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Weekend in Victoria, late March. Suggestions?

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I'm planning to take my boyfriend up to Victoria for his 30th birthday at the end of March -- neither of us have ever been. We'll be arriving on a Friday before lunch and leaving early on a Sunday, traveling by ferry. We like low-key and unique/funky places where we can hear each other, and are suckers for any place with a view. Divey is OK with us! He loves good Indian food (I've heard there's no good indian in victoria?!), but he's also a fan of thai, turkish, middle eastern, Central American and italian.
We're not big drinkers, but we'll probably want to find a cozy pub for a beer/cider and nibbles at some point. If anyone has a recommendation for where to find good cheesecake (his favorite), I'd love to hear that as well!

Here's what's on the hit-list so far:

Hernandez (is this only open weekdays?)
Zambri's
Zap Thai or Baan Thai?
The Bengal House (I've heard this place is 'ok' -- is it worth it? expensive? are we better off with thai?)
The Mint (is this just a snack/drinks place, or do they have desserts?)
Any turkish or middle eastern suggestions?

Shine, Blue Fox Cafe or Lady Marmalade for breakfast

He's very interested in having afternoon tea while we're up. I'm considering White Heather and The Blethering Place, but would gladly brave the crowds and the cost for tea at the Empress if the view was worth it. Other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. And, excuse the ignorance, but is this something we should be dressed for, or are jeans and a t-shirt OK for tea?

Thanks!

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  1. Hope you have a great trip. I am a Victoria resident and a local hound. Based on your stated preferences, I would recommend the following:

    Friday lunch: Red Fish Blue Fish in the Inner Harbour (out of a cargo container) if it is a nice day. This place has great fish sandwiches, i.e. scallop, oyster, tuna, etc...featuring very fresh seafood. Good chips, too (as in fries). OR

    Hernandez. Open 7 days a week now. Really good tacos, decent burritos, and excellent huaraches. OR

    Pizzeria Primastrada in the Cook St. Village. Also open 7 days a week. Great authentic Neapolitan pizza cooked in a woodburning oven. About a 15 minute walk or 5 minute drive/taxi from downtown.

    Or Daidoko (Japanese "homestyle" cooking) on Courteney, in a little mall.

    Dinner Friday:

    Restaurant Matisse: Current chef is ex-Bishop's (pioneering Vancouver localvore spot). Nice quiet atmosphere, good tasting menu, good a la carte menu too. French food done well.

    Camille's: Favourite "farm-to-table" restaurant in Bastion Square (across from Re-Bar). Lots of local organic farmers' products on the menu. Not cheap, but cozy, romantic atmosphere (can be a bit hot down there, actually).

    Saturday: Breakfast.

    Mo:Le. Best breakfasts in town. Lots of organic food. Plus you can have a good coffee next door at Habit while you wait for your table at Mo:Le. (Avoid Blue Fox: weekend lineups are unreasonably long...i.e. 90 minutes!) Shine is a good second choice but is not in the downtown core.

    Pub Meal: No really great pubs in Victoria, but I would suggest either Spinnakers for a good local craft brew (food is always hit or miss, though) or, for a "pub-like" experience, Ferris' Oyster Bar (reasonable comfort food. Good oysters and more!) Bard and Banker is okay for food but the drinks are definitely overpriced.

    Or

    Tea: White Heather in Oak Bay has the best reputation (right on Oak Bay Avenue).

    Dinner: Zambri. Usually pretty good. Again, a "farm-to-table" experience.

    OR

    Brasserie L'Ecole: No reservations anymore. Get here by 5 pm. Reasonably priced French "comfort" food. Lots of local ingredients. Not a quiet atmosphere, but definitely fun and a local favourite.

    Sunday early breakfast.

    I think Mo:Le opens at 8 or 8:30.

    Cocktails/Drinks for Friday/Saturday: Clive's Classic Lounge in the Chateau Victoria hotel has very good cocktails made by a serious mixologist.

    A few observations:

    There is no memorable Thai food in Victoria. Baan Thai, Zap Thai, and others are just mediocre.

    Bengal Lounge is not that great and is overpriced for what you get.

    There is no memorable Indian food in Victoria.

    The Mint is very mediocre.

    Middle Eastern is not a strong suit in the Victoria dining scene. Deep in Oak Bay there is "Nar" (on Central Avenue), which means "Among Friends" in Turkish. Really nice ambience; the food is decent but nothing to write home about.

    Victoria is best for farm-to-table cooking. Lots of organic farmers around the region. We do NOT excel at Asian cuisines because we do not have any large immigrant communities from Asian countries.

    And most of our places are casual. Jeans and a t-shirt are fine for most places. But you may want more than a t-shirt in late March (still jacket weather around here).

    Have fun.

    1. We like Ban Thai, but really have nothing to compare it to.

      Spinnakers for the view for sure, you can walk along to harbour to get there or drive around. Try the chocolates too.

      My dd (11) loves the Blethering Place, we generally order a full meal and the average age of patrons is 60+.

      If you like burgers you must go to Pink Bike on the corner of Blanchard and Broughton, the burgers range from $12.00 to $15.00 and are incredible. The place is open from about 11 am until 8pm, it is best to go for a late lunch or early dinner to avoid the crowds.

      John's place on Pandora has great diner type food. They have wicked pies and CHEESECAKE, so you may want to save it for dessert only. DH loves their benny's, and they have a fancy french toast that is TDF.

      Pagalaccis on Broad is great for pasta, but the tables are really really close together.

      Sam's deli on Government street has good sandwiches, the shrimp and avocado is my fav.

      Milestones (yes I know it is a chain) has incredible views from its window seats.

      Since you will have a car you could try http://bluesbayoucafe.com/about.html Blues Bayou in Brentwood, a drive up the Saanich penninsula. i have only been once but the food was wonderful and it literally is over the water.

      Enjoy you visit

      1 Reply
      1. re: mlgagnon

        Kind of a funny rec for late March but hey with the weather we've been having this winter it might be summer by then :-): hit Beacon Drive Inn for some soft serve. DO NOT eat anything else there. But the vanilla cones are worth going out of your way for. And actually, you should go to Beacon Hill Park while you are at it -- great beach zone within walking distance of BDI 126 Douglas (250) 385-7521. If there is a lineup outside (which there often is) you can also order to go inside.

      2. I went to the Irish Times Pub downtown and I really liked it. I had bangers and mash which I had never had before and I really liked it. My Mum had fish and chips and they were fresh and excellent. They had live music that was not too noisy too.

        -----
        Irish Times Pub
        1200 Government Street, Victoria, BC V8W 1Y3, CA

        1. Well this is my first post here, I felt compelled to respond because I used to live in Victoria and I miss it so much ( I moved to the valley).

          Breakfast: anewton is bang on with the Mo:Le recommendation. The head chef went to Beijing to cook for the Canadian Triathlon team, the food is great, the building is great (though cold in the winter) and you can wait in the coffee shop for space to clear up. the coffee is excellent their too, just dont go to the juice bar beside Mo:le, very overpriced and underwhelming.
          Shine is also great, and so is Blue Fox, but both have way too long of a wait on weekends. Breakfast is done exceptionally well in Victoria.

          Lunch:
          Ebizo Sushi on Broughton was always a favourite of mine, nothing outstanding but good sushi none the less.
          Cafe Ceylon was always a place I enjoyed. The menu is small, the decor is all over the place, but the food always hit the spot. The food is Sri Lankan, the chef is from their, though she was trained at the CIA. I put it in the lunch spot because they have a very tasty seafood hot pot that is perfumed beautifully with lemongrass. My wife's favourite. The dinner menu is pretty good too, they only have 4 "meat" mains for dinner and a couple of veggie options. If you go for dinner the blackened coconut prawn dish is great, my wife calls the sauce "crack sauce". The big downfall to this place is location. it is on the main floor of an office building on the corner of cook and fort street. If you havent been there you likely wouldnt go in just from walking by.
          Red Fish Blue Fish: Great fish and chips

          Dinner:
          What has been posted already is pretty accurate. My cousin worked at Matisse, the food is good.
          Brasserie L'ecole I have heard great things about,
          Smokin' Bones Cookshack in Langford is very good BBQ
          Baan Thai is average thai food and that is the best in town IMO
          The Superior in James Bay has good small "tapas" style dishes. I really enjoyed my food and the music the one time i went their, though I have heard that sometimes the music can be a little too much
          I like Il terrazo too, most of the dishes I have had their I really enjoyed. It is tucked away in an alley between Johnson and Yates.

          Pubs
          Irish times: I like the food here, and the building is one of the most beautiful in town.
          I do not like its "sister" pub the Bard N Banker though, the food is mediocre and the booze is way overpriced. It does have a great Scotch list though.
          Spinnikers: The beer is good, the view is spectacular, but the food is horrible. I went there twice, and both times I was disappointed in the food.

          I am sure there is a lot that i am missing, but I thought i would provide you with a few more options.

          I hope you enjoy your stay, I miss Victoria

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

          Mo:Le
          554 Pandora Ave, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

          Blue Fox Cafe
          919 Fort St, Victoria, BC V8V3K3, CA

          Baan Thai Restaurant
          2000 Cadboro Bay, Victoria, BC V8W, CA

          Brasserie L'ecole
          1715 Government St, Victoria, BC V8W1Z4, CA