YAM Magazine’s restaurant issue is out, and they have named The Courtney Room Victoria’s Best New Restaurant!
“Our favourite new restaurant is The Courtney Room in the Magnolia Hotel, a stylish bistro that embodies Parisian flavour. From the oyster bar in the casual main level, to chef Sam Harris’ smoked duck salad, leek vichyssoise and dry-aged steaks in the dining room upstairs, there’s a lot to explore in this modern, French-inspired menu. And with a $1.5 million renovation under its belt, it’s simply a stellar spot to dine out.”
Vancouver Magazine – By Stacey McLachlan
Got 48 hours to kill in B.C.’s capital city? We’ve got a few suggestions.
If our experiences are any indication, Victoria should really adopt the motto, “Why aren’t you here more often?” It’s the sort of place that, thanks to its careful blend of foodie sophistication and small-town charm, makes you wonder why you haven’t been spending all your weekends on the island. Here’s where to eat, stay and play next time you’re in town.
The Empress may get all the glory, but Magnolia Hotel—steps away from basically everything—is the true crown jewel of Victoria’s hotel offerings. Rooms are understated but elegant (the fireplace! the down pillows!) and bathrooms come stocked with L’Occitane toiletries. It’s within walking distance from pretty much any worthwhile resto, but the recently opened (and quite excellent) Courtney Room—helmed by Agrius alum Chef Sam Harris—is right downstairs with its mashup of West Coast locavorism and classic French fare, so you can stumble down for a platter of house-cured charcuterie or duck fat potatoes without even putting on a coat. If you’re ready to venture further afield, borrow on of the hotel’s bikes and its curated maps that plot routes of the city’s breweries or tea lounges for you.
It’s no surprise that the winner for Best Victoria at this year’s Restaurant Awards would be on our checklist for a perfect weekend in Vic, but we’re about to get a little crazy and slate Agrius for brunch, not dinner. It’s the best time to maximize your intake of their bread—made in-house at the attached bakery, Fol Epi—and to tuck into beautifully plated dishes that put Vancouver’s brunch game to shame: sourdough French toast with cardamom ice cream, heirloom bean tempeh and daily terrines.
Come dinner, though, you’d be well served to snag a table at locally focused Olo in Chinatown, and put yourself at the mercy of chef/owner Brad Holmes. A tasting menu (five courses at $68 per head, with wine pairing an extra $40) might result in plates of alder smoked salmon with culture cream and beets, dreamy potato gnocchi served up in a bed of pea puree and black garlic sauce, or an asparagus salad that will make you question what the point of every other vegetable is.
Phillips’ newly expanded tasting room, opened this May, is rowdy and friendly—the perfect spot to mingle with locals at long wooden tables, Solaris white peach ale in hand. If none of the 16 taps are speaking to you, you’ve got options: the brewery recently began dabbling in the fine art of distilling under their Fermentorium label, producing a stand-out gin infused with hand-foraged B.C. botanicals (think fir, cascade hops and lavender in addition to juniper) that makes for a fine G&T when paired with Phillips’ Soda Works dry tonic. Pair whatever you’re sipping with a cheese board for optimum results.
The compact Little Jumbo is a hive of activity when night falls, with bartenders shaking, stirring and garnishing at dizzying speeds to whip up selections from their creative drinks menu. Beets by Jumbo pairs bourbon and bointreau with golden beets (!), honey and horseradish; A Convicted Melon adds coconut balasamic and molé bitters to tequilla. Grab a seat at the bar and try to keep up with the action.
Victoria holds tight to its British heritage in many ways, but the city’s obsession with tea time is the most obvious one. Embrace it, whether planning a full-fledged tea crawl or hitting up a few key spots at which to sip the afternoon away. Skip the touristy Empress tradition and instead make your way to the shabby-chic Venus Sophia tea room, which offers a High Tea experience that’s less Queen Liz, more Princess Kate: pick a pot (rose black tea, anyone?) to pair with a tiered platter of treats (delicate lemon tarts, crustless strawberry-and-marscapone sandwiches).
Down the street at Silk Road Tea, tea is regarded as less of a Sunday afternoon treat-yo’self experience and more as a wellness product—though the on-site spa treatments certainly split the difference. Stock up on Detox Wellness Tea (a blend of dandelion, nettle, rosemary and blueberry leaf), ginseng and ginger root Chinese green tea, or cedar-and-pine-infused bath salts. Silk Road has been in operation since the early ’90s, helmed by Daniela Cubelic (Canada’s “Queen of Tea,” says the Globe and Mail) and dedicated to organic growing practices and preaching the gospel of antioxidants.
V2V ferry departs right from the convention centre and drops you off three hours later in downtown Victoria, and is more of a cruise than a ferry: the seats kick back into recliners, staff deliver wine, beer and three-course meals right to you and if there needs to be a detour to see pods of orcas playing in the waves, so be it. Sure, it’s a slower journey than a seaplane or even BC Ferries, but the downtown-to-downtown car-free convenience and scenic route make you wonder what’s so great about the rush, anyways.
Back in January, Matt and I got to take off to somewhere that’s very near and dear to our hearts: beautiful Victoria! As you might already know, we started dating there 9 years ago (more on our story with a special Flytographer shoot that we got to experience while in Vic next Friday!), so needless to say it’s somewhere we really love. Even if I hadn’t gone to university, met my longterm partner and had basically the best uni experience ever there, I would still be head over heels for Victoria though, and I think that’s really evident once you watch the video below – hit play then carry on reading the rest of my guide!
It’s got history and it’s got elegance through and through, but it’s also becoming an increasingly young city, with lots of cool restaurants, bars, pubs, festivals and cafes sitting side-by-side with Victoria institutions. For those of you who don’t know, Victoria is the capital of BC so it’s also home to our provincial government HQ’s, and it’s named after Queen Victoria so like its namesake, it’s got an element of British charm. Whether it’s the famed gardens throughout the whole city to it lovely cobblestoned alleyways, it’s got that Brit vibe while also being home to a thriving multicultural scene (its Chinatown is the first one in all of Canada!).
Needless to say, we had the best time ever visiting our old hometown with Tourism Victoria. It’s all in that video above but wanted to make sure I shared even more tips so that you’re fully prepared for your next trip there! Just a note as well that while Vancouverites have likely headed out to Vic, for those visiting Vancouver or the west coast of Canada for the first time, you must pencil in Victoria as well! And you’ll see in one moment just how easy it is to get there, so without further ado…
How to get there
Harbour Air has to be one of my absolute favourite ways to travel. Not only do you get the most incredible views on your way to your destination (and I mean, you can’t really beat views in the west coast – always takes my breath away) but the whole travel experience is beyond easy, efficient and just downright lovely. Check in right in downtown Vancouver’s Coal Harbour (another major plus, central locations are so key!) and relax in the luxe Harbour Air lounge until you board. Hop on the sea plane (super cozy despite its petite size!) and then make sure you have your camera ready because you’ll want to document the whole trip. From stunning views of Vancouver on take off to beautiful island and coastal views on the 30 minute trip to Victoria, I can promise you’ll be enthralled the whole time. And there’s something about travelling in a sea plane that I find very soothing! Again, all around the trip is 30 minutes which sure beats the hours-long journey on the ferry (I did that journey far too many times as a student) and not only is it more efficient, but incredibly beautiful and comfortable. Can’t recommend Harbour Air enough!
What to see
Victoria is an incredibly walkable city and mercifully minimal on the hill front so while you should have comfy shoes on (especially if you do one of Magnolia Hotel’s city tours on foot or bike [PS they have bikes at your disposal to use for the day]), don’t worry about needing to sort out transportation – your own two feet or bike should be all that you’ll need! Start at the harbour and wander along the parliament building’s front lawn, visit the beautiful harbour and keep your eyes peeled for seals or stop by the museum! Then take in the historic downtown centre, which is so beautiful and really easy to meander around. Take in some serious Victoria institutions dotted along the Bastion Square area or Trounce Alley (Irish Times was a staple when we were younger, as was Pagliacci’s for Italian!) then head towards Chinatown. As I mentioned above, Victoria’s Chinatown is the first in Canada and you can really get a sense of history as you wander its streets, dipping into the famed Fan Tan Alley off of Pandora to check out the eclectic shops there. Continue east to take in some of the newer developments happening in Vic near Rock Bay – so many cool breweries, cafes, etc!
Where to stay
I adore Magnolia Hotel. Located right in the centre of downtown, it’s close to everything but because it’s tucked up just on Courtney Street, you feel like you have a little sanctuary in town. I’ve stayed here twice and I’m always so impressed by their stunning decor, their beautiful views of the harbour and city, their pillow-like beds and serious attention to detail. Take their city guides for instance – I love that they take on the work of planning out themed itineraries for their guests so that they can have the best possible experience in Victoria, from the brewery tour that Matt and I did to Bikes, Beans & Blooms (dying to do this in the summer!) and the Tapa Trail tours! Speaking of tapas, their in-hotel restaurant Catalano Restaurant & Ciccheti Bar provides the perfect first stop for a Mediterranean culinary experience – love all their tapas and their breakfast is incredible too. Really can’t recommend it enough!
Where to eat
There are so many great places to eat in Victoria but I have to say our experience at Nourish Kitchen & Cafe this time around really blew us away. It was literally one of the best meals we’ve ever experienced. In a beautiful James Bay heritage house, you immediately feel as if you’re walking into a good friend’s house (albeit a beyond beautiful house!). From the bone broth bar (which was so perfect as we were freezing) to its selection of local and absolutely delectable appies and entrees (their cashew cheese has forever changed my life), you get to really walk through Victoria plate by plate, getting to try beyond fresh dishes that are all created with local produce and ingredients. Their selection of drinks was also unparalleled and got us so excited to try some local breweries and mead (yes mead!) producers. You must go. Trust me.
As mentioned above, we also got to experience both tapas and breakfast at Catalano and were blown away by both. We also had breakfast at Blue Fox Cafe (a serious Victoria institution) on our last day and absolutely loved it. Discover Coffee was our favourite pick for an afternoon pick-me-up and we really loved Parachute’s eclectic offering of ice creams (and think this would be the perfect spot for a summer treat if you took on biking the city, which you really should!).
Not pictured was our trip to UVic where I got to go back to my favourite desk in the library (such a nerd), walk around the SUB and by all our buildings. I know it’s not for everyone but I’m someone who truly loved being in school. I wish I could go back to university all the time for another degree but since it wouldn’t really apply to my current career, keep putting it off…one of these days though! I’m just a naturally scholastic type and those years where all I really had to do was to learn as much as I could, hang out with my friends, bike to the beach and work a couple shifts a week at Cactus Club were some of the best years of my life. I just get so overwhelmed with emotion whenever I go back and have all those amazing memories come back, and I’ll always love this special town so much. A big, huge thank you to Tourism Victoria for such an amazing experience and again, can’t stress enough how much you’ll fall for this town – you must visit!
Make sure you’re subscribed to my YouTube channel for even more travel diaries, beauty tutorials, style tips and so much more! I have some really special fitness/health content coming your way next week, can’t wait to share it! And with that, happy Friday everyone! Have an amazing weekend!
Published February 17, 2017 by Alexandra Grant on To Vogue or Bust
Vancouver had the worst snowy weather this winter so we just wanted to go somewhere to get some fresh air. Going on the Island is a great choice for us given the distance is short and we haven’t been to Victoria for a very long time. We will soon post our itinerary – 48 hours in Victoria for our recommendations of places to go. Don’t forget to check it out!
For us romantic getaway is a matter of having a comfortable stay and spending quality time together. The home away home at Magnolia Hotel & Spa is the perfect place for us. We just wanted to relax, unwind and escape from snow, this luxurious boutique hotel checks off all our requirements .
The room we had on the top floor has charming interiors, king sized bed and gorgeous postcard view of Parliament Buildings and Harbour. With a comfortable couch and lounge chair by the fireplace, we could sit there all day to watch the sun goes down and Parliament Buildings light up while sipping our Prosecco. Small nice touches like warm welcome at reception, having our bed made ready and chocolates on the bed side tables make the entire experience personal and memorable. I really like how the hotel is tastefully decorated and not overly done. The property may not be the most extravagant like the ones you find in Vegas. But that’s how I like my travel accommodation to be… cozy and elegant.
We spent most of the time cozy up in our room, just didn’t want to rush our vacation. We took the itinerary lightly to visit a few places around Downtown and they are all within 10-15 mins by walk. If we chose not to deal with the miserable weather, there are a handful of good reviewed restaurants like 10 Acres Bistro and specialty cafe Pour Coffee just right around the corner.
Of course the best activity of slow travel is to have a delicious brunch! Their restaurant and room service menu offer great selection of hot breakfasts and my favourite is the stuffed waffles with smoked bacon and swiss cheese with maple syrup…..so yummy!!! I wish that’s how I start my day every day.
Will and I got fully recharged after this relaxing weekend, I feel like it’s too short and I haven’t got the time to indulge in their Spa. I wish I can come back in summer time to see more about this beautiful city and look forward to trying their Spa service upon our next visit to Victoria.
by Vivian Low on Wisteria Voyage
British Columbia is the perfect destination for a winter weekend getaway. It’s small enough to manage in a short time period, but offers enough activities and delicacies that you end up having more choices than time. It’s one of those destinations that wins your heart and warrants multiple visits. Here are five things to do on your cozy winter Victoria holiday.
Helijet and the Clipper
Getting there is part of the fun of a Victoria holiday. There are several modes of transport, but two are especially fun and noteworthy, Helijet and the Clipper. Helijet Helicopter Service is quick and easy, taking only 30 minutes from Vancouver. A flight on Helijet offers magnificent arial views of both cities and the San Juan islands below. The advantage of taking Helijet is that they can fly in inclement weather that would otherwise delay or cancel other modes of transport. They can fly in conditions that would be a no-go for airplanes, for instance. Helijet has an excellent safety record, a lovely lounge to enjoy, and friendly service.
The Clipper is a high speed ferry that provides a more leisurely route to and from Victoria. You can play cards, enjoy snacks and beverages, and take in island views from the water. When you first sail into Victoria, it’s a beautiful perspective of the city. From Seattle, the Clipper takes about two hours and forty-five minutes to get to Victoria.
Magnolia Hotel & Spa
The Magnolia Hotel & Spa is a boutique luxury hotel located near the Inner Harbor, within walking distance to many of Victoria’s main attractions. With 64 rooms, it’s the perfect hotel choice for people who want to be near the action, but prefer a low key, intimate setting.
The lobby is welcoming and festive with complimentary hot beverages, cookies, and live piano music. Rooms are cozy with fireplaces, soothing muted colors, and plush furnishings. Some rooms have views of the Inner Harbor, which you definitely want to enjoy.
Afternoon tea at Venus Sophia
Any trip to Victoria should include at least one Afternoon Tea experience. Venus Sophia is a local favorite and also vegetarian, so it offers something a little different. Decor is bohemian-eclectic with bicycles on the walls, exposed piping and bricks, fresh flowers, and quaint surroundings. Afternoon Tea consists of a tiered server filled with miniature sandwiches, scones, homemade jam, and a selection of fine teas. Venus Sofia aims to prepare food with local, organic ingredients.
The Butchart Gardens
The Butchart Gardens offers year round seasonal displays. It’s a magical stroll through colorful gardens that are easily accessible via bus from the Inner Harbor. Several dining options are available from casual to more upscale. Afternoon Tea at Butchart Gardens is excellent, served in a beautiful atrium-like setting. The Butchart Gardens are a Victoria classic and provide a nice way to get outside enjoy a wonderful family friendly activity pleasing to all age groups.
Royal BC Museum
This is one museum that is worth taking time out to gain some local knowledge. The Royal BC Museum is a gorgeous museum that offers thrilling life size exhibits. It’s the perfect thing to do in inclement weather, and you may find it so fascinating you want to linger, so be sure to allow plenty of time. This is a kid friendly museum with interactive displays and spectacular exhibitions including First Nations poles, artwork and utilitarian items.
by Leah DeAngelis in A Luxury Travel Blog
Trick-or-treating may have stopped in childhood but celebrating a haunted Halloween never gets old. VITAdiscovered there’s no better way to get your Halloween thrills and chills than in historic Victoria with a stay at The Magnolia Hotel. Throughout October the Magnolia Hotel is offering guests a Room with a Boo package and so we opted for bikes instead of brooms and headed to Vancouver Island to check out what treats the Magnolia Hotel is handing out this Halloween.
It must be said: biking to Victoria from Vancouver is the perfect start to a Halloween themed getaway. By braving the elements and cycling through hidden neighbourhoods and down old country roads you’re guaranteed to sight a few ‘haunted’ houses and real scarecrows. My boo (see what we did there?) and I highly recommend the Lochside Regional Trail, which will take you straight from the Swartz Bay ferry terminal to downtown Victoria.
The Magnolia Hotel is located steps from Victoria’s Inner Harbour and the best boutique shopping and restaurants. The hotel kindly stored our bikes upon arrival and we were greeted in the lobby with delicious pumpkin spiced tea to warm us up after our very wet, 90 kilometre ride. Our room on the sixth floor had an amazing view of the harbor as well as of historic buildings in downtown Victoria but even better than the view was the in-room fireplace and huge soaker tub.
The concierge handed us a map of The Magnolia Hotel’s curated trails program, which with the use of complimentary hotel bikes, takes you on a lovely tour of Victoria hotspots. Included in the Room With A Boo package is a guided ghostly walk for two with Discover the Past Walking Tours, led by one of Victoria’s foremost storytellers, John Adams. With his tales of ghosts and ghouls haunting Victoria’s historic sites, even if you don’t believe in the unseen, you’ll leave educated about Victoria’s grisly past.
After all that fresh air and exercise we were treated to a dinner at Victoria’s Olo Restaurant. Farm-to-Table can be used to describe plucking a few greens from your backyard but Olo Restaurant takes the concept to a whole new level. The Olo kitchen is filled with quality B.C. ingredients including an emphasis on Island-raised whole animals and sea fare caught in local waters. We sampled a five-course menu which included a succulent octopus plate that even though chef and owner Brad Holmes described the octopus as the “by-catch” of crab traps, we thought this sea critter was a main event on the menu. Each plate was perfectly paired with a unique wine and ended with desert featuring fennel ice cream, which still has us licking our lips.
The next day we explored the rest of what downtown Victoria has to offer. Our walk led us to Silk Road Tea store where we drank cold organic tea mixed with eyeballs (Longan fruit), a spectacular tea based apple cider, and a cold drink made from their Chocolate Panda mix where if you add almond milk and a bit of alcohol at home, you’ve got a Bailey’s with health benefits.
Because treats at Halloween are a must (and we can only take so much candy from the kids) we also indulged in Magnolia’s turndown service that delivered Halloween themed chocolates by local Roger’s Chocolates.
The Room With A Boo package at Magnolia Hotel delivers all the trick or tweets necessary to demonstrate that Halloween can be fun no matter what your age, so book now and be prepared to be scared!
by Michelle Gadd with VITA Daily
Victoria’s leading boutique hotel continues to triumph in 2016’s annual international travel awards, this time securing the position of #2 hotel in Canada (excluding Vancouver) in the 29th annual Conde Nast Traveler 2016 Reader’s Choice Awards with a score of 95.93.
Moving up from #4 position in the 2015 awards to their highest position yet, the 64-room boutique Magnolia Hotel & Spa continues to be recognized as one of the finest in the country for service excellence and guest experience. Quebec’s Manoir Hovey secured the well-deserved top spot and Victoria was ranked as #7 top city in the world.
“We are truly honored to be in such incredible company as one of Canada’s top hotels,” says Magnolia Hotel & Spa’s general manager, Bill Lewis. “I can’t thank our guests enough for continuing to recognize our hotel as one of the best in the world.”
The Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards are the longest-running and most prestigious recognition of excellence in the travel industry and recognize the very best of travel. Over 300,000 dedicated readers – nearly twice as many as last year – cast votes for 7,394 hotels, 606 cities, 500 cruise ships and 236 islands. The result? The 1,402 best travel experiences in the world.
The Awards will be announced in the November issue of Condé Nast Traveler, on newsstands nationwide on October 25, 2016 with the full list published exclusively online at www.CNTraveler.com/rca.
About The Magnolia Hotel & Spa
Just steps from Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour, The Magnolia Hotel & Spa wins over guests with its unbeatable location and service. #2 in the Conde Nast Traveler 2016 Reader’s Choice Awards, #7 in the Travel + Leisure World Best Awards 2016 – Top Hotel in Canada, and consistently recognized by Forbes, Conde Nast Johansens and in the annual TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice® awards, the Magnolia Hotel & Spa is one block from the Inner Harbour and the city’s best restaurants, shops and entertainment – exactly where you want to be during a stay in Victoria.
About Condé Nast Traveler
As the most discerning, up-to-the-minute voice in all things travel, Condé Nast Traveler is the global citizen’s bible and muse, offering both inspiration and vital intel. Condé Nast Traveler is the most trusted and celebrated name in travel with 6 National Magazine Award wins and 26 nominations in its 28-year history. Advertising Age named Pilar Guzmán Editor of the Year in 2014 and CNTraveler.com attained 4 Webby Awards since 2015.
Published October, 2016 by MyVanCity.ca