Drifters: The Magnolia Hotel & Spa

Victoria, BC (April 2014) – SIP Northwest By Treve Ring

You’ll be forgiven for thinking that The Magnolia Hotel & Spa has been a landmark for decades. Just a few steps off of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, the boutique hotel’s stately presence, elegant architecture and understated but confident attitude has the air of time-earned authenticity. That’s what the local owners had in mind when they built the 64-room hotel from the ground up, 15 years ago. At that time, The Magnolia was Victoria’s first upscale boutique hotel as we know them; an independent, full-service property with personalized service, well-appointed public and private areas and knowledgeable, helpful staff.

Last year’s stylish guest room refurbish is just one way that general manager Bill Lewis and his cohesive staff kept the property feeling fresh and modern. Elegant and timeless pearl and silver patterns in the thick carpets, drapes, textured walls and bedding set off the local art found in each room. Every room has a deep soaker tub and ample Aveda toiletries, while the top two floors feature fireplaces alongside striking sight-lines to the regal Parliament Buildings or active waterfront.

Refillable glass bottles of filtered Vivreau water are delivered daily to guestrooms (sparkling or still and more bottles immediately upon request), a hotel decision that has saved 30,000 plastic water bottles from the landfill or depot yard. Everything at the hotel feels purposeful and well planned. One short block from the hotel and you’re in the thick of tourist central, complete with horse-drawn buggies, charming buskers and throngs of seasonal visitors. Here, though, in the calm serenity of The Magnolia, the bustle seems miles away.

The serenity is exponentially enhanced when you walk through the lobby and into Spa Magnolia. Believing that pampering and peace should be accessible to all, the spa has become the first in western Canada to provide a specially designed range of safe and effective treatments for people who have, or are recovering from cancer. On staff is an esthetician certified in clinical oncology esthetics, specifically for individuals with heath-challenged skin. Spa owner Paula Veenema was already hyper-conscious of the healing affects of spas (she is the Canadian distributor of Intelligent Nutrients, a certified organic salon and spa line) and she wanted to welcome everyone to experience some kind of healing serenity at her spa. Oncology treatments are priced at 20 percent less than standard treatments, because in her view, “our patients have enough to deal with already.”

Another outlet at The Magnolia that is welcoming to all (all who enjoy good food and drink, naturally) is Catalano Restaurant & Cicchetti Bar. Dave Craggs and Tom Ferris, the proven team behind Victoria’s institution Ferris’ Oyster Bar, took over the airy corner space last year and transformed it into a casual small plates/tapas centric spot, inspired by bites around Italy, Spain and the Mediterranean. The cicchetti are offset by mains for lunch and dinner for those looking for larger plates. Cocktails are fresh and imaginative, reflecting well the cuisine and welcoming menu. I enjoyed a trio of crostini (whipped ricotta with honey & spiced walnut, tuna crudo with preserved lemon mascarpone & pickled onion, pork rillette with dried fig, port & onion conserve) sitting at the bar on a sun-filled afternoon, talking Barcelona with Dave behind the bar. The First Train to Jerez caught my eye—a long refreshing sipper of amontillado sherry, elderflower, lemon and soda. Between 4-6pm and after 9pm, cicchetti are half price—huge incentive for ordering everything on the menu (twist my arm). I plan on returning soon for Catalano’s newly launched weekend brunch. Healthy continental choices like Mambo Italiano (melon, prosciutto, baguette with melted provolone) and Santé (scrambled egg whites, quinoa salad, Lebanese homous, grilled bread, olive oil) are worth getting out of bed for. But truly, it would all be about the local Flight of Bacon for me (whole beast maple rosemary, double smoked, two rivers lamb bacon, house made peameal, maple bourbon glazed). Brunch of champions indeed.

Maybe The Magnolia Hotel hasn’t been around for decades, but it certainly is a cornerstone property, standard-setting boutique hotel and a new Victoria classic.

The Magnolia Hotel & Spa || 623 Courtney Street, Victoria || magnoliahotel.com

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