Glowbal, Vancouver.

March 2019.

I’ve driven and walked past the front of this very fancy-looking Telus Garden location dozens of times, and always wondered what the Glowbal flagship restaurant was going to be like. High-end? High-class? Sumptuous décor? Spectacular food? We went for lunch because of the “Burgermania” special, picturing foie gras, real wagyu, rich sauces, and creative use of interesting crunchy vegetables. Glowbal is billed as “Big, bold and unapologetically chaotic, this is where stripped down North American cuisine lives and breathes.”

Forget it. Chaotic and stripped down maybe, but the only things living and breathing here are several kinds of bad taste and a big up-front profit motive. The special burgers are silly, overcooked and overpriced, and the place is a shocking mess, most of the staff either behaving like they had been briefly let out of an ER psychiatric quiet room or bored and sleepy.

Approaching on foot around the Seymour and Georgia corner, a piled-up dusty storeroom space is visible through the front glass, and the main door of welded aluminum and Plexiglas looks like something from a construction site. Inside, the three-storey space smells musty and its fixtures and decoration celebrate the tired cluttered feel of inept designers working with budget restrictions in 1985.

IMG_1334

At 1:30 PM on a Tuesday it was 10% full, still loud disco-style pop was competing with a couple of tables laughing and shouting. We sat mercifully away from the human noise but right under a speaker, the banquette seats set so that the table surface hit us mid-chest.

The best part of our lunch was a nice-looking girl server who through the training clichés (How’s your day been so far?) managed to maintain a neutral cheerful demeanour and looked after us well. Her colleagues were embarrassing, one of them flirting, laughing, and leaning over to expose herself to the noisy table at the other end of the room.

Burgermania was hardly “chaotic” or maniac, instead constrained like a manic on lithium, with no substitutions permitted and subtractions allowed but no additions. We went for the Ultimate Burger (beef patty, mac and cheese, bacon, onion rings, egg, tomato, lettuce, pickle, truffle aioli with sea salt fries) and the Funky One (beef patty, spicy duck confit, pickled cucumbers, chili lime aioli, cotton candy served with tater tots poutine). The meat was lean and cooked like a liability insurer was at the grill, and the accompaniments (with the single exception of the duck confit) seemed just neutral. Cotton candy? We left it alone, apparently exactly the same pink spun sugar we used to demand at the PNE at age five.

Our bill was only $68 but we weren’t drinking. $22 each for the burgers is too much, and an eight-dollar 750 mL bottle of Perrier the same.

I remember my surprise and disappointment at the Italian Kitchen (another Glowbal “brand”) and renewed the sentiment here, in this central and potentially showy location. These people only deepen native Vancouver’s embarrassment at our city’s inability to come up with serious high-end cuisine.

Steer clear.

Food 6.8, service schizophrenic (perfectly nice or idiotically histrionic depending on which server you happen to get), ambience 5.8, value 6.2, peace and quiet around 7.0 but with a full house suspect more like a negative number.

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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