Victoria has gone from being “one time only” to a place I can’t get enough of—for food. You don’t need a car, so Victoria’s easy to reach via Victoria Clipper or Kenmore Air. Once there, go beyond the tourist spots and you’ll discover, as I have, some pretty impressive eating options. Adding to my reports from 2010 and 2011, here are some finds from my visit earlier this year.
Local Food Tour
For those who’d like a local to provide culinary highlights of Victoria (or other parts of Vancouver Island), take a look at the Travel with Taste tours. Kathy McAree offers a wide variety of tours, and can customize more to cater to your particular group’s needs. I joined on a modified Urban Culinary Walking Tour that started at Willie’s Bakery and continued to Choux Choux Charcuterie, Hilary’s Fine Cheeses, and the Dutch Bakery & Coffee Shop.
At each stop, you get a look inside, information about the establishment (often from the owner or one of the workers), and a chance to sample some of the offerings. McAree is passionate about the culinary world, and in addition to providing an entertaining experience, she can make further suggestions of eateries to try—as when she steered me to a local farmers market to find the Cold Comfort ice cream cart.
A Tale of Two Tuna Sandwiches, Plus a Potential for a Third
My first two reports about Victoria tell the tale of my love for Fol Epi, and specifically the smoked albacore tuna sandwich sold there. One of my favorite sandwiches in the world, it’s a must-have each trip I make to Vancouver Island.
While dining at AURA (see below), I learned that the restaurant has its own version of the tuna sandwich, which turned out to be a respectable competitor. During my Travel with Taste tour, McAree mentioned that Finest at Sea is a major supplier of the smoked albacore tuna and other seafood products in town. Their little seafood market, in walking distance of AURA, is worth a visit.
And after unsuccessful attempts in previous trips, I finally made it to Red Fish Blue Fish. The lines are long, but eventually I made it to the front window, with a tough task of ordering just one item. The top recommendation was the BBQ scallop burger, which was delicious. Next time, though, I just might just try the cold smoked tuna sandwich to see how it stacks up to Fol Epi’s.
Two Dinners, a Feast, and a Place to Relax and Sleep
As with a previous visit to Victoria, I stayed at the magnificent Inn at Laurel Point. This contemporary hotel has gorgeous harbor views. I loved sitting out on the balcony and watching the boats and seaplanes on the water.
This was my first chance to eat an enjoyable dinner at the aforementioned AURA, where the food was a welcome distraction from the water views. The next night, I went to The Black Hat (note: now closed) for a rather meaty (and delicious) meal, followed by a short walk (everything’s in easy range in central Victoria) to delight in a custom drink and dessert at Veneto.
Time your trip right, and you can visit Victoria during the annual Feast of Fields event. This benefit, which supports farmers and food producers throughout British Columbia, features some of the best restaurants, breweries, wineries, and producers in the area. This year’s highlights included an “interactive” crab boil, pizza production all afternoon, emu pate, wakame spaghetti, and zany black pepper raspberry s’more macarons for dessert. You can see some of the best bites of this year’s event here. The day in the field will likely leave you full, with no need for dinner—though there’s always room for another tuna sandwich.
See the photos below for all the food photos from Victoria.
French toast at Willie’s Bakery
Inside Willie’s Bakery
Willie’s Bakery from the street…since 1887
A selection of salami at Choux Choux Charcuterie
Sampler platters at Choux Choux (the pate is amazing)
Some of the cheese at Hilary’s Fine Cheeses
The classic look of The Dutch Bakery & Coffee Shop
Vanilla slices at The Dutch Bakery
Dollar rolls at The Dutch Bakery
Tamarind ice cream (made with coconut milk) and cardamom macarons (big!) from Cold Comfort
The Cold Comfort car at the farmers market
A showcase full of smoked albacore tuna sandwiches at Fol Epi
A closer look at Fol Epi’s smoked albacore tuna sandwich
AURA’s smoked albacore tuna sandwich
A closer look at AURA’s tuna sandwich
The line at Red Fish Blue Fish, where you can easily make friends while waiting
Red Fish Blue Fish’s grilled Qualicum Bay scallop burger (with golden shallot aioli, tartar sauce, tempura dill pickle, lemon-pickled onions, and romaine hearts)
AURA’s calamari (togarashi-spiced)
A sampling of soups at AURA
Dessert trio at AURA
Daytime view at the Inn at Laurel Point
View at sundown
Dry ribs (deep-fried nuggets of pork belly with star anise salt and black pepper) at The Black Hat
The Black Hat’s grilled salad (with roasted red peppers, roasted almonds, pickled red onions, Manchego cheese, and Romesco vinaigrette)
Chef’s sampling of fried chicken livers at The Black Hat
If I’m remembering right, this is The Black Hat’s lamb on succotash
More at The Black Hat: duck with beans, braised daikon radish, house Sriracha, and duck spring roll with hoisin sauce
At Veneto, you can “spin the wheel” and have the bartender make a drink based on your preferences (here’s a “bruschetta” with whiskey, basil, and balsamic vinegar)
Veneto is a “tapa lounge” where you can also get your desserts in small portions, like this self-chosen trio
Emu pate from Amuse on the Vineyard at Feast of Fields
Marina Restaurant doing an old-fashioned crab boil at Feast of Fields