The Coolest New Food and Cocktail Spots to Check Out in Victoria ASAP
A new-meets-very old restaurant concept lands in B.C.’s capital, adding to a series of recently opened, must-visit rooms.
Every now and then a new restaurant opens and you wonder how it wasn’t there all along. Such is the case of Sherwood, a multi-tasking café by day and atmospheric bar by night. And on offer throughout the long shift are “Early” and “Later” menus of light, fresh fare with most dishes making repeat appearances. And why not? Perfectly seasoned tartine sandwiches, charred avocado or baked eggs in a stew of bell pepper, chickpeas and tomatoes pair equally well with an Americano or a glass of Lock & Worth’s cabernet franc. It’s a deconstructed, streamlined approach to dining that feels timely and new though it is unmistakably Old World in spirit.
Owner Shane Devereaux, known for his popular Habit Coffee bar a few blocks over, drew inspiration from Europe’s all-day cafés and bars, be they tucked away and known only to locals or sprawling into town squares, like Bistro La Marine in Paris or the ubiquitous smørrebrød joints in Copenhagen. Closer to home, Sherwood recalls Seattle’s Le Pichet (bar le jour, café la nuit…). Victoria’s version suddenly seems long overdue. Has it really only been open for a couple of months?
The interior design, from Kyla Bidgood (see also Fernwood Pizza and The Livet), capitalizes on two walls of window-framing views of the surrounding heritage buildings. Updating the setting is light-toned wood (in the form of beautiful wide-plank flooring and tabletops in narrow widths for ease of conversation), white ceramic tile, oversized globe pendant lighting, layers of Sherwood-Forest green paint, and an abundance of Thonet chairs and stools. At the centre of it all is a beautifully detailed bar with a classic brass foot rail below and fluted-glass cabinetry above.
The price is point is appealing, with nothing on the current menus over $17. Small portion sizes encourage sharing and multiple orders: see meatballs ($16), lentil salad ($8), and an excellent smoked trout tartine ($11). Cocktails are organized into the categories of Day Drinking (Odd Dog recommended) and Classics (“Bin and Gitters,” likewise). All are two ounces and priced between $9 and $13.
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Sherwood will surely benefit from a city that loves its cafés and cocktails in equal measure, and its proximity to both the city hall staffers working directly across the street and the business crowd working upstairs in the newly completed Douglas House office spaces. And they’re in good company. Across the street, E:Né Raw Food and Sake Bar opened in June, turning out beautiful, inventive dishes (Peking duck tacos, Yuzu ceviche) alongside an unexpected mix of vegan options (Aburi vegan nigiri and a cheeze board prepared by local nut creamery, The Cultured Nut).
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Not to be outdone by the newcomers, this spring, the Veneto Kitchen and Bar in the Hotel Rialto underwent a refurbishment and reorganization. The hotel’s corner café has been shuttered to make way for a dedicated bar, while the existing restaurant space turned its attention to dinner service, adding banquette seating and a wine bar. The changes are subtle (even the Jeremy Cole-designed Aloe Blossom porcelain lights were repurposed) but they have created a much more visible, appealing presence on the streetscape. This once-sullen section of downtown is suddenly the place to be.
710 Pandora Ave.
E:Né Raw Food and Sake Bar
737 Pandora Ave.
Veneto Kitchen and Bar
1450 Douglas St.