Bel Cafe, Vancouver. March 2013.

Replacing “Sen5es” formerly in the same location, this little Café bakery has the location and atmosphere to charm and attract. Unfortunately, it ends there.

At lunchtime you have to “Wait to be Seated” at one of the dozen or so tables, and it’s a busy lawyer-and-high-end-shopper crowd you’re waiting for. I nipped in for a pastry and espresso at about 8:30 AM, easily found a seat, and inspected the breakfast baking. There were good-looking croissants including pain au chocolat, but I was disappointed not to see any danishes. When I spotted them listed on the menu and asked for one, I had mistaken it for something savory. It was a puff pastry with dry ground pear on one side.

The coffee was too dark, and bitter. The “pear danish” was just dry and flavorless.

Olivier Lebeau remarked once that he didn’t understand why people do bad baking. It only costs about 5% more to do it properly, he said, and it isn’t rocket science. In a place like this that charges highish prices (which are justified by the real estate) it would require next-to-nothing to step up the quality. Granted, I haven’t tried their sandwiches or desserts. And I really should go back and see if the croissants are as good as they look. But then I would have to have another cup of that coffee… 3.5

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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