Restaurant: Finch’s Tea & Coffee House
Last visited: April 6, 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown)
Address: 353 W Pender Street
Price Range: $10 or less
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Quaint local cafe
- Some baked goods
- Famous for baguette sandwiches
- Limited to cold sandwiches
- Fresh, quality ingredients
- Homemade soups
- Gourmet cheeses
- Vegetarian friendly
- Local favourite
- Very Popular/Line-ups at lunch
- Reasonably priced
- Fair trade/organic coffee
- Pre-ordering recommended
- Breakfast/Lunch only
- Eat in/Take out
- Mon-Fri: 9-5pm
- Sat: 11-4pm
**Recommendations: Pear, Blue Brie, Prosciutto Baguette was my favourite, but I also liked the Avocado Baguette and then the Smoked Applewood Cheddar Baguette. Chocolate Chip Cookie is good too.
Believe it or not, the first time I discovered Finch’s Tea & Coffee House was a few years ago and it wasn’t their sandwiches that attracted me. I remember reading somewhere that they were known for pies, so I was actually quite surprised when I arrived and learned that pies were not their specialty, let alone even on their menu. Now a few years later, and a couple failed attempts of arriving when it was closed or having them run out of baguettes, I have finally made my visit.
Finch’s Tea & Coffee House has a local and independent feel. It’s definitely a Vancouver favourite and somewhat of a hidden gem. Located next to a sketchy hostel, one may overlook this unassuming sandwich shop as a budget meal for students or backpackers on a shoestring. But one glance through their large windows and you’ll see that this place is packed during lunch, with a line up pretty much out the door.
I’d like to say I road my bike here, picked up my sandwich, carried it in my basket and ate it at the park. But as much as I’d like to imagine that I was that active and enjoyed sitting on grass, I took the Finch’s experience indoors.
The rustic wooden tables, chalkboard menu, country teacup decor and complimentary cucumber and lemon water was all very inviting and quaint. It felt natural to take a seat (although hard to get at peak hours) and make yourself at home. The sandwiches come out to you on butcher paper and I felt like I was having an indoor picnic in a European Cafe in Paris.
Another thing that caught my eye, and I mean literally caught my eye was the natural light coming in from the large display windows, which acts as the primary source of light. The only thing missing was the smell of freshly baked baguettes, or baked goods, but maybe I just need to come in the morning. I was certainly charmed by the ambiance and quite confident that the sandwiches would deliver as expected… and they did.
The gourmet baguette sandwiches are their claim to fame, and I can understand why. They’re generously filled with perfectly layered fresh ingredients overflowing the baguette in the most beautifully presented manner. It’s about a 2:1 ratio of filling to bread and the baguettes are actually quite thin and small although crusty and chewy.
The fillings consist of prosciutto (only meat available), artisan cheeses and quality ingredients, so the menu tends to overlap since the ingredients are quite limited. It’s simple ingredients used in their natural state, but their unique combinations are what makes it gourmet and special. Not to discredit, but it’s essentially nothing you couldn’t buy and make at home yourself, but they are delicious and well assembled sandwiches that I could appreciate.
With other gourmet sandwich places nearby like Brioche Urban Baking & Catering, Dirty Apron Delicatessen, and Meat & Bread, Finch’s Tea & Coffee House offers simplicity and elegance wrapped up in butcher paper and tied with a twine ribbon. (If you ask me my favourite of the listed, they’re all really different and for a different market. I’m personally more of a Dirty Apron Delicatessen girl, but I do like them all for different reasons.)
On the table:
- Cucumber, lettuce, tomato, dijon-mayo or oil and vinegar $8.75
- This was recommended and it seems to be a popular favourite, although it sounded boring to me. It was very good, but I think even better if it was hot.
- Named after the right ingredient.
- There’s a generous amount of thick slices of Smoked Applewood Cheddar and it’s the most dominant flavour and highlight of the sandwich.
- The Smoked Applewood Cheddar was smoky and savoury and it’s rich in texture and strong in flavour.
- It’s very cheesy and it just coats your entire mouth and sticks to your throat.
- The thin slices of cucumber were the perfect touch to cut through the thick slices of cheese and the tomato gave it a juicy tang to keep it all well balanced.
- I could tell they butter the baguette and it wasn’t dry, but crusty, very chewy and thin enough to not overwhelm the ingredients.
- I had this with dijon-mayo which wasn’t spicy enough and I could barely tell it was there, so I’d ask for extra next time because it would play well with the smokiness of the Cheddar.
- Avocado, roasted walnuts, edam, cucumber, lettuce, dijon-mayo or oil and vinegar $8.75
- Again, properly named after the right ingredient, but just hard to get a bite of everything at once without it oozing out the edges.
- It was quite buttery overall with the buttered baguette, thick slices of buttery, creamy, ripe and sweet avocado, and crunchy buttery roasted walnuts. A lovely combination, but actually quite rich with the avocado standing out the most. Good thing too!
- The edam cheese was thinly sliced into small pieces and well layered to give it the salty bite it needed.
- The freshness of the cucumber and lettuce cutting through the buttery layers of flavour were ideal.
- Although hard to do, the best part is sinking your teeth into every layer of ingredient and getting a perfect balance of creamy and crunchy textures.
- Blue brie, prosciutto, roasted walnuts, oil & vinegar $8.95
- This was my favourite and most my style.
- Pear, brie, prosciutto and walnuts are a classic combination found on classic meat and cheese platters. No matter which ingredients you combine, it will work because they all play well to sweet and salty flavours.
- The Bartlett pears with their grainy texture were fresh and ripe and cut in beautiful wedges so I could see and most importantly taste them.
- It’s all very buttery ingredients, except for the pear, which was the sweet contrast to balance out the sandwich.
- The salty prosciutto was a bit chewy, but still good and the salty creamy rich Blue Brie played well with the sweet juicy pears and crunch of buttery walnuts. I would have liked more walnuts though.
- The tang of vinegar was too mild so didn’t get as much tang as I wanted.
- My only problem again was that it was hard to get some of everything in each bite and you’re almost eating layer by layer starting with the ingredients poking outside of the sandwich.
- All I wanted were some dried or fresh figs or balsamic onions and some Rosemary and it would have been a home run. For what it was, it was still a home run though.
- Brie, raspberry preserves and black pepper $4.75
- This was very simple and it was what it was, and something you could make at home. It would be better served hot.
- It was almost dessert like and you’ll be surprised at how small the baguettes actually are when you see them not stuffed with ingredients.
- There was a good amount of creamy salty buttery brie and the raspberry jam was a nice sweet contrast. However I’m not sure if it was home made because it tasted like pretty ordinary jam. It was thick, but it wasn’t tangy and just sweet with a few pieces of real raspberries.
- I couldn’t taste the black pepper at all and a combination with pink peppercorn would have been great.
- From Finch’s I was expecting a very fresh home made raspberry preserve with even some fresh whole raspberries.
- Side $3.35
- This was the only disappointing thing.
- It tasted like marinara sauce and I didn’t get the pesto flavour at all. I wouldn’t have even guessed it was in there.
- There were a few chunks of stewed tomatoes and the base was a puree of the aromatics like onions, celery and carrots.
- It had some dried herb flavour like oregano, and some basil, so it was really tasting like a pasta sauce, but pulpy with tomatoes.
- It was tangy and slightly sweet, but it was missing that freshness the sandwiches had. Even a chiffonade of fresh basil on top would have been great.
- $2.25 (Made with free range eggs)
- The cookie was an unexpected surprise. They’re quite large and actually quite thick.
- They’re cake like with their height and have a dry crumb and it’s semi soft, but not chewy. The middle is soft and the outside is crispy.
- They’re intentionally very dry and crumbly, not too sweet and filled with chocolate chips. The chocolate chips are soft and creamy and I really liked that part.
- The cookie batter isn’t noticeably buttery and they almost have a powdery texture, like a dehydrated tea cake/cookie.
- Just know that they don’t taste like what they look, they’re not the soft and chewy cookies, but still very good.