Victoria came by its reputation as a sleepy island town for newlyweds and nearly deads honestly. Terms like “quaint” and “British-outpost” have been used aptly for many years, but Victoria has grown beyond that reputation and cast off its stick-in-the-mud ways while not abandoning its traditions.
While still quaint, Victoria has an increasing sophistication, much of it centred around local food. There is a growing cocktail scene, fuelled in part by local distilleries. Likewise, there are a number of top-quality local coffee roasters and a couple of groundbreaking local tea plantations. And there are many not-to-be-missed restaurants here. Fortunately there are plenty of outdoor pursuits to take part in thanks to Vancouver Island’s temperate island climate – meaning you can easily work up an appetite in order to squeeze a few more places to eat into even a short trip.
With almost two decades under its belt,Cafe Briois one of the old guard among Victoria’s foodie destinations. The restaurant has a focus on locally sourced ingredients and even cures and butchers its own meats. The Italian-influenced menu includes a family-style meal where the chef chooses six dishes to be shared by the table. Another delightful option is that all dishes can be ordered in halves for half the price – meaning you can easily create your own extended tasting menu.
Opened two years ago by the owners ofPescatores,10 Acres offers a casual and lively West Coast experience. The restaurant gets its name from 10 Acres Farm run by the business in North Saanich. During the summer and fall, 80 per cent of the produce used in the restaurant is from the farm. In addition, 10 Acres also raises its own pigs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits and three varieties of ducks. Get a table near the fireplace in the heated courtyard or a booth indoors and enjoy something fresh and tasty. The bar offers the same modified menu during happy hour from4 to 6 p.m. and from 10 p.m. to closing daily.
This casual Spanish deli-style restaurant offers amazing sandwiches (I recommend the calamares), and tortilla espanola in a small, bright space. There are also a variety of Spanish market items for sale.
Classic Italian dishes in a friendly and noisy atmosphere – the garden is gorgeous.
Like a gourmet pizza pocket, these golden buns stuffed with every imaginable sandwich topping are not tobe missed.
What to Do
A day strolling through Victoria’s small and beautiful downtown will not only help fuel more dining experiences, the quaint shops have plenty of delights on offer. Ignore the major retailers and tourist traps and focus on the small local shops. No book lover should miss Munro’s Books, which feels like a temple to literacy with its vaulted ceilings and gleaming wooden shelves.
Silk Road Tea has been in business for 23 years and takes Victoria’s tea culture in a whole new direction with a focus on health properties. Stop in for a beautiful teapot, a tasting and a container of Berry Victoria, which Silk Road sources locally.
Bon Macaron Patisserie offers a wide variety of both sweet and savoury flavours of the classic French treat and is run by two French immigrants who fell in love with Victoria.
The Pedaler offers both guided tours of Victoria by bike and bike rentals. Several of the tours focus on food, giving you the opportunity to see the city at a leisurely pace, learn a bit about Victoria’s history and culture and eat, or drink, your way through a variety of offerings. The Beans & Bites tour focuses on coffee and pastries. On the Hoppy Hour tour you’ll sample a variety of local microbrews, while the Spirits of Saanich tour goes out to the Saanich Peninsula for tastings of wine, cider and gin. There are also family-friendly tours available.
All this eating and touring may be calming enough, but if you want to have the ultimate de-stressing experience, head to one of Victoria’s spas.The Spa Magnolia in the downtown boutique Magnolia Hotel offers a range of services from facials and aesthetics to massage. Add a Destress Express scalp and neck massage to any treatment for even more relaxation.
The Inn at Laurel Point overlooks Victoria’s Inner Harbour and is oriented so that all of the rooms have balconies that face the water. The Laurel wing of the hotel was built in the 1970s by the Delta Hotel chain, which sold the inn to local entrepreneur Paul Arsens in 1980. In 1989 Arsens commissioned Arthur Erickson to design the second – the aptly named Erickson wing.
The Inn at Laurel Point is now independently owned and run by a trust, which is obligated to give a portion of profits to acts of kindness in the community. It is also one of very few carbon-neutral hotels in North America, meaning you can feel virtuous about staying in luxury and style here. Also be sure to make reservations at the inn’s impeccable Aura restaurant.