Victoria, the picturesque waterfront capital of British Columbia, is currently experiencing a renaissance in its culinary, beer, and spirits scene in 2023. New restaurants, pubs, and enticing food tours are emerging, offering residents and visitors a delightful array of dining experiences.
Victoria, named after Queen Victoria, is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest, with a British settlement dating back to 1843. The city is deeply influenced by its namesake monarch, and this influence is evident throughout the city. Victoria is often celebrated as the “Brunch Capital of Canada” due to its thriving dining culture.
One notable culinary event in Victoria is Food Day Canada, which takes place on August 5th. This event honors farmers, chefs, and the food they create.
A unique offering for food enthusiasts is the Off the Eaten Track three-hour walking tour. This tour takes participants to some of Victoria’s top restaurants, where they can savor a progressive four-course meal featuring local farm-to-table dishes. This culinary adventure allows visitors to explore the city while indulging in its diverse gastronomic offerings.
Off the Eaten Track has recently introduced a Fine Dining Evening Tour. The tour commences at the historic Steamship Terminal building, where participants embark on a walking tour, delving into the city’s historical landmarks. The first stop on this gastronomic journey is Bar 500, a trendy establishment where guests can enjoy a glass of BC wine and an amuse-bouche.
The tour guide then leads participants along the picturesque inner harbor to The Courtney Room, an award-winning restaurant situated within the Magnolia Hotel. Chef Brian Tesolin presents an array of appetizers crafted from foraged and seasonal farm-grown ingredients. This exquisite dining experience includes two appetizers, a main course, and dessert, with optional wine pairings available for an additional fee.
Off the Eaten Track offers a variety of other progressive food tours, such as the Modern Chinatown Food and History Tour, the Eat Like a Canadian Tour, and the Downtown Food and City Tour. Private tours can also be arranged to suit specific preferences.
For a different way to explore Victoria’s culinary scene, consider The Pedaler, a bike rental and bike tour company. The Pedaler has collaborated with Off the Eaten Track to offer an “Eat, Drink and Pedal” tour. Participants are equipped with a helmet and a bicycle or e-bike, embarking on a tour of Victoria’s trendiest neighborhoods. Along the way, they sample delectable food and drinks. The tour includes visits to beloved local spots like Root Cellar grocery stores, known for their famous green sauce, as well as stops at BoomTown for iconic burritos, Fernwood Pizza for a slice of pizza, and Deer & Dough Bakery for a special cookie.
The Pedaler also offers other tours, including the Evening Experience for cruise passengers seeking to explore Victoria’s food scene during their shore excursion. The Hoppy Hour Tour caters to those who enjoy cycling while stopping at local breweries and parks for refreshments and scenic views. The Castles, Hoods & Legends tour takes participants to iconic landmarks, including the narrowest street in North America and the tallest freestanding totem pole.
A visit to Victoria would not be complete without stopping by the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel. Here, guests can partake in an elegant afternoon tea ceremony or experience the new Sunset Sips offering. The afternoon tea features a choice of 21 exquisite loose-leaf teas served in royal china, accompanied by savory and light tea sandwiches, fresh fruit, and pastries. This cherished tradition has been maintained at the hotel for over 115 years. In the evening, guests can enjoy Sunset Sips, where clear glass teapots pour tea-infused cocktails into glass tea cups, while guests indulge in savory tapas and sweet treats served on a three-tier tower.
2023 has seen the arrival of several new chefs and restaurants in Victoria, including Q at the Empress. Situated in one of the most historic rooms in Victoria, Q at the Empress offers a remarkable culinary experience featuring Pacific Northwest cuisine. The chefs at Q at the Empress use regional ingredients in their dishes, fostering partnerships with local farmers and artisans. They even maintain their own chef’s herb, vegetable, and honey bee garden to ensure fresh and distinctive meals.
Other noteworthy restaurants in Victoria include Fathom at the Hotel Grand Pacific, known for its seafood-forward menu inspired by the rugged West Coast, and Ugly Duckling, located in one of Chinatown’s beautiful heritage buildings, where everything is handcrafted using Vancouver Island-sourced ingredients. Bray’s, a tapas and wine bar, offers a distinctive dining experience with seasonal small plates paired with local and internationally acclaimed wines. Marilena Cafe & Raw Bar, founded by the owners of the Vancouver Canucks and TopTable Group, features a selection of nigiri, sashimi, and sushi rolls from their raw bar. Those seeking gluten-free options will appreciate The Art of Slow Food bakery and cafe, which uses local organic ingredients and traditional gluten-free food preparation techniques.
For more information on where to stay, dine, and explore in Victoria, visit Tourism Victoria.