The annual En Route Best New Restaurant awards came out recently and shockingly, didn’t have a single Vancouver restaurant on the list. I’ve realised in the few months that I’ve been in town that Vancouverites get very excited about new openings and each seems to be greeted as the Second Coming…
I get that.
New is exciting and everyone wants a new place to succeed, but me, I’m a little more excited about the classics.
With restaurant failure rates running high (around 60% fail within their first three years) to me, the definition of a successful restaurant is one that keeps people coming back for more, year after year. With that in mind, I wanted to raise a glass to West and its inspirational bartender, David Wolowidnyk who won Bombay Sapphire’s ‘World’s Most Imaginative Bartender Award’ for his Beldi cocktail earlier this year.
The gin is infused with saffron and ginseng, Martini Bianco cold-steeped with Green Tea and mint, add to that a cinnamon syrup, bitters and a toasted Coriander mist and you have a rightly world-class drink. I sniffed; a spicy whoosh of coriander, then drank and tasted mint and the green tea, before the warm cinnamon took over. Like a good perfume, this drink has layers; spicy and sweet then minty and aromatic. I love the lemon garnish – a star punched out of a thin peel to represent the Moroccan flag. It’s that kind of attention to the small details that make West a bar that you want to come back to again and again.
I love the bar, a cherry wood counter running along the side of the room adjacent to the restaurant. An old-fashioned library staircase rattles across the back wall as David and his team climb up and down, handing bottles to the waiting staff. It’s dark; it’s the kind of place you want a long, late lunch or dinner spent playing footsie under the table. Bottles, neatly arranged and under-lit glow like jewels. There’s a handsome list or you can ask David to make you something special, tell him what you’re in the mood for and see what he suggests. You will not be disappointed. West’s days of appearing on any ‘Best New…’ list disappeared a decade ago – and oh! How relieved they must be. Cheers to a Vancouver classic.