Victoria, the waterfront capital of British Columbia, is currently enjoying a surge in its culinary, beer, and spirits scene. In 2023, the city is witnessing the emergence of new restaurants, pubs, and food tours.
A noteworthy fact is that Victoria has the highest number of restaurants per capita in Canada. Named after Queen Victoria, the city is one of the oldest in the Pacific Northwest. With British settlement dating back to 1843, the influence of the Queen can be seen throughout the city. In fact, Victoria has earned the title of the “Brunch Capital of Canada” due to its thriving dining culture.
One exciting event, Food Day Canada, celebrates the farmers, chefs, and the food they create and takes place on August 5.
Off the Eaten Track offers a three-hour walking tour that takes participants to some of Victoria’s top restaurants, where they can enjoy a progressive four-course meal of local farm-to-table dishes. This tour allows visitors to explore the city while getting acquainted with its culinary offerings.
Recently, Off the Eaten Track launched a new Fine Dining Evening Tour. This tour begins at the historic Steamship Terminal building, where participants embark on a walking tour, learning about the city’s historic sights. The first stop is Bar 500, a trendy establishment, where guests can enjoy a glass of BC wine and an amuse-bouche.
Next, the tour guide leads participants along the inner harbor to The Courtney Room, an award-winning restaurant located inside the Magnolia Hotel. Chef Brian Tesolin presents an array of appetizers made from foraged and seasonal farm-grown ingredients. The moving dinner experience includes two appetizers, a main course, and dessert, with optional wine pairings available for an additional fee.
Off the Eaten Track offers 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.
Another option to explore Victoria’s food scene is through 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 will be provided with a helmet and a bicycle or e-bike and will go on a tour of Victoria’s trendiest neighborhoods, sampling delicious food and drinks along the way. The tour includes visits to Victoria’s beloved Root Cellar grocery stores, where participants can sample 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, such as the Evening Experience for cruise passengers who want to explore Victoria’s food scene during their stop ashore. There is also a Hoppy Hour Tour for those who enjoy pedaling and 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 a stop at the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel. Guests can indulge in an elegant afternoon tea ceremony or the new Sunset Sips experience. The afternoon tea includes a choice of 21 elegant loose-leaf teas served in royal china, accompanied by savory and light tea sandwiches, fresh fruit, and pastries. This tradition has been upheld 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 partake in savory tapas and sweet treats on a three-tier tower.
Victoria has welcomed several new chefs and restaurants in 2023, including Q at the Empress. Q at the Empress is located in the most storied room in Victoria and offers a must-visit culinary experience for Pacific Northwest cuisine. The chefs at Q at the Empress use regional ingredients in their dishes, based on partnerships with local farmers and artisans. They also have their own chef’s herb, vegetable, and honey bee garden to ensure fresh and unique meals.
Other notable restaurants in Victoria include Fathom at the Hotel Grand Pacific, which offers a seafood-forward menu inspired by the rugged West Coast, and Ugly Duckling, located in one of the beautiful heritage buildings in Chinatown, where everything is made by hand using ingredients from Vancouver Island. Bray’s, a tapas and wine bar, provides a unique dining experience with seasonal small plates paired with local and internationally renowned wines. Marilena Cafe & Raw Bar, opened by the owners of the Vancouver Canucks and TopTable Group, offers a selection of nigiri, sashimi, and sushi rolls from their raw bar. For those looking for gluten-free options, The Art of Slow Food bakery and cafe utilizes local organic ingredients and traditional gluten-free methods of food preparation.
For more information on where to stay, eat, and explore in Victoria, visit Tourism Victoria.