The Ontario notes come from a trip in late 2023. Beneath these you will find some notes from a previous visit where restaurants are still open as of this update. The British Columbia notes also date from a previous trip, so once again restaurants that are still open are listed but should be double checked.
Toronto: Bymark, 66 Wellington St. West
In the atrium level of a huge complex of towering skyscrapers in Toronto’s financial district, this is part of a small group of fine dining restaurants. A floor to ceiling wine cellar greets you as you enter, and a quick tour of it revealed vintages of Haut-Brion, Mouton, etc. as well as an extensive range of Canadian, US and Australian wines among a globe-spanning collection. We drank glasses of a decent Cava, then a bottle of fine local Chardonnay from Bella Terra vineyards ($86). From a long menu, I homed in on wagyu beef dumplings served with a sweet and spicy hoisin sauce. These were very good, well-filled little wontons that were juicy and soft to the fork, with a suitably tangy sauce. My main course of pasta with white tiger prawn and ‘Nduja was very good: the minced prawn had been blended with the spicy ‘Nduja into little meatballs, with well cooked pasta and a sauce rich with scorched tomatoes, cheese and white wine. For dessert I chose a ‘tiramisu trifle’ that was nothing special – a bit stodgy and to just too creamy – though my partner’s blueberry cheesecake with lemon crumb was pronounced a success. $350 including service (around £200).
Toronto: Canoe, 66 Wellington St. West
Part of the same massive complex of offices and shopping as Bymark but sitting 54 floors above at the top of the TD Tower, this is reckoned to be one of Toronto’s best and most glamorous restaurants. A tasting menu is offered at $185 per person which looked good, but we opted for a la carte on this occasion, settling in with a couple of glasses of the very good O&B Brut sparkling from Cave Spring in Niagara. Some good, seeded sourdough was served, before my first course of scallop en croute. This is in the format of a dish that I first encountered in Le Gavroche 30 years ago, the scallop, in its shell, sealed with puff pastry and baked. It was really very good, the large, meaty scallop wrapped in pancetta in a celeriac rémoulade enriched with vermouth and lobster oil. Mopping up the sauce with the pastry or bread was satisfying. To accompany our main courses, we ordered a bottle of the Malivoire ‘Mottiar’ Chardonnay from the Beamsville Bench in Ontario, lightly oaked, quite simple, but enjoyable at $89. My generous portion of wild Pacific halibut was excellent I must say. Cooked to alabaster perfection, it came with nibs of glazed globe artichoke to give crunch, Champagne cream and charred Savoy cabbage. A side dish of pomme purée was silky and creamy, cleverly topped with what I think was crisply roasted halibut skin, whizzed into a breadcrumb like crust. We shared ‘Niagara Peach’ for dessert, the local peaches sliced among sponge cake, peach crémeux, and a buttermilk sorbet inside a meringue shell. The bill for $407 ($489 once 20% service added) was the highest of the trip, but this was a lovely meal, with the astonishing light show of downtown Toronto as a backdrop from this elevated position.
Toronto: Curryish Tavern, 783 Queen St West
Indian food with a definite twist from chef Miheer Shete, born in Mumbai and “raised in kitchens,” now settled in Toronto. Prime Canadian ingredients are used along with authentic Indian spices and mixes, creating a lighter and more fragrant take on standard Indian restaurant fare. What a contrast with the business district where both Bymark and Canoe are situated. The streets of the funky Queen West district are buzzing with music and alternative stores, and I have to say, much more enjoyable to stroll along. With a bottle of limey and delicious Niagara Riesling from Stratus winery on the go, we shared two small plates: the first was Brussel sprouts pakora, served with two dipping sauces. Yes, Canadians love Brussel sprouts and I love them for that: the little orbs of joy had been blanched in a stock before deep frying in a besan (ground chickpea) batter. The second small plate was cheese curds samosa turnovers, filled with aloo masala and moong dal, or lentil-like split mung beans. We shared a main course and dessert too, as food was plentiful: butter chicken had been given a twist with the addition of seasonal butternut squash ‘spaghetti’ and served with a delightfully fresh pomegranate raita and milk-steamed jeera (cumin) basmati rice. Chicken was thigh meat, the sauce was rich, and the rice fluffy and just with enough nuttiness. We finished a really enjoyable meal that made such a refreshing change after a week of fine dining with Screech rum-soaked gulab jamun, topped with mascarpone cream and pistachio crumble. Fab food in a friendly and unpretentious setting, the bill including the $70 bottle of wine came to $155 before service.
Toronto: Kōst, BISHA Hotel, 80 Blue Jays Way
Kōst is another restaurant with a stupendous view, perched on the 44th floor of the BISHA Hotel, with panoramic 270° views from inside and/or the roof terrace, looking out over nearby Rogers Centre to the lake and city. It’s a hip sort of place with fairly loud music playing, lots of people having cocktails, and not the place for a quiet tete a tete. We booked a 1:30pm table for Saturday lunch, only to discover that at weekends the brunch menu is served until 3pm. So, passing on the pancakes and eggs benedict, we settled on Angus beef burgers, served with smoked cheddar and rather good fries, which came with house-made ketchup and Chipotle sauces. And very good they were, on a buttery brioche bun, the meaty burger cooked well. Washed down with large glasses of Sonoma Pinot Noir ($30 each) they were very satisfying. However, our terrific and attentive waitress told us just how good a particular dessert was, and boy was she right: a substantial, individual burnt Basque cheesecake, the centre of which contained marinated Montgomery cherries from Niagara. Topped with Chantilly cream and accompanied by a good Americano coffee, it was sensational. $175 before service.
Toronto: Sud Forno, 132 Yonge Street
On a rain-soaked morning we took refuge by doing some shopping in the giant Eaton Centre. Around 2pm the rain eased up and so we ventured out and stumbled upon this place for a quick lunch. Downstairs is a bakery with lots of cakes, pastries, and sandwiches, and upstairs it’s table service for straightforward Italian food, which I have to say was very good. Excellent sourdough and olive oil was served, and we drank a 50cl of Friulano ($50) before tucking into a very fine cacio e pepe, and raviolis of confit duck with a sage and butter sauce. $120 before service (around £70).
Niagara Falls: Antica Pizzeria, 5875 Victoria Avenue
Make no mistake, the area around the main street and access to the Falls is a tourist trap dump (in my opinion), full of tacky attractions and fast-food joints. What a relief then, feeling hungry after the most wet and wild boat trip out to the centre of the Horseshoe Falls, to find this place. We were just about to give up and head back to the car. A big, bustling restaurant, it delivered really good food and a decent glass of house wine. It was lunch time, so we shared a (huge) sandwich of grilled chicken with sweet, sliced pear on toasted focaccia, layered with smoked Provolone cheese and prosciutto. Not for the faint-hearted, but it was delicious, freshly cooked and plenty for two, especially when it came with a mound of crispy sweet potato fried and a spicy mayo dip. With two glasses of house white wine, the bill came to $47 before tax – around £25.
Niagara Falls: Skylon Tower Revolving Restaurant
Do not come here for the food. Obviously, we hoped that would be at least decent, but the reason we and everyone else comes here is because the circular, revolving restaurant sits more than 700 feet up with an extraordinary view of the falls, which are illuminated at night. The restaurant competes 360 degrees in one hour, and all tables have a perfect view. Dinner also gives free access to the viewing platform above, which would cost $20 per person to visit, so the high prices need to take that ‘bonus’ into account. This is basically a machine for churning through tourists, delivering pretty good diner-level food, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it as an experience. For the record, being a bit savvy about what you order is the idea: we shared some garlic bread, then had the filet mignon at $70, assuming with a decent cut of beef and competent chef it couldn’t go that far wrong. It was a good tactic: the beef was indeed as good as most steakhouses, if artlessly served with a heap of broccoli and a couple of potatoes. With large glasses of Chateau de Charmes Pinot Noir at $20 the total bill including service and tax topped out $250, around £150 at time of writing. Steak, wine and the best seats in the house for a 90-minute show. Not bad really.
Niagara-on-the-Lake: Bistro Six One, 61-63 Queen Street
Having left home at 7am and arrived 16 hours later via two flights and a drive from Toronto, we were tired, but also knew it was too early to go to bed. So we stumbled out of our hotel on Queen Street (124 on Queen – recommended) and almost opposite found the welcoming Bistro Sixty One. A large place with exposed brick and lots of dark wood giving a cosy bar-like feel, I ordered a plate of their slow braised lamb ragu with linguini. It was very good, comforting food with masses of lamb-rich tomato sauce and studded with fresh peas, topped with copious slices of Parmesan. My partner’s shrimp linguine was also well received. We had a bottle of the Cabernet Franc from Jackson-Triggs ($40) and shared a slice of caramel cheesecake. The total bill came in at $105 before service, around £63 at time of review.
Niagara-on-the-Lake: Treadwell Cuisine, 114 Queen St
Upscale is the word for this place, in terms of offering a contemporary fine-dining option in NOTL, though the ambiance is casual with the open kitchen dominating one side of the dining room and customers seated at the kitchen counter as well as regular tables. Only a four-course menu is offered, at $105 at time of my review, with three or four choices at each of the courses. It’s an impressive wine list, with a big selection of domestic and world wines, including two pages of Champagnes from growers and a good range of houses. We drank a superb local bottle: the Stonebridge “Stonebridge Vineyard” 2017 Chardonnay from Four Mile Creek. It was a fabulous, generously oaked Burgundian Meursault-like wine. Food-wise, I started with Ohme Farms’ Late Harvest Tomatoes, a feast of heirloom varieties, served with very good burrata – not sure if it was local or Italian, but quality was excellent. Next up, scallops were seared very nicely and served with a spicy corn succotash and chorizo-studded vinaigrette. I hummed and hawed over the sourdough crusted Pacific halibut for my main choice, but in the end opted for Pork Tenderloin wrapped in crispy pancetta and served over a grain mustard potato purée, little slices of pickled apple and shards of butter fried sage adding lovely flavour and texture. To finish the meal, a lighter version of sticky toffee pudding, topped with a scoop of nutmeg ice cream. The date caramel sauce could have been a little thicker, but flavour was good. In total with that bottle of wine and tax, but before service, the bill came in at $370, or roughly £200.
Niagara-on-the-Lake: Trius Winery Restaurant, 1249 Niagara Stone Rd
About 10 minutes outside of town by car, this was a terrific meal in very comfortable and upmarket surroundings within the winery barrel cellar building. The winery’s own wine feature prominently on the wine list, but there is a selection from other Niagara wineries and a sprinkling from further afield. At time of visit there’s a two-course menu at $69 or three courses at $85. Sourdough is served, and we drank 2oz tasting measures of the Trius Brut with that. My starter was really very good: a very smooth and rich chicken liver parfait had been brûléed with a disc of crunchy caramel on top and came with a little pile pistachios and Pinot Noir and honey-infused Niagara blackberries. The flavour of those was so intense, sweet but tart, the dish delicious served with rosemary flatbread. My main course was complex in construction, but precise and clean in terms of its flavours. Cornish Hen was served as breast, Prosciutto-wrapped thigh, a boneless wing bon-bon and confit leg. The juicy and succulent breast sat on a bed of Riesling sauerkraut, and around the plate were discs of Delicata squash, Niagara peach chutney, chanterelles, and a little corn polenta fritter. Lots of elements as I say, but beautifully complementary and perfectly cooked. With this we drank glasses of the Trius Wild Ferment Chardonnay which was also very good, and finishing off with coffees and biscotti, the bill of $230 including tax but before service was just fine for food of this quality in lovely surroundings.
Older Toronto Notes
Toronto: Sassafraz, 100 Cumberland Ave
I had lunch twice in Sassafraz, one-week apart. It’s a terrific people-watching spot in the posh shopping district of Yorkville, with pavement tables and a smart dining room. On both occasions I had their house burger: ground Angus tenderloin beef with molasses braised onions and nicely mature cheddar cheese, served with sweet mustard butter and a large bowl of chunky fries. This is a hip and trendy place not losing sight of really good quality food. A top spot for lunch or brunch.
Toronto: Scaramouche, 1 Benvenuto Place
A real institution, Scaramouche is rather hidden away in an apartment building (we took a taxi) and has been one of the city’s top spots for 35 years. It is in a slightly elevated position offering fantastic views of the skyline, and is an extremely good, if rather middle-aged and middle-class dining experience. The food is solidly European haute cuisine in style, and there is a fantastic wine list at approachable prices. Relaxed and confident in style, an evening here is pretty expensive and whilst it is far from cutting edge, it does what it does really well.
Older Niagara Peninsula Notes
Jordan Village: Dine On the Twenty
This restaurant forms part of the Cave Springs Wine Cellars in the village of Jordan, with the lovely Inn On the Twenty guest house just across the road. I had a tasting dinner here with winemaker Tom Pennachetti, and liked it so much I returned for lunch on my own a week later. The large dining room has a wall of windows overlooking vineyards and is serving up some serious cuisine. I started with smoked salmon and Dungeness crab, served on a little cloud of crème fresh topped with caviar, and ringed with an estate Gewürztraminer and cucumber jelly. My main courses included tasting portions of wild boar in filo, lamb and sour cherries and grilled veal sweetbreads on an apricot bread pudding.
Niagara: Vineland Estate, 3620 Moyer Road
The secret here is to reserve a table on the terrace; a stunning spot with views over the vines, then lake Ontario, then Toronto in the distance. I’m a sucker for gazpacho, and this version was vivid and delicious, served ice cold with a scoop of olive sorbet on top, and with some plump langoustine at the bottom of the bowl. My main course Prosciutto-roasted chicken was moist and tasty, served on a truffle risotto infused with sage from the kitchen garden. Vineland has a wonderful selection of old estate Rieslings available by the glass and bottle too, rounding off a fine destination.
Niagara: Hillebrand Winery, 1249 Stone Road
Housed in the heart of the winery, with views to the barrel cellar on one side and the vines on the other, Hillebrand’s restaurant is a smart, chic and beautiful spot. My most memorable dishes (each drunk with a wine by the glass suggested on the menu) included fresh mussels steamed with sparkling wine and served with rocket, hazelnut and rosemary salad and goat’s cheese grilled crostini, and a wonderfully simple but delicious dish of vanilla-scented saffron lobster risotto, studded with chunks of white lobster meat. Puddings are also extremely good here, memorably a Niagara peach tart tatin served with praline ice cream.
Vancouver: Le Crocodile, 909 Burrard St.
I was very disappointed with this meal I am sad to report, having so looked forward to dining at one of the city’s most renowned French restaurants. Knowing that Michel Jacob has been behind the stoves for 30 years since moving here from Strasbourg in Alsace (where a famous 3* namesake restaurant was his inspiration), I was expecting great things. The dining room is pleasant in a slightly old fashioned way. We were seated and served with what in all honesty might well have been the best dish of the evening, a little amuse bouche of a miniature Dungeness crab tart that was feather light and delicious, the filling encased in almost ethereal pastry. Settling in with glasses of gewürztraminer from the Pfaffenheim cooperative In Alsace, my first course of lobster tempura and grilled scallops was pretty good, though the batter could have been a little crunchier. The main course really was a bit of a disaster: grilled veal medallions with veal demi-glace and morel mushrooms was, I suppose, just that: two slabs of veal that were not particularly tasty, with a mound of reconstituted dried morels and an absolute sea of sauce. It was so old fashioned and artless, truly something from a bygone era. A sad collection of vegetables was certainly not chosen with great thought – my partner has exactly the same along with rack of lamb, again swimming in a pool of sauce.
Vancouver: Fable Kitchen, 1944 West 4th Ave.
The undisputed dining highlight of Vancouver was Fable. In a large, brick-walled and buzzy dining room in the trendy Kitsilano district not far from Granville island, we immediately got good vibes from the menu, welcoming service and buzz of the room. The menu and wine list are both short affairs in a single side of paper. “Canned Tuna” transpired to be a pot of chunks of Albacore tuna with lemon oil, tomato and potato given crunch from some crispy croutons. Heirloom tomato and goat’s curd salad was a highlight, rich with peppery olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar, studded with tiny pieces of sun-dried tomato. For my main course Halibut & Chorizo was served on a chowder of mussels, tomatoes and fennel. We drank the excellent Joie Farm White noble blend from a short but well-chosen list, and finished up with coffees and ‘Daily Sweet Bites’ – in this case a plate of macaroons, deconstructed brownies and meringues. A fab evening of casual but hugely fresh and sophisticated food.
Vancouver: Trees Organic Coffee Roasters and Café, 450 Granville St.
Fantastic spot, open from early for terrific fresh-baked goods (feta and spinach scones!) and great coffee, then soups, quiches and salads all organic and all fabulous. Cheesecakes (awarded best cheesecake in the city by Straight magazine) with a coffee is a shopped out and kackered tourist’s dream. Inexpensive.
Whistler: Nita Lake Lodge, 2131 Lake Placid Rd.
Creekside is one of Whistler’s communities, just a couple of miles from the main Whistler village with its ski lifts, shops and restaurants. We liked the look of the Nita Lake lodge and were not disappointed with its lakeside setting, large comfortable rooms with fireplaces, huge soaking tubs and balconies. We decided to try the fine dining restaurant, Aura, which had positive reviews on a number of web sites and which, to our delight, also provided a fine meal. I see that as of 2023 ‘Aura’ no longer exists, replaced by ‘The Den’. For that reason, I have removed the rest of my review.
Kamloops: Oriental Gardens, 545 Victoria St.
On our return from the Rockies Kamloops was an overnight stop and this large oriental restaurant in downtown served up good food. It specialises in both Cantonese and Japanese cuisine, with separate sushi bar, Tatami Room serving Japanese cuisine, complete with sunken seating, and a large, general restaurant where diners may choose from any of the pan-oriental menus. We started with tempura prawns that were succulent and plentiful, though the dipping sauce was disappointingly watery. Dishes of boneless almond chicken and beef teriyaki worked well, washed down with some good pale ale from Okanagan Springs.
Jasper: Cassio’s Italian Restaurant, 602 Connaught Drive
This large place on the main street in Jasper was fantastically average. Décor is anonymous 1980s corporate and food is generic Italianate with zero originality or authenticity: plenty of sloppy sauces and approximately-cooked pasta, served by seen-it-all-before waiting staff who are clearly churning through the tourists. I guess I found this place doing what it does every night of the week in this tourist town gateway to the Rockies. The wine list is rubbish too with neither vintage nor, very often, producer listed. Hopefully it has improved since my visit.
Jasper: Japer Pizza Place, 402 Connaught Drive. Phone: 780 852-3225
On a surprisingly balmy September evening we chose to have pizza on the open-air rooftop terrace of this casual dining place on the town’s main street. This was so much better as an experience than Cassio’s with friendly but low-key service and good, honest food served quickly. OK, the starter we shared of sweet yam fries with dipping sauces was not terribly good (the fries were clearly cooked from frozen), but the pizzas were really good with wafer-thin bases from the wood-fired oven, copious tasty toppings and lots of flavour. Washed down with our waiter’s recommendation for a really good local beer – the Hop Circle from Phillips Brewing of Victoria which was excellent – this was a really enjoyable evening as the sky above us filled with stars.
Banff: Evergreen, The Royal Canadian Lodge, 459 Banff Ave.
It’s tough to write this review, because we had a dire service experience here with a front of house melt-down leading to many errors and seriously huge delays. A formal email of complaint outlining these to the hotel and food and beverage manager resulted in an acknowledgement of failings and reduction in the bill, along with a promise that this was not their usual standard of performance. So let’s leave the details of that to one side and concentrate on the food, which was actually pretty good. A long, open kitchen runs down one side of the dining room, were industrious chefs seemed to be cooking most dishes from scratch. Of our starters, my roasted fennel and goat’s cheese parcel salad was very good: little filo sacks of a mild curd cheese, but lots of flavour to the salad with toasted almonds adding texture and flavour. However my partner’s crab cakes were disappointing, mushy, with a non-descript flavour. My main course was also very good: seared Pacific char – a white fish with a salmon like texture – set over a braised cabbage and creamy mash with a Chardonnay sauce. To finish we could not resist English sticky toffee pudding – a very good (and sizeable) version with plenty of dates and flavour, a suitably rich toffee sauce and house-made vanilla ice cream. If the service had been better, I could recommend Evergreen.
Banff: Eden, The Rim Rock Resort, 300 Mountain Ave.
This meal cost twice as much as any other dinner in our two week trip, but to be honest it was at least twice as good. Other places, like Fable in Vancouver or the Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler, provided excellent meals of international standard, but this was the full Michelin 2* or 3* experience, up there at the French Laundry and Gordon Ramsay end of sophistication. The dining room has magnificent views of Banff’s mountains, and though there is a clamour for window tables (only guaranteed for those dining very early), in fact all tables enjoy the panorama. We settled into our super-comfy leather club chairs and the now familiar (for top end places) ‘chariot’ of sparkling wine and Champagne appeared. We enjoyed glasses of Schlumberger sekt from Austria. First up was a little taster of a local shrimp, cooked on a hot stone at the table and served with an ice wine foam. The delicate flavours were lovely with the seared edges of the otherwise lightly cooked shrimp. The playful amuse bouche was a real treat: English afternoon tea interpreted as a cup of pear and tree bark tea, and a tiered cake stand of miniature scones, cakes and macaroons, but all savoury versions with goat’s cheese sandwiches and pork rillette scones for example. For my first course proper I chose seared Quebec foie gras, which came in a light broth of sweet Alphonso mango and eucalyptus, on a plinth of gingerbread pain perdu. It was excellent I have to say, with a basket of home made brioche and breads and house-smoked and goat’s butters, as well as whipped olive oil. With this we drank Alois Kracher’s Beerenauslese. My main course was also terrific: Pura Vida Farm’s Angus beef, served as a tenderloin steak, confit tongue and two little pastry shells filled with a softly braised shin. My partner’s lamb was also beautifully done, and a half bottle of Fonteruttoli’s 2005 Chianti Classico was perfect with both. The delicate accompaniments were slices of potato baked in ash, grilled lettuce hearts and summer truffle. For dessert, ‘Citrus’ was slivers of citrus fruit served with basil seeds and olive oil & thyme pound cake. We polished off the Beerenauslese with this and a selection of French and Quebec cheeses before coffee and petite fours. This was an outstandingly good meal, full of surprise as well as flavour. As we left with our take-away gift of delectable chocolate covered banana loaf (which constituted breakfast next morning) we were very satisfied indeed.
Banff: Maple Leaf Grill, 137 Banff Ave.
The Maple Leaf Grill occupies a large corner site on Banff’s main street, with a cool downstairs bar where food is also served at loungey coffee tables, and with a large upstairs dining room with a ski lodge-like atmosphere. We were worried by several very large groups dining as we entered, but in fact we were shown to a little tucked-away corner of couples and foursomes that was not impacted too badly by this at all. Specialising in Canadian cuisine based around game, seafood and beef, we ate late after a very long day, so decided on just a main course. I chose pork tenderloin, and having pursued the extensive wine list (Wine Spectator ‘Award of Excellence’), a half bottle of the excellent Chardonnay from Kettle Valley Winery. The pork dish was really first class: two thick slices of tender pork had been crusted with apple and grain mustard, and charily grilled on the edges, whilst remaining moist and meaty in the centre. They sat on a bed of excellent mashed potato, with a jus enriched with apple and with steamed greens of asparagus and broccoli. It was a soulfully delicious, unpretentious dish with great flavour.
Banff: The Bison, 211 Bear St.
Another of Banff’s most highly-rated dining rooms, Bison sources the vast majority of its ingredients from Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan farms. As the name suggests, game is big here. The upstairs dining room has comfortable, clubby chairs and the typical Banff mountain lodge feel with exposed stone and wood dominating the décor. It affords really good mountain views. Our friendly waitress brought very good bread from the local Wild Flower artisan bakery and I quickly settled on a bottle of Cabernet Franc from Vinelands estate in Niagara. To begin, I chose a carpaccio of bison, served with a generous sprinkling of pickled wild mushrooms, some torn chunks of buffalo mozzarella and plenty of good olive oil. It was delicious, the wafer-thin slices of meat melting in the mouth and the bread great for mopping up the garlicky oil. Continuing my foray into bisonology, I settled on the house bison burger which proved to be a great choice. Served on a focaccia bun from Wild Flower, the meat was supremely moist and packed with flavour, served with a ‘secret’ sauce (something not unlike a slightly spicy or mustardy mayo) and the usual burger accompaniments and a bowl of hand-cut fries with house-made ketchup on the side. This was really good food and the bill moderate.
Kelowna: Bouchons Bistro, 1180 Sunset Drive
Kelowna is the main town to the north of the Okanagan valley, and a great base for exploring the region. I confess to being a little tired and jet-lagged when eating here, but I recall the dining room as a very smart take on an upmarket French bistro, with lots of polished wood, lamps and mirrors, and sophisticated versions of French country cooking. I had a rabbit casserole here, authentically slow cooked with plenty of Dijon mustard, which was spot on. I’d like to have done this restaurant more justice, and would go back again like a shot.
Cedar Creek Winery, 5445 Lakeshore Road
Just south of Kelowna. Cedar Creek produce some of the best wines in Canada, and they can be enjoyed with some really good food on the lovely terrace restaurant during the summer months. A platter of marinated vegetables, seafood, local cheeses and charcuterie was a very nice grazing first course as the sun beat down on the vineyards one lunchtime, and the herb-crusted wild salmon that followed was very nicely cooked, and served with pungent aioli and a terrific salad with Asian influenced flavours.
Quail’s Gate Winery, 3303 Boucherie Road
Not far from Kelowna. My meal here was superb. The restaurant has a lovely, broad patio overlooking Lake Okanagan, with overhead heaters to take the chill off the night air. I luxuriated over an eight-course tasting menu here, which was full of highlights, but as of 2023 I see only a la carte is available, so the food offering has changed, therefore I have removed the rest of my review.
Mission Hill Winery Terrace, 1730 Mission Hill Road
Not far from Kelowna. Mission Hill is an architecturally stunning winery set majestically above the Okanagan with a gorgeous terrace offering panoramic views. We ate the four-course tasting menu one lunchtime, with an estate wine matched against each course. To start with a Tempura of prawns and heirloom tomato salad was crisp, flavoursome and beautifully light, washed down with a glass of Pinot Blanc. An Acorn squash soup had been flaked with rainbow trout and new potatoes to form a stew that was rich, yet not at all heavy. Braised lamb shanks, succulently falling off the bone, were served with a ragout of wild mushrooms and matched nicely to the 2003 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Finally, a tart tatin made from estate-grown pears was absolutely delicious, served with orange caramel, pecan ice cream and a glass of Riesling icewine. One of the best meals and most spectacular settings of my trip.
Hillside Estate Winery, 1350 Naramata Road
Close to Penticton. As an antidote to all that high-class dining, Hillside’s rustic restaurant offers a very laid back approach and some terrific no-nonsense food in its Barrel Room bistro. Wild boar terrine was chunky and wholesome, served with a black cherry chutney, which I followed with some linguine, which came with an Asian inspired ginger and chilli-spiked sauce.
Nk’Mip Cellars, 1400 Rancher Creek Road
Near Osoyoos on the US border, Nk’Mip (pronounced ‘Ink-a-meep’) is the winery and cultural centre of a unique winery part-owned and run by the Osoyoos Indian band. The patio restaurant is terrific, with great views, live aboriginal music, and a red-hot (in more senses than one) barbecue in the corner turning out copious platters of grilled bison and huge tiger prawns on foot-long skewers. Highly recommended.
Burrowing Owl Winery, Black Sage Road
South of Oliver. Burrowing Owl is a very smart winery in the south of the valley. Something about my dinner here just missed the mark, but I’m prepared to believe I was having as much of an off night as they were during a long, sometimes tiring trip. The food was ambitious and on the haute side of cuisine, and the airy dining room was thoroughly pleasant, so I certainly wouldn’t be put off dining there again if in the area.