Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > B.C. (inc. Vancouver) >
Apr 9, 2009 08:25 AM

Help with Victoria dining itinerary

I need some help with my dining plans in Victoria. We'll be there Thursday night to Sunday morning before heading to Tofino.

Here's what I came up with for lunches and dinners. Feel free to tear this apart if you think I'm way off base. We like comfortable places to eat, so we're not necessarily looking for fine dining.

Thursday dinner at Zambri's or Il Terrazzo or Pagliacci's - - which one?
- - Can you recommend a cafe nearby one of these restaurants? We'll be coming in that day from the East Coast and will need some caffeine to adjust to the 3 hour time difference.

Friday lunch at Hernandez, dinner at Cafe Brio

Saturday lunch at Red Fish, Blue Fish, dinner at Bengal Lounge
- - We're not staying at the Empress, so I thought the Bengal Lounge would be an interesting place to try. Is the curry worth it?

I need help with breakfasts. We're staying at the Oswego, so places nearby would be best, but we're open to walking too (with a coffee in hand of course). Any recommendations??


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. for thursday dinner of your choices Zambris is the only one worth eating at. Victoria downtown is small so you dont need to be close to these restos for a cafe. So I recommend Habit, perfect place to relax and adjust. It is at 552 Pandora. Friday Lunch hernedez is pretty good but maybe closed so if not there try Red Fish Blue Fish or Pig ( also maybe closed but very close to hernedez.) Skip having dinner at the Bengal Lounge overpriced and nothing special. Go to the best value in town Brasserie L'ecole on Gov't street. Really excellent. Oswego hotel may have good food, i went once and it was horrid so i have not been back but have heard some good puff pieces on it. But nearby is an artsy cafe called "the superior". For drinks i would suggest solomans or ferris' upstairs. Dont go to Il Terrazo. Also Victoria has a great brewpub culture that you may or may not like. Canoe has some great brews as does Swans and Spinnakers.

    9 Replies
    1. re: 300rwhp


      I thoroughly concur with 300rwhp's advice.

      If you stroll down the list a little you will see at least a couple of relatively recent "threads" on Victoria and more via the search option on this site.

      The recent comments reiterate 300rwhp's advice relating to Il Terrazzo.

      I have never understood Victoria's preoccupation with Pagliacci's. It has always been too noisy and busy and nothing seemed particularly interesting to me but there always seems to be a line-up so maybe it is more a case that it appeals to the masses of tourists who descend on the city...then again, what the heck do the owners care what I say if they have line-ups to get in? [smile]

      I also agree with the comments regarding Brasserie L'Ecole. The food is excellent and Marc Morrison's wine list and pricing approach quite complementary.

      That having been said, I would not dismiss Cafe Brio. We go both whenever we are in Victoria with Greg and Sylvia being fun hosts.

      Bengal Lounge? Being relatively regular visitors to Victoria we usually give the Empress a pass. I see you said you are from the East Coast. I had a prof who said every Canadian should have tea at the Empress. I think he was more suggesting that every Canadian should travel across the country. At least that is what I hope he was saying. Maybe a drink at the Empress but there are much better places to have dinner during your stay in Victoria.

      Where are you staying in Tofino? Another related link for dining there down the list a little bit. We went to the movie "One Week" not too long ago at least in part because we knew the main figure would ultimately travel there. Great place.

      1. re: Bob Mac

        Great comments Bob Mac and 300rwhp. Thanks.

        This will be our first trip to Victoria/Vancouver Island. L'Ecole sounds great (better than a curry buffet!) At the least, we'll step into the Empress just to have a look.

        In Tofino, we decided on the Wick, given the (majority of) reviews suggesting it's a nice place to stay. While there aren't as many options for eating in Tofino, I'd be open to suggestions there also.

        Does Habit have pastries or other fare for breakfast? Or would either of you recommend another cafe for breakfast?

        1. re: ekjojo


          You are certainly welcome.

          If Brasserie appeals, call NOW or use their internet reservation system as they are not overly large and fill up very quickly.

          I'll have to defer to 300rwp and resident Victorians like victoriafoodie when it comes to the coffee shops and breakfast spots but Victoria sure seems to have quite an interest in breakfast and spots like MO:LE and a number of others have been consistently recommended.

          On the few occasions we have been up for a late breakfast we usually end up in the bakery adjacent to the alley which houses Il Terrazzo whose name escapes me [just try to time your arrival prior to docking of the Coho ferry from Port Angeles] right now or some espresso and a pastry at Il Paradiso on Bastion Square.

          The Wick is beautiful. I am sure that you will enjoy your stay. If you scroll down to this past Tuesday you'll see a couple of posts including one from myself updating the dining scene in the area.

          1. re: Bob Mac

            for tofino the restaurant "shelter" is highly regarded. As for pastries yes Habit has some and next door is mole and next door to that is a breakfast place that serves cold food only i think but done by the mole people. also if the weather is nice go for ice cream at the place across the street from the gap downtown on government. I think it is called Sweet memories, you will be able to confirm this via them not accepting anything but cash and making waffle cones fresh.

            1. re: 300rwhp

              Willie's Bakery is the place outside Il Terrazo - they're still doing breakfasts (although I have been in a few months), nice place. Mo:Le is fab for breakfast - as well as Lady Marmalade (Johnson @ Government). Nearer to the Oswego may be Cup of Joe cafe in James Bay Sq (230 Menzies, below Bank of Montreal) and Caffe Mulatta (281 Menzies). If you really want a "wow" tho - hoof into the downtown and hit Mo:Le or Lady Marm.
              The Bengal is nice (the buffet is fine, but nothing out of the park) - grab a drink there ($$) to soak in the atmosphere - it's a great setting (British India, lots of leather couches, motorized rattan fans - very "old-money" feel). Quite a few drinks made with Victoria Gin (distilled here).

              1. re: cassie

                Blue Fox (only if you arrive early...the lineups are ridiculous on weekends)
                Shine Cafe (just outside downtown...on Fort St)
                Lady Marmalade....good food, but a little dingy IMO

                Bean Bandits (on Broughton--weekdays only)

                Hernandez (weekdays only)
                Pizzeria Primastrada (in Cook St. Village--20 min walk from downtown)
                Daidoco (best sushi in town)
                Red Fish Blue Fish (in inner harbour)
                Pink Bicycle (gourmet burgers)
                Ferris' Oyster Bar (burgers, pastas, seafood, etc....)
                Side Door (Persian)

                Zambri's (solid if not spectacular)
                Brasserie L'Ecole (reservations essential)
                Paprika (in Oak Bay)
                Restaurant Matisse
                Chez Michel (Oak Bay)

                Note: I am not a huge fan of Brio, but I know others on this board are.

                1. re: anewton

                  Here are my picks!

                  Pure Vanilla (Cadboro Bay)
                  Ottavio's (Oak Bay)

                  Daidoco (Douglas and Courtenay in Nootka Court) - opens at 11 ~ 3ish weekdays only!!
                  Red Fish Blue Fish - love their tacones, especially spicy fish ones; fries are pretty good too

                  Niche (James Bay) - go before they close :(
                  Fifth Street Cafe (Hillside and Quadra) - am I the only one who thinks this place is alright for a casual din?

                  I don't drink coffee, but from my coffee drinker friends, they like
                  Cafe Artigianno
                  Pure Vanilla
                  Cafe Fantastico
                  Il Paradiso

                  Unrelated, but stopped by Fol Epi at Dockside yesterday on lunch break and they have an Easter bread that looks REALLY good. I wish they were selling smaller portions because it's $28 for the huge loaf. They will have it til Sunday I think.

                  1. re: sumashi

                    Thanks everyone for the tips - - I should have said in my original post that we'll be there Thur-Sun, but not until mid-May (so not this weekend).

                    Is Mo:Le busy on Saturday, like Blue Fox? We'd probably be ok arriving early since we'll probably still be on eastern time.

                    1. re: ekjojo

                      Mid-May is usually a nicer time to visit (though this past week has been more than pleasant in BC's capitol).

                      All of Victoria's breakfast places are busy. The thing to do with Mo:Le is to get your name on their waitlist, go next door to Habit, order a coffee (and if you are hungry, get a pastry at Habit), and wait until the Mo:Le server comes over to Habit and calls your name. If you are half-way through your coffee when your table at Mo:Le comes up, you can take your coffee with you in its Habit mug! These two establishments, although under different owners, have what I would refer to as a "symbiotic" relationship.

                      Blue Fox lineups are always hopeless, although you may luck out on a weekday. Expect to wait 1/2 hour to get seated on a weekend and another 1/2 hour to get your food.

                      Shine is really overlooked on this site. It is a 15-20 minute walk from downtown, on Fort St in the Stadacona Centre (small strip mall built under condos). Shine also has lineups if you get there late, but if you are there by 9 the waits are usually pretty reasonable.

                      If you are a bread connoisseur, do not miss Fol Epi over in the new (not yet completed) Dockside Green development. You have to cross the "old Blue Bridge" to get to Dockside Green. Fol Epi has its own millstone, grinds its own flour, uses all organic ingredients, and makes the tastiest baguette I have ever tasted. They also sell sandwiches to go.

                      Sumashi, with all due respects, I do not like the food at Fifth Street anymore. Granted, the prices are good, but nothing stands out for me. If I was going to recommend a meal in a bar or pub, I would direct a visitor to Soloman's on Herald St. Great specialty cocktails, wines by the glass, good appies and food for sharing, and very friendly service. I have been there twice now and have not had a bad experience. Other than that, Spinnaker's has good brews and is safe if you stick to something like a burger and salad or fries.

                      I wish you luck, ekjojo. You should have a fun time while visiting our blessed island. Hopefully the weather will be nice (you just never can tell on the coast, especially in Tofino!)

    2. I second the rec for Niche - it's ridiculously close to the Oswego (which, by the way, is lovely). I also second lunch recs of Zambri's, Red Fish, Blue Fish and Pizzeria Prima Strada. And, like everyone else on this board, Brasserie L'Ecole is a longtime favourite. They have an excellent wine policy.

      A little drive east of downtown Victoria (or on your way out of town), my rec would be the Rosemeade for dinner, though I haven't been in several months and it's apparently had a changeover recently. The room is elegant and the food has always been solid in the past.

      Brasserie "l'ecole"
      1715 Government St, Victoria, BC V8W1Z4, CA

      Dining Niche
      225 Quebec St, Victoria, BC V8V, CA

      Red Fish Blue Fish
      1006 Wharf St, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

      911 Yates St, Victoria, BC V8V4X3, CA

      Pizzeria Prima Strada
      230 Cook St, Victoria, BC V8V3X3, CA

      Rosemeade Dining Room
      429 Lampson St, Victoria, BC V9A5Y9, CA