Vancouver


19
Aug 13

Gastown Eating adventures: Bambudda

Drinking rose-floral cava-y Fitzgerald cocktails and enjoying the late-evening sunshine. Officially the best new fun in Gastown

Drinking Fitzgerald cocktails and enjoying the sunshine. Officially the best new fun in Gastown

Fish are meant to symbolise good fortune or luck within certain Asian cultures and it was a serendipitous fish which led me to Gastown’s newest hot spot, Bambudda. I’d seen the most enchanting dessert picture on Twitter – two fish swimming in a perfect blue on a plate – the fish were white chocolate and lychee milk tea – too pretty but I wanted to eat it! The next day by pure luck I happened to meet someone who worked there, which decided it for me: fate had stepped in so I needed to go and check it out.

I’d mentioned to a few people I was going and everyone had two words for me “chicken skin”: turns out that they do a nifty fried chicken skin bar snack that was an absolute must-have. Guess what? Everyone was right on the money. But before we get to the crunch of the food – what’s the restaurant like? Well – on a warm Vancouver evening it was heaven to sit at the open-front bar. Their floor to ceiling windows pull right back and so we sat, red lanterns bobbing overhead, drinking pleasingly intoxicating cocktails while being charmed by barman Buck Friend.

Oh. My. God. Chicken skin of pure crunchy deliciousness

Oh. My. God. Chicken skin of pure crunchy deliciousness

Tardis-like, this place is far, far bigger on the inside than it seems on the outside. There’s a blue-toned private dining room that has ‘family party’ and ‘fun birthday dinner’ written all over it – then there’s the date-friendly dining space that spreads back through the building. Hand-etched wallpaper (which reminded us of Blanche from the Golden Girls’s palm-printed lair but in a really good way) and cute vintage accents make this new kid on the block feel like an always-been-there old favourite.

“But what’s the food like?” I hear you roar “Tell us about the skin!” Well – it’s pressed flat overnight, trimmed of any fat, baked in the oven and then quick-fried. And it’s so damn good that I went back two nights later dragging a friend with me. Give it a judicious squeeze of the black pepper-dipped lime and you have one of the best bar snacks I’ve ever tasted.

Mr Bambudda, Ray Loy and Buck Friend on bar duties

Mr Bambudda, Ray Loy and Buck Friend on bar duties with my new favourite Tsui Hang cocktail

I got to try a mini sampler of a few dishes from Chef Keev Mah’s menu: think nouveau Dim Sum  – the stars for me were the perfectly-cooked scallops, a sweetly-gooey spiced BBQ pork bun and Law Bak Go, a puréed buttered mash of a radish made into a hashbrown-like wedge and served with meltingly-tender brisket. It’s strange to feel so excited about a radish but this was magnificent – I tried this on the second visit and if anything it was even better. I tried the Crispy Pork Belly, Hong Kong BBQ style with a Maple Hoisin sauce, the texture of the pork belly was everything you’d wish for: it shattered in a satisfying bite, the meat a perfect soft juicy fall-apart counterpoint – but oh! too much salt… the one bum note in a perfect symphony.

And what of the dessert fish? A little sweet for me – but they swam prettily in their drinky waters of Blue Curaçao – frankly anyone who put something this delightful on a plate deserves an award. It’s rare to be so utterly enchanted.

Yin and Yang.

Yin and Yang.

Also extra marks to the inspired Cold Tea-esque cocktail creation, Tsui Hang, served in a teapot, a Dark Horse rye made fragrant with salted plums, goji berries and iron budda tea – it had an infused Budweiser syrup in the mix – I adored this and to my knowledge it’s the first beer-infused syrup I’ve encountered in Vancouver.  Go drink and snack at the bar, flirt with the lovely staff and then stuff yourself silly: you can’t fight fate.

I was a guest of Bambudda the first time I visited – but as ever – my words are 100% my own 

BAMBUDDA 99 Powell Street, Gastown Vancouver

Website: Bambudda.ca

Twitter: @bambuddagastown

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Bambudda


13
Aug 13

Introducing Vancouver’s Swiss Bakery Frissant

You’ve probably heard of the cronut – a croissant-doughnut hybrid created by Dominique Ansel for his bakery in New York City that has had foodies lining up around the block from before dawn to get their paws on the fried sugary treats.

Yeah. It's pretty damn big.

Yeah. It’s pretty damn big.

Well, New York is awfully far away to visit for a doughnut so thankfully Vancouver smarty-pants, the Swiss Bakery up on East 3rd Ave. by Main street have been beavering away and whipped up their own version: a frissant – a fritter-croissant amalgamation. I kept meaning to go and check them out but last week I got a furtive phone call from my lovely neighbour, Sean “Hey” he hissed, “I’m in the Swiss Bakery, I can get two of each – which frissant do you want, Hazlenut or Vanilla?”

I didn’t have to think twice. Vanilla please, and when are you coming back?

A box of bad decisions right there. Yum.

A box of bad decisions right there. Yum.

Half an hour later my door bell rang and up Sean came with the goods. Oh boy. I eagerly cut it in half, snapped a few pictures and dived straight in. Crisp and sugary on the outside, it was surprisingly light and fluffy on the inside. Not greasy whatsoever and you could see the flecks of vanilla bean in the piped-in filling: always a good sign.

Look! You can see that it's real vanilla.

Look! You can see that it’s real vanilla.

Sean had warned me that just one was like two doughnuts but I couldn’t just have half and leave it at that. Oh no! I gobbled the second half up and sighed with pleasure. Gorgeous. Of course, I felt kind of sick for half an hour afterwards and jittery with the rush of sugar but oh! It was worth it…

Get your frissant on: The Swiss bakery


12
Aug 13

New Truck in town: Aussie Pie Guy

July saw the launch of a new ‘pod’ of food trucks in Vancouver down by the Queen Elizabeth theatre. It’s a great spot – there’s a shaded seating area  and there’s usually three or four trucks to choose from. I wanted to give them a few weeks to settle in before popping by, but it’s been hard to wait as I heard one was an Australian pie truck; a decade ago, I spent time travelling around Australia and like most people who visit, fell madly in love with their pies! I had a chat with co-owner Kayleigh to find out how the first few weeks of launching a new truck had been going.

Aussie Pie Girls

Aussie Pie Girls

What’s been the biggest challenge so far
Biggest challenge has been figuring out what we’re doing! Our inventory was a problem from the first day, we had one guy in the kitchen and two of us in the truck – we couldn’t keep up – which was not a bad problem to have but the first day we sold out in an hour, which was awesome but we needed to find someone else for the kitchen immediately! That’s all sorted now though but it’s been a steep learning curve.

Where’s the Australian connection – because you sound suspiciously Canadian!?
There are three of us, Matt, one of the partners is from Perth. I travelled to Australia in 2011 and ate pies the whole time I was there – I was so in love with them and there are so many Aussies here in Vancouver and they all love pies too. That was our motivation, no one was doing this, we don’t have a food background, we just wanted to make a business together and we love the Aussie pies.

Vancouver loves its food to be fresh, seasonal, local and organic – how do your pies fit with that?
We try to get everything local, fresh and organic as much as we can. Especially with the proteins – meat, eggs – all from locals farms with free-range eggs. We see our egg guys at the farmer’s markets and I love being able to point at them and say they’re our supplier.  It’s fun working with the farmers, plenty of good relationships to build there.

Your basic piegasm

Your basic piegasm

How’s the QE pod working out?  
Everyone on this strip is new at this. We’re all learning from each other and telling each other which festivals and events are good, bouncing ideas off each other. There’s no rivalry, just so much support.

What would you tell anyone who wanted to get into working with food trucks?
It’s definitely hard work, I’m used to office life, this is physically hard work standing on your feet all day – we’ve got an oven going on in the truck and there’s no AC  – it sucks the energy out of you!  It’s exhausting but I knew what I was getting into – any start up is hard but I’m really enjoying it.

Pies glorious pies

Pies glorious pies

I adored the ‘Shane’s Pie’ that I tried made with free range BC beef short rib and veggies with a red wine jus and apricot hoisin sauce on creamy mashed potatoes. There are veggie choices too and even a ‘Hip pie’ – vegan and gluten free. I’ll be back soon to try their take on my favourite Australian pie of all – a beef, bacon and cheese variety that was introduced last week. Oh – and you absolutely have to buy a bottle of Bundaberg ginger beer to have with it; I used to be addicted to this stuff – spicy and so good! And you even get a free Tim Tam with each pie (an Australian chocolate biscuit). Bargain!

Find them: at the corner of Hamilton and West Georgia street. Online and on Twitter.


8
Aug 13

The best view in town: celebrating fabulous fireworks on English Bay

The sky over English Bay explodes with colour

The sky over English Bay explodes with colour

Every summer something kind of marvellous happens in Vancouver – not once, not twice – but three times: the annual Honda Celebration of Light competiton sets the sky over the English Bay ablaze with 25-minute soundtracked performances of fireworks from three competing nations. When I moved to my apartment here in December, I was told that I had a great view for the fireworks; they were not joking, ten days before the competition began, a barge appeared on the bay directly outside my balcony!

The United Kingdom kicked off on July 27 with a blistering James Bond-themed extravaganza that took in all the hits from Goldfinger to Skyfall, Canada went for their homegirl, Celine Dion belting out ‘What A Wonderful World’ on July 31 and Thailand closed on August 3 with a classical Thai music. I’m a sucker for a good firework display at the best of times, but to have three in the space of just over a week was extraordinary.

Great stuff from Great Britain (biased, me?!)

Great stuff from Great Britain (biased, me?!)

An estimated 1.2 million spectators attended the three-day event and – of course, because it’s Vancouver and they just do this stuff wonderfully – you couldn’t see a trace of them the morning after. The judges went with the loudest of the three displays – Canada  – who are this year’s winners.

Winter has its many attractions here with the North Shore mountains just half an hour away and Whistler close by, but oh – summer in this city is a winner too. Dates for the 2014 event will be announced by the end of September. You couldn’t pick a better time to visit than to watch these shows. Live music, a dazzling display by the Red Bull air show and fabulous atmosphere – see you next summer.

Kind of amazing to see how many boats gathered to watch it all

Kind of amazing to see how many boats gathered to watch it all


1
Aug 13

Adventures on Vancouver’s North Shore: Kayaking at Deep Cove

Get ready to take the plunge

Get ready to take the plunge

I’m not a sporty person. I fall too much. Slip over. Lose my balance and hurt myself. I’m a natural-born loser when it comes to competing with Vancouverites who seem to be always racing up mountains on the thigh-burning Grouse Grind, gracefully paddleboarding across the silky waters of English Bay or merrily gliding along on rollerblades. I may as well book myself a nice bed in hospital before even starting out on any of those. But it seems like I may have found a sport that even I can’t screw up: kayaking.

No one told me that it was possible to do exercise and enjoy a doughnut at the same time, yet that was precisely what I did half-way through my happy paddle along Indian Arm at Deep Cove. I thoughtfully bit into my glazed doughnut, paddle balanced across my kayak, and beamed with delight at the mountains soaring up before me, the hills green with dense woodland and the sea an endless midnight blue bobbing all around me.

The perfect view

The perfect view

I was anxious before I started. If anyone was going to wind up soaking wet, clinging to the kayak and embarrassed it was almost certainly going to be me, but I was told that no, it was ‘almost impossible’ to fall out of this kind of kayak (once I’d got over my initial fear I tried wriggling about to see just how true that was and I felt perfectly safe).

Getting from the kayak to the water was a concern but happily all I had to do was get comfy and settle myself inside it on the little beach by the water. I would be pushed into the water rather than having to try and shuffle down myself. The only ‘technical’ information was about the rudder which is controlled by your feet. You adjust little straps to bring the peddle close enough and then press right to turn right and left for left. Easy!

Look! Doing sport! (Doughnut out of sight).

Look! Doing sport! (Doughnut out of sight).

There’s a tremendous sense of accomplishment with kayaking, you can feel like you’ve got the hang of things incredibly fast. Within ten minutes I’d worked out that I could paddle in a circle, stop, go backwards – I felt like this was something that I could easily do again. And wow – what a place to do it.  I’d taken the ferry from the heart of Vancouver across to the North Shore – just a few minutes – but I was deep in dazzling nature after a brief car ride. Deep Cove is gorgeous: just beautiful. We’d stopped in at Honey’s to get doughnuts on the way to the kayak hire shop, later we’d enjoy a post-paddle feast of perfectly-crisp calamari and a garlicy humous with summery Aperol Spritzes at the Arms Reach Bistro. I may have been less than an hour away from the bustle of Vancouver but I felt I was on holiday. Feels like fun’s always a sure thing on the North Shore.

Reward for a good day kayaking.

Reward for a good day kayaking.

I paddled along as a guest of Vancouver’s North Shore tourism – but as ever – views are 100% my own. You should do this: it’s fun! 

Find out more:

Vancouver’s North Shore Tourism  

Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak


26
Jul 13

Blueberry season hits BC

Image

Image courtesy of Sunday Morning Ice Cream

One of the (many, many) things that I adore about Vancouver is the way that people live and eat seasonally. I was wondering what summer would bring after a spot prawn and halibut late spring: it seems that it’s all about the berries and stone fruits and king of all is the blueberry. Last weekend’s UBC Blueberry Fest on the Triple O’s patio, with its pancake breakfast and chef demos kicked off this year’s season. But beyond what I’m told is the ‘traditional’ White Spot blueberry pie, bakers, ice cream makers and chefs across the city are showcasing their best blueberry-inspired creations. I plan to dig in while they’re fresh and in store…

Newbie to the Van food cart scene, Johnny’s Pops has blueberry cardamom and blueberry mojito ‘artisan popsicles’ from his ‘can’t miss’  red bike with the cooler on the front. You can usually find him along the seawall by the Olympic Village, but check to avoid playing ‘Where’s Johnny?’.

Bella Gelateria have a BC blueberry sorbetto and my favourite ice cream people, the Sunday Morning Ice Cream have a creamy blueberry and sweet basil which you can catch at the Chinatown Night Market. Earnest (whose salt caramel flavour is one of the best in the world) are keeping a lid on what they’ll be doing so far but co-owner Erica Bernardi mailed me to say that “Last year we made a blueberry cheesecake flavour. We’ll definitely make another blueberry flavour this year.” Can’t wait!  Cocolico has both a chocolate bar and a chocolate spread using local blueberries on sale in all their usual outlets, including Edible Canada.

Blue Breeze Jay Jones cocktailI got a sneak preview of Jay Jones‘s Blue Breeze blueberry cocktail yesterday. Made with Absolut Grapevine Vodka, Fresh BC Blueberry Syrup, Lime juice, Fentimans Ginger Beer and garnished with blueberries & mint it’s incredibly refreshing and dangerously more-ish. It reminded me of a deliciously drinkly melted ice pop. Perfect for patio season, it’s going to be the The Three Brits pub’s Absolut Community Vancouver Pride Society cocktail – so drink up! It’s for a good cause.

Langley’s organic A Bread Affair bakery have a blueberry and hazelnut whole wheat and sprouted wheat loaf, ‘Love At First Bite’ from Cedar Isle Farm in Agassiz; the hazelnuts are from Abbotsford and blueberries from BC. It’s sweet and matches well with charcuterie.
Lucky’s Doughnuts have a limited edition blueberry Berliner and Cartems have two: a blueberry strawberry compote stuffed donut and a blueberry lavender glazed.Love At First Bite

Chefs getting in on the blueberry trend include Ned Bell at Yew who appeared on Global TV last week with a BC salmon and blueberries recipe and both Tableau and Forage are offering pickled blueberry dishes.
Save the date for the culmination of All Things Blueberry in BC with the Cloverdale Blueberry festival on Saturday August 19th with its legendary pie eating contest.


25
Jul 13

New summer menu deconstructed at Forage

ForageThe new season summer menus are hitting boards across town. I spent the post-breakfast lull with Chef Whittaker in the Forage kitchen, watching how to make one of the dishes from his new menu.

Forage chef Chris Whittaker is best known for his commitment to sustainable farm-to-table eating. Forage’s new summer menu launched this week with a stand-out dish of Hannah Brook Farm watercress, garlic scapes, 64° egg, bison bone marrow croutons and mushroom ‘soil’.

Forage “All the ingredients in this salad – this is the stuff I wait for all year to get back into business with.” Whittaker says. “The croutons in bison bone marrow bring a robust meatiness to the dish, we use Alberta bison which are hormone and antibiotic-free and grass fed. The eggs are from Richmond’s Rabbit River and the greens from Maple Ridge – where I live. The watercress really excites me: it’s flavourful and peppery, so the croutons need to be weighty enough and the egg has to be cooked a certain way to hold into the salad. Then we add “soil” of dried morels which are in full swing right now across BC with freshly-ground local hazelnuts.”

ForageTo make the dish, Chris starts with the garlic scapes, blanching them in salted boiling water for a minute and then plunging them into iced water. They’re set aside to grill at the last minute. Next a generous scoop of clarified rendered bison bone marrow is spooned into a pan and heated. Chris hand-tears bread to toss in the fat to make croutons. They are sauteed in the pan for a few minutes until golden-brown and then drained on paper.

ForageWhile all this has been going on, the eggs are cooking in a combi-oven at 64 degrees for 45 minutes. They’re removed from the heat and doused under a cold tap to stop the cooking process.

Forage The scapes are dipped in the remaining bison fat and flame-grilled and the salad dressed with a red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing (3 parts oil 1 part vinegar). Forage

The dish is plated with the croutons tossed across the peppery leaves and scapes, with the egg resting on top. “It’s a great dish,” says Whittaker, “As the season changes and evolves so will the ingredients, so once the garlic scapes are over we’ll put radishes or dried tomatoes in instead.”Forage


15
Jul 13

Join the club: Toronto Ritz Carlton

Some names bring with them an almost-too-high expectation of luxury. Tiffany’s for example; it’s impossible to say it out loud and not imagine the gleam and glitter of diamonds. I felt the same about the Ritz, the name alone conjures up images of crisp uniforms, chauffeur-driven Bentleys purring at the kerb, silver salvers and the click of designer heels skittering across a marble floor. Romantic? Me? Well, maybe a little. But that’s the thing with big-name hotels they have a lot to live up to.

Might this be a tad too much in my flat?

Might this be a tad too much in my flat?

So, high expectations for the Ritz on my first stay, but you know what? The Ritz Carlton didn’t get to be The Ritz Carlton without delivering on the promises that its name makes. I was already delighted in the time it took me to get from the door to the reception desk – coppery maple leaves embossed on the shiny marble floor, the glittering chandelier-art that bounced light around the spacious lobby and the Canadiana art on the walls – all were lovely (I later discovered that the Ritz has some 450 Canadian works of art dotted around the hotel – better than some art galleries!). My grin got even broader as I was told that I was staying ‘in the club’ so I got escorted by an equally delighted staff member “Oh, you are in for such a treat…” up to the 20th floor to check in.

I’d been unaware of the Ritz’s ‘hotel within a hotel’ concept – but here it is: if you don’t think you’re already being spoiled silly then you can take things up a notch and book in to Club Level which gives you access to a private check-in and lounge which has an impressive food and drinks programme all day and evening, offering time-appropriate snacks, from breakfast and juices through to hors d’oeuvres, wine and sweets. It has a fabulous view of Lake Ontario and the CN Tower from its squashy sofas and comfy seats. I popped in a few times and there was always a happy buzz about the room – I loved that it was full of people who seemed to be genuinely appreciating it – there was no eye-rolling sense of entitlement here which was a really pleasant surprise.

Club level: you've arrived...

Club level: you’ve arrived…

After check in it was time to check out my room; I’m always amused when I stay in a suite that’s clearly larger than my flat at home and this had to be at least double if not triple the size with a picture-perfect view of the Tower from the floor to ceiling windows. I kept my curtains open all night – impossible to stop watching the tower glowing different colours – at one point it lit up in a kind of dreamy shimmer, for all the world like the Aurora Borealis, it was superb.

There’s a kind of fantasy bubble that the best sort of hotel makes you feel you’ve stepped into when you stay; everything is beautiful, nothing feels like too much trouble, the staff are friendly but never obsequious and you feel genuinely delighted to just be there and glide around the public areas with a slightly foolish grin on your face. I spent almost the whole time I was at the Ritz with precisely that daft grin on my face. For once, the reality is just as good as the legend – I felt more spoiled than a Kardashian when I left, but oh! so much more classy.

Love this view!

Love this view!

The Ritz Carlton are currently running a ‘Treat You‘ package which I think is a pretty good deal. It starts from $750CAN a night – BUT! that’s for two people and includes Club Level access (so that’s breakfast, mid-day meal, light snacks, hors d’oeuvres, alcoholic beverages and sweets – all included) plus roundtrip airport transfers, internet access AND – if you book for two nights you get the third for free. The perfect ‘champagne’ experience for ‘cava’ prices. Ts & Cs – of course – apply.

I travelled as a guest of Tourism Toronto and stayed as a guest of the Ritz Carlton – all views are, however 100% my own. I just really, really enjoyed this!  

For more info:

Ritz Carlton.

Address: 181 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V 3G7

Phone: (416) 585-2500


10
Jul 13

East of Main Cafe: Food with a heart and soul

Food production has such a ‘butterfly effect’ on the world; grow fruit and veg with pesticides and you affect the eco-system, grow them with the wrong kind and you affect the life of bees, which affects every one of us. Get those chemicals in the food chain and water supply and it can have a serious affect on health and fertility – a butterfly flaps its wings and half a world away, everything changes… 

I was thinking about how small things can have a huge effect as I listened to 12-year old Celestine Hilechi, singing her heart out for us at the Project Limelight event at the East of Main Cafe. She was fantastic, eyes lit up with pure joy, she radiated happiness and a dash of star quality and thanks to the Project Limelight programme, she’s learning how to express that and now has the confidence to sing – unaccompanied no less – to a room of strangers.

Project Limelight's songbird, the fantastic Celestine

Project Limelight’s songbird, the fantastic Celestine

To put this into a little context, I should explain a little; walking through parts of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (DTES) always feels like a shock; there are serious homelessness and substance abuse and addiction issues, whole blocks are taken up with shopping cart-pushing addicts. I say again – after the beauty of the surrounding area, the pure gorgeousness of Vancouver as a city – the grinding poverty of the DTES is a nasty shock. It’s an area that needs help and needs support and there are businesses who are taking up the challenge.

Project Limelight is a charity founded by sisters Maureen Webb and Donalda Weaver, both born and raised in the DTES with successful careers in the film business (respectively as a casting director and owner and manager of a studio) who wanted to give back to their community. Project Limelight works with at-risk kids aged between 8-15 in the neighbourhood – children who typically wouldn’t get within shouting distance of creative theatre work – and pulls them into a hard-working, fiercely disciplined programme. Each session lasts for four months running three days a week. At the end of the four months the children perform an impressively professional full-length production which lets them show off the skills they’ve learned.

Project Limelight's Maureen Webb and Donalda Weaver with Chef Tina Fineza

Project Limelight’s Maureen Webb and Donalda Weaver with Chef Tina Fineza

I must admit – I was a theatre group kid – I loved the fun, the sense of community and the freedom of expression that it taught me. I made great friends and learned about the importance of showing up and doing your absolute best. But I was lucky – I had a stable family life, having that three-days-a-week rock of normality (plus a free healthy meals and snacks) must mean the world to some of those children. And you can imagine the immense effect that four months of positive attention can have – when this butterfly flaps its wings it changes the whole direction that a child’s life can go in.

They rehearse upstairs from the East of Main cafe where 100% of their profits go towards the Project Limelight Society. That’s reason alone to go there – but of course, because it’s Vancouver, food with a heart has a soul too. Talented Chef Tina Fineza has designed a  pan-Mediterranean tapas-style sharing plates menu, packed with fresh and spicy flavours, taking a delicious journey across the world wherever it touches the Med. Hop from a ras el hanout-spiced lamb tagine from Tunisia to an aromatic aubergine (eggplant) Greek moussaka to (my favourite) an Italian raw courgette fragrant with lemon with a faint crunch of pistachio.

Simple and just delicious

Simple and just delicious

It’s a perfect storm of good intentions resulting in great things; an excellent menu in a cute venue, where your money goes directly to helping out a brilliant cause, which then affects the lives of those around you. This butterfly’s wings are certainly flapping in the right direction. Go join in and flap yours too.

Find out more: 

East of Main cafe www.eastofmaincafe.com/

Address: 223 E Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2Z9

Phone:(604) 899-2777


9
Jul 13

Five Rules for Successfully Ordering Room Service

There's something rather stylish about curry accompanied by a starched tablecloth

There’s something rather stylish about curry accompanied by a starched tablecloth

Despite staying in dozens of hotels each year, I could count the times I’ve ordered room service on one hand – I’m usually whizzing around, trying to fit in as many restaurants, bars and sights in whatever city I’m visiting to spend too much time in my hotel room. That’s why I got excited when I stayed at the Four Seasons in Toronto as they invited me to check out their in-room dining programme. Really? After a long flight AND an early start I could just… relax?! Hold me back…

There’s a kind of glamour and old-world decadence to that heated cart covered in heavy, beautifully-ironed white linen trundling to your room. But I discovered that it takes a certain level of skill to successfully order from a room service menu – a skill that I, as a rookie, did not have.

Toronto is known as being a city of neighbourhoods and I thought it was a neat touch that the menu reflected this with a ‘Streets of Toronto’ section – butter chicken from Little India, a souvlaki sandwich inspired by Greektown  – I wanted to hop around town so picked the butter chicken, a maple-braised pork belly pad Thai, a starter of BC Dungeness crab popcorn and I couldn’t resist the Nanaimo Bar with Brown Butter ice cream too. When presented with ice cream as room service you order it, right? Just to see if it makes it to the room or melts on the cart.

Crunchy - and I really liked the salsa.

Crunchy – and I really liked the salsa.

About half an hour after ordering it all arrived and after taking a few photos I dived in. I eyed the ice cream with some trepidation – it looked good on its bed of ice – would it manage to not disappear into a puddle before I got to it? First up the popcorn crab; the breaded shell was still crunchy, the crab was tender  and the lemon-saffron aioli it came with just tangy enough. It was good, but not great – it was like ordering something fresh from a fryer and then leaving it for half an hour – which, to be fair – was pretty much what I had done, although, of course, the heated cabinet had kept it warm.

The noodles were prettiest so they were next; alas, they were kind of gummy. Like a teething baby, they had not travelled well. I nibbled on a few veggies before heading for the cashew and raisin-studded butter chicken, which – I can definitely say is THE thing to order. Heaven on a plate with just the right balance between that sweet, creamy buttery taste and the warm glow of spice and heat. The rice hadn’t dried up and the time in the heater hadn’t hurt the curry at all.

The ice cream was a little liquid around the edges by the time I dug in but oh! It didn’t matter at all. It was ridiculously good. I wished I’d had time during my stay to go and have some more. It was up there on the deliciousness stakes with my adventures with the Sunday Morning Ice Cream club…

So, my Five Rules for Successfully Ordering Room Service are…

* Think ‘what would be best as a take away’?

* Anything that can tolerate sitting in a warmer works – curries, soups etc.

* Anything that should be gobbled up fresh off the griddle or out of a wok does not.

* Anything that’s deep-fried probably won’t be at its best but will still be good if you’re craving stodge.

* If there is ice cream – order it anyway – even a little puddly it’s better than NOT ordering it. And slurping it up whilst dressed in a robe, flicking between channels, eating off a gorgeous crisp white tablecloth-draped table – unbeatable.

I stayed in Toronto as a guest of Toronto Tourism and the Four Seasons. However – as always – my views are 100% my own. 

 Find out more: 

Four Seasons, 60 Yorkville Ave  Toronto, ON M4W 0A4, Canada
Tel: +1 416-964-0411

Toronto Tourism

 

 

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