After seeing Sooke Harbour House featured on Anthony Bourdain's: No reservations, Barnaby and I looked at each other and said, "We have got to go there." We love food and we love travel, so we took a culinary adventure up to Sooke Harbour on Vancouver Island to check out this famous restaurant and hotel.
Sooke Harbour House is nested on the edge of the stunningly gorgeous Whiffen Spit Beach. Its white building is surrounded by nature's art (gardens, sculptures, stone pathways) and filled with gallery art (seals carved from beach wood, paintings, more sculptures).
The restaurant is simple and comfortable, like the family beach house - albeit a very nice beach house - and has been rated “Best Restaurant in the World for Authentic, Local Cuisine” by Gourmet Magazine. Chef Edward Tuson, who has been the chef for the last 12 years, is exceptionally creative and innovative. Their menu changes daily according to what is fresh and available. In fact, the focus of their menu is on seasonal, regional (only from the Southwestern coast of the island), and organic ingredients. Even the seafood is plucked from the waters of their beautiful backyard. One would have to be a master to recreate the wheel as he does each day.
Our waiter and sommelier, Vincent, spoke with a charming Québécois lilt and looked like the younger brother of Javier Bardem. Kind, knowledgeable and unpretentious, he's just the type of server you want. After all, it's not just the food that makes a restaurant great, it's the whole package: ambiance, views, service, decor, and of course, cuisine. This place has it all, which is why I now rate it in my top 10 favorite restaurants.
I chose the following selections from their roughly $75 Canadian (excluding tax and beverages) prix fixe menu:
- Creamy Celery Root Soup with clams, summer vegetables and sundried tomato oil (shown),
- Grilled Spot Shrimp with chilled gazpacho, zucchini, corn salad, brioche toasts and chive sour cream,
- Herb Roasted Lamb Leg with nectarine, oxeye daisy salsa on potato corn cakes with braised fennel and purple cabbage.
For dessert I selected the "Three Garden Inspired Sorbets." This made me sing like a siren. Green apple rosemary, blackberry fennel seed, and apricot fruit sage. The plate was adorned with a few unusual looking deep red berries the shape and size of the tip of a child's pinky. Vincent told me they were fuschia berries. Fuschia berries! I had never heard nor seen anything like it, but come next summer I'll be watching the fuschia tree in my yard like a hawk for these sweet, delicious berries.
I long to return to Sooke Harbour House. But next time we'll book a room so we can waddle back from the restaurant. Did I mention there was a spa, too? Oh yes, I'll be there as well. Perhaps I can also join the kitchen foragers as they search the beaches and waters for the night's meal.
Another thing I'll do when I return is kiss the chef for making us beautifully delicious food as nature intended.