Eating Our Way Through Victoria, and…

Hi Folks:

September was a pretty busy month for us in terms of food – and when I was at the Bengal Lounge at the Empress Hotel the other night I remembered I hadn’t written that blog post yet.  So, without further ado…

Nando’s restaurant in Victoria is on the NW corner of Pandora and Government streets, across from Centennial Square.  One quick note: while there is an emergency exit door on Pandora, one can’t enter that way.  The main entrance is around on the Government St. side.  A note in the window would help, as we redirected several parties while we were there.  Nando’s is one of those places where the aromas enticed us every time we passed, but we’d never gotten around to trying.  So we did.  The essence of Nando’s is ‘Peri-Peri chicken’, reportedly a centuries-old collaboration between Portugese sailors and their discovery of the East African Bird’s Eye Chilli.  The chicken is marinated for 24 hours and then slow-roasted over an open flame.  It’s hard to describe the atmosphere at Nando’s – more upscale (and healthier) than a fast-food restaurant, but one orders from the menu at the counter and the food is brought out to your table.  Take-out service is also available.  One can choose the level of ‘spice’ desired, from Mild-Medium-Hot to Extra Hot.  We decided on Medium, which Marcia was quite pleased with, and I took advantage of some of the hot sauces on the table.  As sides there are rice, potatoes, salads and vegetables.  The food is tasty, and while the server did come by our table once to see how we were doing, we were essentially abandoned at that point and I had to bring what was left back to the counter in order to have it wrapped for home.  In keeping with our policy of only writing about places we would visit again, this one makes the cut on the strength of the flavours.

In the middle of September we took the ferry over to Saltspring Island in order to take in the Saturday Farmer’s Market and also the Saltspring Fall Fair.  Both were wonderful; it’s been some time since either of us have been to a traditional fall fair, and the freshly made Aeropress coffee we discovered at the market was worth the wait.  We picked up some organic apples and veggies, and a taste of a Blizzard cookie sample brought us back to buy a whole one.  We had intended to go to Auntie Pesto’s Café in Ganges for a late lunch, but by the time we arrived at 3:00 we were told they were closed – quite simply because they’d run out of food.  That’s either bad planning or a serious recommendation; we’ll go with the latter and try them the next time (when the Fall Fair isn’t on!)  As an alternate we went to the Tree House Café instead.

The Tree House Café is not (to my secret disappointment) a restaurant built off the ground in a tree, but it is essentially an indoor/outdoor patio with a tree growing up through the middle of it.  Quite fun, actually.  We had a table right beside the trunk of the tree, which was handy when the rain began to fall as the leaves kept us ‘mostly’ dry.  We loved the eclectic atmosphere (so typical of Saltspring – if “typical eccentricity” is even possible) and the made-to-order lunch menu, and will definitely go again.  Maybe next time we’ll go for dinner and take in the live music on offer.

Back in Victoria, a friend invited me to dinner in exchange for some help.  We went first to Santé Gluten-Free Café on Quadra, but they were closing within 20 minutes of our arrival. Another one for the list; so many restaurants, so little time…!  Instead we went to My Thai Café on Cook Street.  A little ‘hole in the wall’ family restaurant, don’t let this dissuade you.  The food here is very good.  Again my friend and I went for ‘Medium’ on the heat level, and it was just about as much as she could stand.  If you can take the heat, they can definitely dish it out!  We’ve been to a few Thai food restaurants in Victoria and would recommend this one.

And finally, another place on our list of ‘must-dos’ was ‘Habit Coffee‘ in the Atrium at the corner of Yates and Blanshard.  They have a second location on Pandora in Chinatown but we haven’t yet been there.  We’ve been to a number of excellent coffee shops in Victoria, each one unique.  The atmosphere at Habit is definitely more urban, with a modern, industrial look.  They do make excellent coffee, and they’re serious about sustainability with everything from composting to CFL light bulb recycling and reclaimed wood used in construction.  They have a ‘Sustainability’ page on their website that explains more ways they’re going ‘green’.  Being in a building that’s targeting LEED Gold, perhaps it’s not surprising.  They also have healthy cookies and other delicious treats available.  Next time we’ll have to check out Zambri’s restaurant next door…

Okay, that’s it for now.  Wherever and whatever you’re eating today, remember to take the time to celebrate the food, the company and the very act of eating.


P.S. You can read more of our Food posts and restaurant reviews here.