While I haven’t spent enough time in Victoria to talk about ALL of the amazing restaurants, bars and cafes that British Columbia’s capital has to offer, I did my best. And it is the beginning of a list that I will hopefully be able to expand on each and every time I go back there. Victoria is known for its dining scene and I was also really impressed (and surprised) at the number of breweries it has, all condensed into walking distance of each other – a great way to spend a day!
John’s Place 723 Pandora Ave
Brunch being a trend seemed to hit Canada slightly later than it did in the South Pacific, but Victoria is relatively up with the game. The most popular places in Canada are marked by long lines (in Victoria this includes John’s Place and Jam Cafe) and because I don’t love lining up for brunch (especially during a pandemic) I did not intend for us to visit here. However, when we walked past mid-week, there were only a few people waiting, and we actually managed to nab ourselves a table after only about 5 minutes.
We were initially drawn in by how funky it looked from the street and this impression only continued as we were shown to our table. The walls were absolutely covered, plastered really, in pictures and posters of famous people and landmarks – some more treasured just for being local, but well known all the same. It was while I sipped on my coffee at John’s Place that I learnt that Nelly Furtado is actually from Victoria.
The menu is huge, with lots of variations of what can be boiled down to eggs and pancakes. There was definitely something for everyone. I was very indecisive and had actually accepted that I would be panic-ordering (usually what I want does not align with what makes me feel good) but then on the specials menu I saw a delicious sounding asparagus, capsium and pesto frittata. Well, you had me at asparagus! My choice was a winner. Presentation was not the priority, rather the asparagus and pesto were both served in abundance and it was sensational. The potatoes on the side were great too.
The rustic food, attentive staff, bottomless coffee and of course, the amazing decor proved to leave us feeling very satisfied customers.
Fuego Old Town Eatery 1435 Store St
I had read about this place as being just as good as it’s queue-worthy cousins, but without the queues! I also love a Mexican brunch, so of course I had to go here. It also had the added convenience of being across the road from our Air BnB at the time.
We sat in the window closest to the waterfront so that we could people watch, however the back of the restaurant actually opens out onto a patio which shares a courtyard with a number of other restaurants (including the Whistle Buoy Brewery, more on that below). The space was trendy, fun and modern and they had managed to separate the tables well – something I usually am aware of anyway, but am hypersensitive of during the times of Covid19.
We ordered our standard meal options: I had an omelette with corn bread and Andy ordered eggs benedict. This was a special eggs benedict: instead of bacon it had pulled pork and with the addition of caramelised apple, he did not waste much time in proclaiming it to be THE BEST EGGS BENEDICT HE HAD EVER HAD. Wow! How does one argue with that? As a non-Hollandaise sauce lover, I usually steer away from the benedict option, but even I had to admit this was pretty darn tasty. My omelette was also tasty and I especially loved the corn bread on the side.
There was a great selection of items on the menu which I would love to try. The chefs at Fuego have really propelled authentic Mexican food into a modern menu and everything about it is appealing. YUM.
Whistle Buoy Brewery Market Square
Moving out into the courtyard behind Fuego lies the charming outdoor area of Whistle Buoy, amongst others. Whistle Buoy is the only down-town brewery (and certainly the least well known), although the others are located only about a 20 minute walk away. Whistle Buoy occupies a prime location and makes for a great place to spend an afternoon or evening.
A whistle buoy is actually a thing, by the way. It is a buoy that makes a sound (like a whistle), caused by a chamber within and the air pressure that builds due to water passing over it. I didn’t know this at the time, but I learnt about it only a few days later when I saw one in Tofino!
Whistle Buoy is only small, but it’s cosy and intimate and retains a relaxed vibe. It has a limited selection of food, but there are about 10 different beers on offer including some guest taps. We grabbed some flights and really enjoyed the fresh, local flavours. It may not be as mainstream but the beer is certainly delicious.
Red Fish Blue Fish 1006 Wharf Street
I had been recommended this place by our friends who visited last year, as well as hearing about it on a podcast that I sometimes listen to. We walked past it a few times (without looking for it) before I connected the dots that that’s what the little pop up shipping container actually was. We did not eat here until we came back to Victoria before catching the ferry back to the mainland, however I was definitely eyeing it up for a long time prior!
When we visited the day was sunny and the queue was long. Fortunately there is loads of outdoor seating, so we managed to grab ourselves a table with an umbrella (crucial in the relentless heat) that overlooked the marina. Andy spotted us a river otter, so we took turns watching the otter while the other stayed in the queue and then swapping every now and then.
We ordered simple: fish (cod, battered) and chips. We also ordered a fish cone – their specialty. For me, the fish cone was the absolute highlight but a huge part of that can be attributed to how crisp and fresh the fish was, meaning that the fish and chips were also definitely a hit! The fish cone (which is basically a soft shelled taco) was so light and more-ish – I would happily have devoured another. We also tried the Powell’s Brewery (one of the local breweries) ginger ale and it was so quenching and perfect for the day! Such a great meal.
Bao 626 Fisgard St
A mutual love of mine and Andy’s is Asian fusion, so it’s only natural for us to scope out a place of that description when we eat out. Bao fit our bill in many regards: bao buns are probably Andy’s favourite love, and I get so excited when I see ramen on the menu. Funny, because in this instance we didn’t actually order ramen!
We wandered through Chinatown down to Bao. It’s interior was perhaps a little odd: Andy described it as what you’d expect an Asian restaurant to look like in the 90s. It had a very basic but obviously placed liquor shelf (although I expect most people would just order the craft beer they had on tap) and lots of tacky little ornaments. It was still funky, just slightly odd.
There were so many different types of bao fillings to choose from and they all sounded good. We played it relatively safe: variations of pork and chicken mostly. We also ordered an intriguing sounding pork belly dish which came with egg served two ways (one was deep-fried…) and also a chicken katsu curry. The portions were HUGE; both of the non-bao plates had so much rice on them, there is no way either of us would leave hungry.
The food was all quite tasty. The classic pork belly bao was in my opinion the best, and the other dishes we ordered were both delicious. I was a little sad to not have ordered ramen, but there was no way we could have eaten that as well and it’s always good to try something new! We would definitely eat there again for the bao buns alone, but the other options on the menu also sounded inviting.