What should have been a night of tens. Ten downtown Vancouver hotels, ten bars, and ten cocktails…
It was my dear friend’s birthday. And as we did last year, we planned to celebrate with a hotel bar crawl. I had mapped out 10 different hotel bars and we only got through 5. So this year we vowed to do it again, but this time working backwards through the same list. We would be starting by Waterfront and work our way to Granville street skytrain. Little did we know the weather and the holiday transit hours would hinder our full plans.
I write to much? To watch the vlog version of our night and skip the read click the link. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4aCIE7xg3ZU
Learning a thing or two, this year we started early and knew which hotels to avoid. Our first shop was decidedly “Lobby Lounge” at the “Pacific Rim Fairmont”. They are better known as the hotel that often has the exotics (cars) parked out front. With its all white motif: light coloured furniture and marble columns and surfaces, the lounge read the right kind of opulence that we wanted to start our night off with. It is also the ideal spot for pre-drinking photographs: before cheeks deepened in red, skin started to glow, hair became disheveled, and lipstick smudged.
The hotel’s bar is located right at the lobby, when you enter to your left, hence its name. It was part of the open space, yet cloistered off with the strategic placement of planters and chairs. There were various seating available from couches to swivelling stools, and high chairs by their bar. Their alcohol and raw bar simultaneously offered craft cocktails and fresh seafood. I was sad to miss out on claiming one of the sofas forming a “c” around their elongated fireplace.
Looking for a table for two, there was a bit of a confusion and a greater wait. It required intense mapping from two hostesses before we were actually seated. Oddly, all that lead up, to literally be walked a few steps past their podium. Although they did allow us to jump around and find our perfect spot shortly after. We were finally seated, just in time to catch a set from a live performer plugged in and strumming. He sang folk that broadcasted across the hall, and reached all those who were currently enjoying the hotel’s lobby. There was also a beautiful grand piano available for those who possessed the skill to play it.
As gorgeous as the setting was, with chairs facing one another, we found it impossible to speak to each another. We would throw back a couple of more expensive cocktails and went on our way. At $16-24 a glass and us settling on two in the $18 range, this would be the priciest drinks of the night.
The coasters amused us with its humorous views on drinking, and the lime salted popcorn kept our hands and mouths busy with something to snack on.
I went for the “Cepa sour”, as I always go for the “weird” one. It is prepared with lot 40 rye infused with pineapple, caramelized onion flavour, citrus, egg white, and a tawny port float. Considering that the ingredients listed onion, I was disappointed that I couldn’t taste any of it or the pineapple, the two flavours that would have made this one stand out. Though I appreciated the sweetness from the egg white float.
My guest went with the “Beginner’s luck”, a more refreshing cocktail made with gin, lavender, lemon, blue mountain sparkling, and fino sherry.
Fairmont Pacific Rim
1038 Canada Place, Vancouver, BC, V6C 0B9
Our second stop was more a detour. We made the mistake of drinking before eating, so sought to course correct that now. We stopped at the newest “Tap and Barrel” location for dinner.
Their bar/restaurant is divided across two rooms, one more casual than the other, serving a more paired down menu. We wanted the full experience and was seated in their lengthy bar, between their multi tap set up and their lounge area with book shelves and television screen.
Their theme was like a dressed up factory. Scrubbed floors, caged lights, brick features, signs lit Broadway style, exposed load bearing beams, keg lids hanging on walls, and barrels standing in corners. Our table by the window gave us a view of all the shoes that walked towards the water. It was intimate and cozy, yet loud and rowdy from the crowd.
We would continue to graze, and to not loose our accumulating buzz, we had a glass of white wine each, to keep us going.
The “Crispy Calamari” was your standard bar offering. It is served with scallions, banana peppers, fresh dill, lemon, and tzaziki for dipping. Light and crispy, easy to pop into your mouth.
The “Tempura Cauliflower” was one worth travelling all the way back for. Topped with fresh cilantro and served with a curry yogurt dip, these were some of the best cauliflowers interpretations I have had to date. They had a nice firm chew and only a hint of curry warmth, that was balanced out by the refreshing cool of the dip.
TAP & BARREL
1055 Canada Place, Vancouver BC, V6C 1E1
We continued the crawl at the nearby “Pan Pacific Hotel”. A ride up two sets of escalators led us up to their second floor restaurant and bar: “Five Sails”. And there, our cocktails took a turn on the healthier side.
The bar’s layout wrapped around the ceiling to floor windows, fronted by a water feature that wasn’t currently running. It reminded me of an airport bar, the open space, yet cornered off sections. We grabbed a seat on a set of sofas surrounding a coffee table, by the front. It was the perfect perch to lounge on as we sipped our drinks. They also offered a bowl mixed rice crackers for us to nibble on. Had we known that this would be the trend at all hotel bars (a bowl of snacks as we drank), we wouldn’t have ordered so much food, and the flatbread below.
The “Vegetarian Pan Pacific flatbread” is made in house. It is crispy dough topped with an arugula pesto, smoked ricotta, grape tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, shallots, and fresh arugula; and topped with a balsamic drizzle. These were crisp and light toppings to parallel the crust and generous amounts of cheese. It was all very flavourful thanks to the diverse mix of vegetables and the generous sweet drizzle. The flatbread made a great pair with my kale cocktail below.
All their specialty cocktails were cleverly named after areas and districts in Vancouver. From Chinatown to Commercial Drive, to Kitsilano, and North and East Vancouver. But we both stayed within “Kits” for our drinks.
I had the “Kale gimlet” with Tanqueray no. ten, Grand Mariner, and freshly squeezed kale, pineapple, and lime juices. Vegetable and alcohol appeals to me: a ying and yang, healthy versus not so much. This is a great way to trick heavy drinkers like me into consuming more vegetables. It tasted like a spiked kale smoothie, but wasn’t as dense as I expected it to be. Refreshing from the greens and tart fruit, partnered with that distinct burning quality of alcohol to wash it all down.
My guest choose the “Namaste” made with Ketel one citroen, cold steeped chamomile tea, honey syrup, fresh lemon juice, and lemon Marrakech bitters. It was as easy to drink as its calming name suggested.
Pan Pacific Hotel
410 – 999 Canada Place, Vancouver BC, V6C 3E1
What wasn’t planned was our stop at “Arc”, restaurant/bar to the “Fairmont Waterfront”. But having never seen and heard of the restaurant and peering in to see a pretty lively setting, we thought the detour was worth exploring. It was also pretty eye catching with its interior blue lighting streaming out from its many exterior windows.
We walked in, in time to catch the tail end of a piano and vocal performance from a live musician, shame as it is quite the enjoyable feature when you are drinking. Of note, they offer live music 5-9pm every night.
The room was fairly dark, and the blue accented lights only casted more shadow, as such I was hardly able to make out much detailing in the decor. The space was in the form of a crescent, with the lounge and bar portion to your left and the dining area to the right. There were objects hanging close to the vaulted ceilings, but to notice them you really had to squint and let your eyes adjust to the darkness. All this ambience lighting made it a great after dinner date spot, a place to get up and close, comfy with another body.
We were given two recliners and a marble side table, by the glass boarder that separates hotel lobby from bar. This divide included more lighting so that we were able to actually see our food.
As we learned is trend with all hotel bars, we got a bowl of complimentary salty snacks to munch on as we drank. Here it was a bowl of both salt and vinegar and BBQ chips, given their thin and crisp texture, I am guessing the brand is “Lays”. Their crunchiness went well with the plate of cheeses we also ordered.
This cheese plate came with “Golden Ears” Brie, Jersey blue, aged cheddar, and ash ripen goat cheese. All amongst a few smears of fruit compote, dollops of spreads, and a handful of dried fruit crackers to eat it with. It was a great offering of salty and sweet nibbles at $24 for four different cheeses.
As for drinks, my search for the most unique continued with a show, table side. When I asked about the “Flaming Rosemary gimlet”, our server confirmed that it is indeed set on fire. The heat and ash give the drink a smokey quality. And they were then more than accommodating, to grant my request of having this flame and fire prepared table side. Fresh rosemary and green chartreuse in the glass are set on fire with a lighter. When enough blue and orange flame rises a mix of beefeater gin, ice, and fresh lime juice gets poured over its. Once again, it’s the smokiness from the flame that draws out all the savoury and herbaceous flavour of the cocktail.
My guest kept her trend of light drinks with the “Pomegranate mojito”, made with Barcardi silver rum, fresh mint, fresh lime juice, bittered sling autumn bog cranberry bitters, and soda. It tasted like a spiked berry fruit punch.
And when we thought we couldn’t be papered anymore, our sever brought out two glasses of complimentary birthday bubbly in celebration of guest. Truth be told, I didn’t want to leave, but the point of a crawl is to visit as many stops as possible, so off we went.
900 Canada Place Way, Vancouver BC, V6C 3L5
Sadly, it began raining while we were warm within “Arc”. And without an umbrella, a walking tour of downtown’s hotel bars become less fun.
And after a few blocks dredging, and our hair and clothes being soaked through, we decided to allow the rain to detour us. We grabbed a taxi and bee-lined it to our last stop prematurely. We would end the night at “Yew”, restaurant to “Four Seasons”. A seafood bonanza we discovered at last year’s crawl, and has since become one of my guest’s favourite spots to frequent.
Second floor and “Four Seasons” concierge adjacent, “Yew” is notable with its craved wooden fish display, swimming you through their threshold. When we are here to drink, we always grab a seat on the couch, facing the entrance, with the bar within spitting distance. Despite the day, it’s is always busy with a lively crowd.
But little did we know, the quick cab ride would push our already tipsy state cross the line. I can drink, but as soon as I step foot into a vehicle and everything sloshes around in my stomach, it is game over. So luckily we were seated with our usual server and he remembered us enough, to know when to cut us off. This is after we ambitiously ordered a full bottle of Processco, sparkling wine; but were only able to drink a glass each. He was also kind enough to only charge us for what we had.
The complimentary bowl of spiced popcorn helped in sobering us up a little, so we ordered more food to help speed up the process.
The “Crab and avocado millefeuille” with German rye and an herb vinaigrette was a visual feast. It is best described as alternating layers of mashed avocado and soften crab between crispy crostini. It was light and refreshing. You could taste the freshness of the crab, but sadly with our continuous snacking and drinking, we hardly had the room to finish it.
And to our delight, the birthday girl was presented with complimentary, celebratory dessert. A plate of chocolate on chocolate. Chocolate brownie with macadamia nuts, a chocolate cookie crumble, creamy chocolate gelato, chocolate gems, and strawberry fruit to lighten the mood. They went the full nine yards with the candle and message in even more chocolate. Considerate touches like these and the value in their “tackle box” is what has my guest coming back visit after visit.
791 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, BC, V6C 2T4
Our night ended with us catching the last train home. I am firm believer of everything happens for a reason. Good thing it rained and we were forced to cut our night short, because little did we know, this Friday being a holiday, transit would only run until 12:30am, and we just managed to catch the last train home. Otherwise it would be a steep fee back to Burnaby, via taxi for the both of us. That is $40 better spent on drink during the next crawl.
All in all this was another successful hotel bar crawl. This year not only did we discover more sumptuous settings to drink some unique craft cocktails in, but we got to enjoy each with a complimentary bowl of snacks. So with notes taken, we are looking forward to making it even better next year.