launched his career as the country’s first chocolatier.
Pop into the original Government Street shop, which seems frozen in time. Staff dressed in starched white button-down shirts and black ties stand ready to sate your craving from the wood shelves and glass cases filled with chocolates. The must-buy sweet is Rogers’ Victoria Cream, wrapped in a waxy pink-gingham paper. Enrobed in dark chocolate, the discs are made with fresh cream and fruits and don’t contain any additives. Our favorite was the not-overly-sweet, nut-studded hazelnut.
Jennifer Kester is Forbes Travel Guide‘s Executive Editor. Her finger is on the pulse of the latest in luxury travel, spanning hotels, food, culture, top destinations and more.