One day in Victoria: writer Andrew Braithwaite

Where the enRoute’s “Canada’s Best New Restaurants” guy eats on Vancouver Island

Andrew Braithwaite
Andrew Braithwaite. photo by Ben Rasmussen

If you're wondering who the elusive man is in the picture above, you're not alone.

Having grown up in Duncan, B.C., food writer Andrew Braithwaite knows the dining culture of Vancouver Island like the back of his hand. Since finishing school at Harvard College, this globetrotter has lived in Paris, Toronto, Johannesberg and Washington, D.C. (to name a few cities), and currently calls San Francisco home.

When he has time, Braithwaite makes sure to pop back to the island to spend time with his family and makes a point of taking his brother — a member of the Canadian Olympic mens rowing team (we could imagine the arms on that guy!) — out for a nice meal at Ça Va Bistro Moderne in Victoria.

Though this certified sommelier and bonafide food writer's passion lies in the world of food and drink, he is also a contributing editor to Azure magazine, a popular architecture and design publication.

Now, most food writers in Canada would not be able to do this man's job. Why? In this day in age, most of us (myself included) have built our careers on open forums (social media), Instagramming, Twittering and Facebooking our way to established personae, making us easily recognized and located.

For Braithwaite, taking on the task of dining across the country and determining Canada's Best New Restaurants each year for enRoute magazine does not jibe with the business of public display. Though he hasn't had to don a fake moustache or a slick disguise (yet), Brathwaite does need to fly under the radar as much as possible to give every restaurant experience a fighting chance to grace the magazine's coveted list that comes out every November.

After another successful year of protecting his anonymity, you can see Andrew's choices for this year's enRoute list here.

Oh yeah, he also gave me some great places to try out if you're popping over to Victoria for a visit. I don't know about you, but I'm going to take his advice.


Mo:Lé: Victoria is such a breakfast city, and Mo:Lé feels quintessentially Victoria: laid back, friendly, organic, good coffee, patchwork vintage furnishings, welcoming of hipsters and grandmas alike. Eating at Mo:Lé has readied me for life in San Francisco in two very specific ways: it gifted me a terrible weakness for huevos rancheros, and it introduced me to the rule (elevated to dogma in California) that everything is better with avocado on it. Whoever scoops and slices the avocados at Mo:Lé is a wizard with a knife – they always look beautiful.


Pagliacci’s: When I was a kid, my dad worked two doors down from Pag’s, so if I ever got to drive down to Victoria to work with him, this was our special lunch spot. Technically, this is probably the first place that I ever considered my favourite restaurant in the world, and that counts for something, right? Big plates of pasta plus photos of celeb diners on wall equals epically cool when you’re 11. We’ll still come back here for family meals if we’re all in Victoria together, stuffing ourselves with terrific homemade Italian food. The mere smell of its herbed focaccia triggers weird pleasure centers deep within my brain.


Sen Zushi: When I met my wife a decade ago, she didn’t eat seafood. Well, I grew up on an island, so that wasn’t really going to work. This is the place where she discovered that raw salmon actually tastes really, really amazing. As a result, I eat here every time we’re back in town. The room feels as close to Japan as you’ll get in Victoria — quiet and orderly and peaceful; very zen. We order a large plate of fresh, juicy, luscious B.C. sockeye salmon sashimi, and then typically end up ordering a second when that one disappears. I put my foot down on ordering a third.


Clive’s Classic Lounge: My favourite drink in Victoria isn’t a “where,” it’s a “who”: Shawn Soole, a transplanted Aussie who made cocktails matter in Victoria in the course of running the bar at Clive’s. It’s wasn’t the décor or the atmosphere that made my Victoria friends drag me to Clive’s. It was all about the drinks — exotic, complex, experimental cocktails that got things right way more often than not.

Little Jumbo: Shawn left Clive’s to open his own bar/restaurant, Little Jumbo, in August, and I’m excited to try it out next month; but I’ll also drop in on Clive’s, to see if they can keep it going right. When it comes to good cocktail spots in town, I say the more, the merrier.