Vero Bistro, Calgary.

December 2019.

In town for a sad family funeral, we needed to (and successfully did) drown our sorrows in a really high-class brunch before getting back on the plane. This place delivers. We wish it were closer to home.

It’s not a particularly classy location or neighbourhood, next-door to a vape shop and comprising a narrow ordinary storefront. Coming in the door stomping muddy Calgary snow off we see about 35 seats, the best in the front window area, others down both sides. The décor: carmine red naugahyde quilting along one wall. We were seated right at the back at a table requiring a cardboard shim not to be tippy.

Things improved dramatically. Server was a delightful young white guy, full of kind welcoming cheer and bristling with excited knowledge about the food and wine. We were killing time and so tasted the white Piedmont that was open and then opted for the more expensive Langhe (I had to look up the white varietals of the region), quite satisfactory but for some reason almost a bit petillant, for $85.

The menu starts with “benny’s” (sic) which look creative. There were five of these, including wild boar bacon and jumbo prawns, Montréal meat and mushroom fricassee, and smoked wild sockeye salmon and jumbo prawns. Next we see Classics, including sweet potato gnocci, steak and poached eggs, and French toast (but with passionfruit & hazelnut praline, candied boar bacon, fruit). Snacks featured croissant, scallops, prawns, and a mini bao bun. Then finally “More Lunch Than Brunch” offered a salad, an agnolotti, and fish stew. Pretty mouthwatering menu for hungry strangers on a weekend morning.

We started with the bao bun which contained moist meat and was gently Asian-flavoured.

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Next Robin had the sweet potato gnocci, and I went for the touted favourite benny which was the wild boar bacon and jumbo prawns.

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The gnocci had none of the over-sweetness and mealiness typical of substituting yams for russets or yukon golds. They were soft and pliant with their gentle savoury sauce combining the contrasting duo of Gorgonzola and walnuts, sweetened up with maple butter and crunchy bits of their house boar bacon. You can see from the picture that my benny wasn’t one of the recognizable variations on the theme of the classic recipe. Down at the bottom was a lovely home-baked croissant which was succulently saturated when I broke the egg yolk, competing with crunchy savoury bacon, discernable red peppers, the prawns, and an assortment of nicely contrasting other bits and pieces. Delicious.

Server engaged us with specifics of his visits to Okanagan wineries, details of the Asian chef and her family, and plans for another restaurant nearby. We left a 25% tip for total (with an $85 bottle of wine remember) of $178.

This terrific little spot compensates Calgarians for their climate and culture, and is an absolute not-to-be-missed for visitors. If it’s still there we will be back next time we can’t avoid being in town.

Food 9.3, service 9.4, ambience 6.0, value 8.2, peace and quiet 7.8.

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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