This small, quaint city makes a great base for exploring the south end of the island with easy walking distance to shops and restaurants. And although traffic is slow at times we didn’t find it too taxing leaving the city in the morning or returning in the evening. While there is a plethora of shops to explore I didn’t find the harbor itself particularly atmospheric. The Parliament Building, at one end of the harbor, however, is lit up like a Christmas tree at night. The two restaurants we sampled were some of best of the trip in terms of the urban vibe, quality of the food and friendly service.
Magnolia Hotel and Spa
The Magnolia Hotel and Spa is well located in Victoria’s inner harbor. The traditional hotel is easy walking distance to many of the city’s best restaurants and sights. Our upgraded room was smartly decorated and boasted harbor views. However, a construction project blocked much of the view. The room is well appointed with the standard amenities including – a Nespresso machine, creamer in the fridge, safe, iron and ironing board, etc. The wifi was good and the bed comfortable. Blackout blinds block the early morning sun.
Continental breakfast served in their restaurant is included in the price of the room or if you prefer you can apply the $10 credit to the breakfast of your choice. The same simple yet stylish décor extends to the restaurant, with high ceilings, colorful artwork and fresh flower arrangements. The continental breakfast includes – a basket of pastry, a small smoothie and Greek yogurt topped with a berry sauce and granola. Not my kind of breakfast but it was well executed. The pastries, however, were not warm. The classic breakfast included – eggs cooked to order, crispy fried potatoes, two slices of toast and sausage or bacon. All nicely prepared.
Roost Winery, Bistro and Farm Bakery
A short drive from the ferry station, Roost, with grapevines on the property, was the perfect place to stop for lunch. We were offered a taste one of their in-house wines during the short wait for a table. The interior is bright and cheery even on a dreary rainy day with high ceilings and red and white checkered table cloths.
The menu offers a selection of pizzas, salads, soups and sandwiches as well as heartier mains. We tried the salmon wrap with a spinach and berry side salad and the soup and salad combo with cream of tomato basil and the Roost salad. Service was on the slow side but the food was well prepared and tasty.
Ferris’ Upstairs Seafood and Oyster Bar
Ferris’ cozy upstairs eatery with rustic brick walls and quirky Canadian paintings oozes Victorian charm and hospitality. The menu offers a selection of seafood, both shellfish and local fish such as salmon, halibut and ling cod. For meat eaters a steak option is also available.
We started with the local Barkley Sound oysters, some of the best oysters I’ve tasted, fresh, buttery and tasting of the sea. For mains we tried the halibut with salt cod fritters – the fish perfectly cooked and the fritters fresh hot and crispy on the outside with creamy salt cod on the inside. The bouillabaisse was heavy on fish and light on shellfish with all the fish well cooked, topped with a wonderfully garlicy aioli and served with grilled toast in a saffron fish broth. Service is Canadian friendly and efficient.
Il Terrazzo Ristorante
Il Terrazzo, a popular restaurant, deserves the accolades it receives on review sites. The warm interior with exposed brick walls, kitschy decorations, potted flowers and fire places manages to make a large establishment feel cozy.
The menu offers a selection of Italian favorites. We started with the smoked tuna and seared scallops topped with a seaweed salad and served on a bed of tomato and zucchini match sticks in a ponzu sauce. For mains we tried the pasta frutti di mare, traditionally prepared to perfection and the cioppino – an odd but delicious preparation – topped with squid ink risotto and an ultra-tender panko crusted squid steak. Really two dishes in one, I couldn’t begin to finish it.For dessert we had to try the tiramisu. A perfect classic ending.
Ferry from Vancouver Island to Vancouver
This was our third ferry in the region and the first one under blue skies. Out of Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island the ferry first winds through the gulf islands. It may have been the blue skies but these islands with their rocky shores sloping down to the sea were more scenic than the San Juan Islands. Past the islands the hour-and-a-half ferry trip crosses the Straight of Georgia with snowy peaks above the BC coastline. Once on land it’s a 45 minute drive to downtown Vancouver.
For links to all the posts in this series see the Pacific Northwest page.
May 20-22, 2019