M and I went on a walking food tour in Gastown. This is not something we would usually do (too touristy), but it was recommended to me by a friend and I thought it sounded quite fun. And, well, we sort of are still tourists a bit.
Gastown is an area in downtown Vancouver very near the waterfront on the east side (click here for a map to give you an idea of where it is). It is the oldest part of the city, and is where a lot of factories were located in the late 1800s and early 1900s (well, even to the mid-1900s). Despite it’s historical value, and it’s proximity to where M and I live, we really hadn’t ventured down there (so many good restaurants literally just out our apartment door so you do get a bit lazy).
Anyway, back to the walking food tour. Walking because we were hitting 10 different stops on a 2.5 hour tour, and getting a short history lesson on the way. There turned out to be only 4 of us on the tour, so it was pretty cosy, but some tours can apparently have up to 20 people on them. Some of the stops, in particular at the end of the tour, were really advertisement stops, and we were given little taster samplings. However, some of the stops at the start of the tour gave us surprisingly large servings (keep in mind we were going to 10 places, so “large” is in relation to how many places we were going).
We started by meeting at Starbucks at Waterfront Station. Although Starbucks are not officially part of the tour, they like to include themselves on it (so that really means 11 stops), and presented us each with a take away cup of peppermint mocha, complete with whipped cream and a little cake. I don’t like cream, and there was no where to scoop it off, but I did like the peppermint mocha. But a bit of a large cup actually, you start off feeling a bit full (well, I guess it depends on the individual). Still, off to a good start! We also got a quick run down on the history of the train station. There is a lot of detail in the building and interior which you usually don’t pay much attention to, so it was quite nice to stop and take the time to look.
First stop was Rogue, inside the station. I would never think to go to a restaurant at a train station. It seems too transient somehow. It’s called a wet bar. I’m not really sure what that means, but apparently it has something to do with the delivery method of the alcohol (way back when, things were delivered by sea, and they are on the waterfront – hence “wet”). Here we were served a small cheesy seafood dish (I suck at remembering actually what it was) that tasted really great. Points for these guys!
Then off we went almost as soon as we had eaten (tight time schedule I guess), out a back door and away across the car park to….
Steamworks. Steamworks is a microbrewery. The building is old (for this part of the world) and really beautiful. Here we got a quick break from food and instead got to try 2 small glasses of 2 of their brewed on site beers.
I rather liked the lighter coloured beer. The darker one was more hoppy, which isn’t me. However, I was in the minority on this.
We ventured out into the rain again (yes it was true Vancouver weather, but we all remembered umbrellas, yay for us!). We ducked into a little place that I would have easily mistaken for a cafe. However it is a restaurant, and does breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. Welcome to Brioche, an Italian restaurant nestled into one of the old brick factories of Gastown. I did love the interior here – in fact I think I love anywhere where the red bricks are exposed. Big handwritten menu board, and yummy, yummy food! We were served a surprisingly generous portion of pasta with a delicious sauce and big chunky bits of meat in it.
This is one place M and I will for sure be heading back to. And part of the reason for going on this tour was to discover little places like this, so, mission accomplished.
No sooner had we eaten and we were off again. This time we took in some of the sites of Gastown (such as the steam clock), but I’ll save that for another day as this post will get too long!
Off to David’s Tea. Yip, as it sounds, a tea house. Different types of tea all lined up arranged by their variety, very colourfully done. However, as you get a small sample of tea just as a standard customer walking in, it probably doesn’t need to be included on the tour. On the other hand, my tummy was already starting to burst, so it was again a nice drink stop to break up the food.
Again, in and out before you know it – but all done at a good speed actually, it kept things flowing and on the move without being rushed. From tea to fish and chips at 131 Water Street (sounding a bit British isn’t it?). Small sample here (phew, my tummy couldn’t take much!) but again, tasty although not remarkable. Fish and chips are fish and chips, unless they are bad fish and chips, which these weren’t.
Next on the list was Lamplighter – so named for the person who used to go around lighting the gas street lamps. Pretty cool. Until Vancouver felt they had to follow on the tail of San Francisco and switch to electrical street lights. I’m sure they were a novelty then but now, wouldn’t gas street lights be great? Here we encountered what appeared to be a Christmas themed pub crawl – noisy, funny and on the move. And here we drank beer again (seen one, you’ve seen them all right?).
Up and on to Blarney Stone, which as the name hints, is an Irish pub. It was ok I suppose, but not exactly the dining experience if you’re looking for a nice meal out. Don’t get me wrong, the wee pie sample we got was super tasty. But this place turns into a nightclub later in the evening, and if that’s what you’re after then great, but if you’re looking for a restaurant experience, I don’t think I’d choose a pub. It also felt a bit weird to nip in, grab our sampler sized food, and nip out again with the mid-afternoon local boozers watching us. The odd one on the tour for me. BUT, if you are wanting a pub meal, then do it!
Wooo, at this point I was fair bursting at the seams, and not sure if I could fit anymore in…. until I was told we were on the dessert run! Always room for dessert! This part of the tour was pretty quick actually. We raced by Trees Organic Cheesecake for a mini sample of 2 cheesecakes (yum, would be nice to get a take away bit to have as dessert if you were cooking at home, or to spoil yourself for a sweet afternoon treat); Maple Delights, which as the name might suggest, specialised in all things maple associated – biscuits, maple butter (got a taster, def good!), maple tea, maple syrup, maple candy etc…; and finally Roger’s Chocolates, which was a “Hi, here you go, thanks, bye” event.
Did I enjoy it? Yes for sure. The food was great at all the places, nicely broken up by drink stops and the small numbers on our tour made it better. Our guide was chatty enough and kept us on the move at just the right speed. We were hoping to discover some new places to eat out, and we did (especially Brioche). We also got a sprinkling of Gastown history which was really nice (but I didn’t include here as it would get too long and I would probably get it a bit wrong) and got to explore a part of the downtown area we hadn’t really been to before. Also found where some very nice boutique shops are hidden, as well as the John Fluevog shoe shop (local Vancouver shoe designer). A very nice afternoon out on a rainy Vancouver early winter weekend, and looking forward to revisiting some of these places soon!