I remember when this place opened in, I think, 2006 thinking, “They’ll never make a go of it.” The capital costs for the location and the physical plant designed by Barry Downs must’ve been outrageous. But we’ve been back maybe six or eight times for drinks, lunch, or dinner, and so far it hasn’t been converted to a burger joint. This time it was lunch.
The location is handy for us, a long walk from our West End apartment and a short detour driving back and forth from the Sunshine Coast. What advantage is taken of the on-the-ocean site. Reaching into sexy Coal Harbour with its fabulous yachts, sailboats, kids in dinghies, and competitive rowers.
It looks like the building has been renovated with a west deck and some sort of a crustacean carapace over the top. I liked the original exterior better. But the Downs-Archambault interior has aged nicely and if anything is warmer and more welcoming. We sat on the protected upstairs deck in a sunny breezy spot.
Other times we have felt mildly annoyed at a being surrounded by elaborate narcissism, but this day we were impressed with the lack of the kind of aggressive raucous trendiness one finds at the also-beautiful English Bay Cactus Club. Service and atmosphere were relaxed and comfortable. We’ve never been frankly disappointed but also never blown away by the cuisine here; this time no surprise.
Deep-fried squid with shallots and a sharp aïoli was tasty but a bit short of crisp, and just slightly underdone. The heat in the sauce was lovely. Sushi was competently executed and perfectly fresh. Steak frites fries were crisp and hot, and the steak was tasty and nicely rare in spite of being a cheap cut. Beer and a glass of ever-so-slightly oxidized pinot washed it down.
Things moved slowly but that didn’t bother us because of the very pleasant surroundings. Just over $90 with a 20% tip seemed reasonable value for the experience. We will probably go back about yearly and hope this slowly-evolving little local landmark keeps getting classier, and they find a better chef…
Food 7.6, service 7.8, ambience 8.7, value 7.4.