They know how to have a good time, those Whistler folk. If they’re not ski-ing, boarding, or snow shoeing across the stunning slopes, they’re throwing a party. On my last trip the film festival was in full swing and the town buzzing with excitement over celebrity visitors, Channing Tatum and Rashida Jones. Daniel Radcliffe was in town, staying at the gorgeous Fairmont Hotel – so was I! And I still missed seeing him.
Clearly my celeb-spotting skills are a little rusty, but even I was able to spot that Whistler has some of BC’s best restaurants. I’ve wanted to eat at Araxi and the Bearfoot Bistro for a few years and on this trip, I finally got round to it. I’m starting to see that there’s perhaps something of a West Coast connection – inspired after a long discussion with my East Coast friend, Alyssa: that if you live in such extreme beauty, you feel connected to nature in a way that you probably don’t if you live in a huge urban sprawl. Seeing the mountains every day and living seasonally makes you appreciate the world of nature and want to protect it. That’s the theory anyway and as Whistler has summer and winter food and wine festival events I reckon this belief in keeping food as fresh, seasonal and local as possible shines through with menus that feel perfectly in harmony with nature.
Araxi is probably one of the most technically-proficient and artfully flavourful restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Everything from the ice-wine cocktail I began my meal with to the hidden treasures within the oh-so-innocent looking chocolate dessert (which spilled over with cream and fruit after the first spoonful) delighted me. Briny oysters came topped with pearls of cucumber, flawlessly seared tuna also came dressed in pearls – this time of soy – which delivered a perfect umami pop of flavour with each bite.
One of my new favourite things is beet salad and the one here came topped with a candy-striped variety that made me beam with pleasure. A wonderful wine list, superb service and pleasingly-intimate room made this probably one of the best ‘date’ restaurants you could ever visit.
In contrast, the Bearfoot Bistro also has an exciting menu, but with a double-portion of fun on the side. Its owner, Andre Saint-Jacques, has created an atmosphere of pure decadent devilry here, from the champagne room in the cellar, where you can learn to saber a bottle of Moet according to Napoleonic tradition, (exciting fun and you get to keep the top that you chop off!) to the Belvedere ice room where you wrap up in polar parkas and knock back frozen vodka shots. The theatrics don’t stop with the drinks, where else would you get ice cream made at your table with billowing dry ice? My stand-out dish here was a rich risotto topped with perfect scallops. Oh – and more beets! This time served multi-coloured and cubed in a shot glass of creamy whipped goat’s cheese. I tried my first sparkling ice cider here and fell in love on the spot.
I was trying to think afterwards, which did I prefer and I honestly couldn’t decide. Both were perfect for completely different reasons. I’d want a party with friends and endless bottles over wonderful seafood at Bearfoot, and I’d pick Araxi as my go-to place for any occasion that demanded something just a little bit special. Lucky Whistler people having those choices right on their doorstep.
I travelled as a guest of Tourism Whistler – however, my views are 100% my own.