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Dec 19, 2009 05:51 PM

Christmas in Victoria...?

Howdy Chowhounds of Canada-

My wife and I (from Seattle) will be spending x-mas weekend hiding out in Victoria. I'm looking for some suggestions on great places to eat in Victoria that are likely to be open at the holidays.

In particular- Can anyone recommend some places good for lunch on Christmas day (I know it's a long shot), and also the following two days (Sat / Sun)? We'll have wheels, so can make the trip to someplace outside of downtown.

More importantly -- any good recommendations for dinner Sat night the 26th? I was thinking of Paprika, but it looks like it will be closed that weekend (I'm guessing sister Stage as well). Is Bard & Banker worthwhile? Anywhere else good?

Thanks in advance for any good suggestions, and happy holidays!

(BTW, I'm cross-posting this on the Pacific NW board, so apologies if you have to look at it twice)

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  1. Oh, this is a tough request, pusherman! Victoria is pretty much a dead zone on Christmas.

    I would not recommend the Bard and Banker for food. Their beer selection is good, but the food is just generic pub food and not that great. It is basically a generic Scottish pub-in-a-box. I prefer Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub's food; it is all locally sourced.

    Some recommendations worth making a call to the restaurant about:

    - Pizzeria Primastrada (Cook St Village)
    - definitely Stage or Paprika if they're open
    - Lucy's in the Square (Fernwood Village)
    - Blighty's Bistro (Oak Bay)
    - Cafe Brio
    - Brasserie L'Ecole
    - sushi - Ebizo Sushi

    Oh, another thought. The hotels are all open on Christmas Day. If you're into curry, you could check out the curry buffet at the Empress Hotel's Bengal Lounge. It's an old-school, colonial-decorated sumptuous men's club style lounge, and the curry is good. Also a great place for a single malt.

    One more thought! The Village Cafe in Estevan Village might be open for breakfast/lunch on Christmas Day as it is a Jewish resto. Really delish blintzes, latkes, etc.

    Good luck, and Merry Christmas! Have a wonderful time in our beautiful city.

    1. Most Chinese restaurants are open on Christmas Day too.

      11 Replies
      1. re: islandgirl

        People always say this...but then (at least in Seattle) the Chinese places all shut down, too.

        Any recommendations for Chinese in Victoria?

        1. re: pusherman

          No, I would not recommend any Chinese restaurants in Victoria. The dim sum at the place in the Red lion Inn on Douglas (near Mayfair Mall) is supposed to be decent, but other than that I would steer clear.

          The owners of Stage no longer own Paprika, so you may want to double check on Stage's Christmas hours.

          The Empress Dining Room may be open on Christmas Day and would offer serviceable food at the very least.

          Cafe Brio on Fort is usually open 7 nights/week so it may be open over the holidays. Definitely worth checking out (especially the contorni as a side!)

          I have to disagree with victoriafoodie about the Bard and Banker. Since the former exec chef from the Rosemeade took over and redesigned the menu a few months back, B and B has transformed into the only REAL gastropub in Victoria. There are still a few kinks to iron out, but I have had several EXCELLENT dishes there. The arctic char is prepared perfectly and served over a slightly sweet parsnip puree. The chicken curry with mashed parsnips and potatoes (or was it turnips and potatoes) was excellent as well. There are fresh salads that do NOT taste like they came from a box. The focus of the menu has changed toward local, seasonal, sustainable. In my opinion the food at B & B is much better than the food at Spinnakers, which has always been sorely lacking in my estimation.

          I would also look at places like Matisse (at the foot of Yates St), Camille's, Brasserie L'Ecole, and Zambri's. While they may be closed Christmas Day, you may luck out and find that at least one of them is open on Boxing Day (Saturday).

          Oh, for coffee check out Habit on Pandora, and then do brunch next door at Mo:Le. You can even put your name on the waitlist for Mo:Le and then go next door for coffee at Habit--the staff from Mo:Le will come find you in Habit when your table is ready.

          Solomon's is great for cocktails, as is Clive's Classic Lounge in the Chateau Victoria.

          Second the rec for Pizzeria Primastrada in the Cook St Village, if it is indeed open over the holidays.

          If you're really stuck, troll the hotel restaurants in James Bay, places like Blue Crab, the Mark, Aura. While none of the above are ideal, they all over splendid ambience and views of the inner harbour and all have at least some good items on the menu.

          Good luck, and please report back on how you fared!

          1. re: anewton


            When we were last in Victoria in October I ducked into the Bard & Banker in an attempt to dry off from a "monsoon" like downpour.

            I tried the "Hali-bites" off their appetizer menu and they were OUTSTANDING. Not merely good, but OUTSTANDING. Quite a large plate piled with bite-sized morsels of deep fried, barely battered halibut that melted in ones mouth. Certainly not merely chunks of left over pieces of fish from larger fish and chips portions or batter.

            We had intended to go back for a lunch but there were too many other options, i.e. Primastrade [excellent, the pizza was good as were the salads], Zambri's, Brasserie [they were still closed at the time for their "historical" renos, Brio].

            Next year.....or maybe the Spring after the Olympics.

            1. re: anewton

              That is good to know about the B&B. I haven't been there in a while (my baby is 4.5 months old and our ridiculous liquor laws in BC don't allow anyone under 19 into a pub, regardless of whether there is any appreciable risk of them trying to drink - as my husband says, if our son walks up to the bar and orders a beer, please let us know as we'd love to get a photo of that for our album!) I guess it might be time to try it again. For sure the last time I was there it was pretty generic.

              So, pusherman, what did you end up doing? I hope you had a nice stay in Victoria!

              1. re: victoriafoodie

                Hey Everyone!

                First off, Happy Christmas, and Happy New Year!

                As usual, the Canadian Chowhound boards were friendly and helpful...the aloof and snarky Northwesterners on the Seattle board could take lessons.

                As we expected, pretty much everything was closed on Christmas day; planning ahead, we brought a cooler full of Ezell's Fried Chicken, so we spend Christmas day sitting on the spit in Sooke chowing down, not a bad way to spend the holiday.

                For Christmas night dinner, we had a hotel package that included dinner at the Sooke Harbour House. Wow, it was an outstanding meal. I can't put my hand on my heart and recommend that anyone spend $100+ on a single meal, but if you were going to, this would be a good one. The food was all outstanding, and much more innovative / interesting than the somewhat cutesy decor of the hotel would lead you to expect.

                What really impressed me, though, were the outstanding wine pairings. We don't get much BC wine in Washington, but all of the pairings at the restaurant were inexpensive BC wines, and all were great. We tried to buy some bottles in Victoria before we left, but didn't manage to find a good wine store (what's up with the beer & wine only in liquor stores, by the way?).

                We finished off our chicken for boxing day lunch, but had dinner at Bard and Banker. I have to say, I was not blown away. The food was all pretty good, but I would characterize it as basically upscale bar food -- calling it a gastropub seems like a stretch. Again, it was all good and we enjoyed ourselves, which is the important part -- but I was just not really blown away.

                Another thing (and here's where I get into trouble) -- I also didn't think the beer was very good. We tried several Canadian micros that night, and all were underwhelming. And I've never had any good local beers in Vancouver, either. Which begs the question -- you guys are great at wine, and you seem to really like beer -- where are all the good BC microbrews?

                Moving on - we only managed one more meal, which was lunch the 27th at the tricky to find Pizzeria Primastrada. It was great, and also a nice place. I also really liked the beautiful park at the end of the street.

                I guess that's it...a lot of typing for only two restaurants! But anyway, I'll keep all the great recs for our next trip over when hopefully we'll have more time to sample restaurants.

                1. re: pusherman

                  So glad that you enjoyed your stay and had some great food. Sooke Harbour House has always been worth the trip and the price for me. I'm glad it was for you too.

                  Re microbrews, did you try Driftwood Brewing when you were at Primastrada? I dig it. I can't remember what Bard and Banker has on tap - maybe Phillips? Usually his beers are really good IMO, but the pubs that don't have in-house breweries aren't usually that great - Spinnakers, Swans, Canoe are all better.

                  Also our liquor laws are bizarre in BC so that's why you can't buy booze except at a CBW or liquor store - and the govt liquor stores close on public holidays.

                  1. re: pusherman

                    You have probably heard of our Kokanee Beer--Lesser know is the Nelson Brewing Company offerings:
                    Faceplant-6.5% darker ale.
                    Liplock-Wheat/Barley combo that's good with a wedge of lemon.
                    Paddywhack-India Pale Ale.
                    After Dark-British Style dark ale.Added bonus here-An Organic Brewery.
                    If nothing else the names will make you smile.Don't know of the availability across the line(as we say).

                    Okanagan Spring Brewery out of Vernon BC-My fave is the Pale Ale,others on offer from the dark to light. Cheers mate.

                    1. re: pusherman

                      Can you tell us what beer you drank, or what breweries you visited in Victoria & Vancouver? What's your idea of a good microbrewery in Seattle or Portland? As far as Vancouver's concerned, I've noticed there's often a disconnect between the breweries & pubs that tourists are recommended (or what casual beer drinkers recommend) and where the craft beer lovers venture. For example, while in Vancouver did you visit Brassneck? 33 Acres? Bomber? Powell Street Brewing? Alibi Room? Or did you end up at the Molson Coors owned Granville Island Brewery? Or Steamworks or somewhere like the Yaletown Brewing Co? What sort of beers do you enjoy drinking? I'd be happy to point you in a better direction. Heck, this would be a great separate CH thread. :)

                      1. re: Florentine

                        Hey Florentine, don't forget pusherman was here FIVE years ago. Brassneck, 33 Acres, Bomber and Powell Street all opened since then -- a lot has changed on the craft brewing scene here in the interim, no? Alibi Room was the only one on your list that was around and doing good things beerwise.

                        1. re: grayelf

                          Haha! Actually, I embarrassigly missed that. This will teach me to respond to threads on my iPhone. Didn't see the 2010 date at all.

                  2. re: anewton

                    Chinese food in Victoria is changing because there is a recent influx of mandarin-speaking chinese who are demanding more variety than standard canadianized cantonese. If you like spicy Sichuan cuisine, try Hong Kong West on Fort Street at Richmond. I'm trying to get the word out about how fantastic the food is here - the menu and name are deceptive, avoid the chow mein type dishes and check out what the other diners are eating - I strongly recommend the following: chicken with garlic and peppercorns (joh-ji), the four season green beans (si-ji-doh), the eggplant with mushrooms in garlic sauce (chetzi), imperial prawns. The sichuan chicken is also good as are some of the tofu dishes. When in doubt, ask Yan to recommend what the specialty of the day is - point to the other tables! It's very hot so be prepared. this is a gem that has so far only been discovered by the mandarin-speaking population, but the food is comparable to anything I had recently in China. Yan also helps you with your mandarin!

              2. Dear "Victoria Foodie"-- You should look at The Bard and Banker Menu you will find that we are not a "Generic Scottish Pub"

                From Bard and Banker Cook

                2 Replies
                1. re: Owlhoohoohoo

                  It's interesting to note when this thread was started and which restros. were recommended back then. How many of them are still in business????
                  IMO for reliable good quality chinese food/dim sum in Victoria the one place is always Don Mees.

                  1. re: Puffin3

                    It's funny you mention that Puffin3, almost all are still in business:
                    Pizza Prima Strada (2 locations now, both crazy busy)
                    Brasserie (no reservations and lineups at 5:30 for their opening)
                    Zambri's (excellent and packed)
                    Stage (not owned by the old Paprika owners anymore, but still great small plates and wine)
                    Paprika is gone in name, and replaced by a lovely little Italian place called Padella Bistro
                    Lucy's in the Square is sadly gone, but in its place is Ca Va, an excellent French bistro serving lunch and dinner
                    Blighty's is still going strong on Oak Bay Ave
                    Ebizo Sushi is still good too.

                    For me dim sum at the Red Lion is great - and packed with a sea of Chinese people on Sat/Sun from 11am on. A couple of carts and rest on trays. Great egg tarts.

                    I'm surprised, even four yrs ago pusherman didn't find a larger selection of great local brews...of course now, that's exploded here in Vic.