Restaurant: Trafalgars Bistro
Cuisine: French/International/Pacific Northwest/West Coast
Last visited: May 2, 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC (Arbutus Ridge)
Address: 2603 W 16th Ave
Price Range: $30-50
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- French/West Coast cuisine
- Casual fine dining
- Sister restaurant Sweet Obsession bakery next door
- Local favourite/Neighbourhood gem
- Sustainable/local ingredients
- Great wine list
- Attracts 40+
- Generous portions
- $35 3 course menu
- Ocean Wise
- Patio seating
- Brunch/Lunch Mon-Fri 11am-3pm
- Weekend brunch Sat & Sun 10am-3pm
- Dinner Mon-Thurs 5pm-9pm, Fri & Sat 5pm-10pm
- Closed Sunday
**Recommendations: Apple and Leek Tart… and whatever you do just make sure you get the house made gnocchi on the side.
Trafalgars Bistro is a classic choice for Vancouverites who crave simple French and West Coast cuisine in a casual fine dining atmosphere. Since it’s outside of downtown, it can be easily forgotten, but it certainly has its loyal clientele. It’s a neighbourhood gem, so it’s familiar to locals in the area or just veteran diners familiar with the restaurant scene. It’s one of those reliable go-to restaurants when the evenings call for something a bit fancier.
It’s quite sophisticated and mature, and it still has a warm, cozy and intimate atmosphere that’s very charming. It can feel a bit pretentious (or just ” use your quiet voice”), but the service is friendly and they do welcome you like a neighbourhood restaurant would. One thing I really liked about the service is that my server was knowledgeable about the menu and made appropriate recommendations.
I remember coming here when I first started blogging – see here and since then I have also visited their sister restaurant/bakery Sweet Obsessions Cakes & Pastries next door. I always promised myself I would come back for an actual dinner and I’m glad I finally made it.
I usually like ordering a la carte, but they offered a permanent 3 course $35 menu which included options from the entire menu. A few items required an additional $1-3, but when I was told the portion sizes aren’t sacrificed, I was sold. One of my biggest pet peeves is when there’s a set menu and they scale down the portions or change the ingredients to meet the costs. Thank goodness that wasn’t the case here and on top of that the portions were very generous which made for great value. I would highly recommend the $35 menu, otherwise some of the items feel overpriced if they were ordered separately.
The food is simple and although it carries the image and assumption of being French, I actually consider it more West Coast. There were a lot of staple items missing that I would expect to see at a casual French bistro. The offerings and execution seemed more West Coast with local ingredients, but perhaps still French inspired. Everything is quite old fashioned and traditional, and there is better options for the same type of experience, food, atmosphere and price, but Trafalgars Bistro holds a soft spot as a honest local favourite.
On the table:
- I would think the bread is made in house since they have the bakery next door, but I’m not sure.
- It’s served cold and it was nice and crusty with a soft, stretchy and chewy centre.
- It wasn’t as chewy or crusty as a traditional baguette or ciabatta though.
- Thyme fraiche, frisee $9
- The appetizers are a pretty good size and I really enjoyed this one. It was light and summery, but still substantial.
- It was a tart meets a salad and it was served a little bit warmer than room temperature.
- The thyme fraiche is what gave it flavour, otherwise it was a bit bland.
- The tart was rustic and old fashioned, and more like a crostada than a traditional tart. It was more suitable for fruity saucy fillings, which this was not.
- It was quite thick like a crumbly buttery pie crust as opposed to a flaky one, and it’s still good, but a bit too much. I just found it heavy for the delicate leeks.
- There was a good balance of tender tart apples and sauteed leeks underneath although a bit under seasoned. The sprinkle of coarse salt on top did help though.
- I would have preferred a bit more of a sweetness with either a drizzle of honey, or even a saltier bite from perhaps some Gorgonzola. It just needed another level of flavour.
- The thyme fraiche was incredibly flavourful and it carried a yogurt like tang and lemon scent with a bold aroma of lemony thyme. It gave the tart flavour and the salad seemed very lightly dressed in it as well.
- Together it all worked, but alone I would find the tart a bit under whelming.
Special – Braised Lamb Shoulder Pot Pie – 4.5/6
- With root vegetables and red wine reduction $9
- This was the special of the day and it was a braised lamb shoulder with root vegetables and a flaky buttery pot pie crust.
- I was expecting it to be a lot more saucier than this, and although it looked a bit bland and dry, it wasn’t at all.
- This tasted much better than it looked and the lamb was perfectly executed and seasoned.
- It was melt in your mouth tender juicy braised lamb and it seemed braised in traditional aromatics of carrots, onions and celery.
- The puff pastry was incredibly rich and buttery and it just absorbed the natural juices of the lamb.
- The red wine reduction wasn’t plated very well and there wasn’t enough either. It was tangy and sweet like a berry sauce, but the lamb was so juicy it didn’t even require it, although better with it.
There was a large caramelized onion served along side which was incredibly tender, creamy, and sweet. I’m quite sure there were no additional seasonings and it was a nice, but a random accompaniment.
- Truffle oil, asiago, herbs, aioli $8
- This is one of their signature and most popular sides. I didn’t really get it although they were still good. It’s a generous amount too.
- The fries were hand cut, skin on Yukon Gold potatoes and they were really tender, soft and buttery, but they weren’t crispy.
- They were decently seasoned, but there was hardly any Asiago and I couldn’t taste much truffle oil. Maybe just on a few selected fries I could taste a hint of it.
- The herbs were parsley and thyme but there wasn’t much else going on.
- Most of the flavour came from the aioli, which wasn’t thick or that creamy. It was almost the texture of a thin mayo, and I couldn’t taste the garlic or the rich quality of olive oil.
- Warm potato salad, tomato, roasted red pepper, bacon, green onion, cream $24
- This is my first time trying Barramundi.
- It was a fairly large fillet of white fish and it’s flesh was flaky, yet firm. It reminded me of basa meets mackerel and it had quite the fishy flavour.
- It was skinless, boneless, and pan seared, but only crispy around the edges, which is my favourite part! It was juicy and well seasoned with simple salt and pepper.
- The warm potato salad was almost like a soupy sauteed diced version of a baked potato, but much lighter.
- I loved the freshness of the tangy juicy tomatoes and there were lots of creamy, buttery, tender Yukon Gold potatoes, but barely any roasted red pepper if any at all.
- The bacon gave it the saltiness it needed although it wasn’t crispy, but it added flavour to what was a very basic and rather thin white wine cream sauce.
- I could have used some Dijon or whole grain mustard in the sauce because it was a bit one dimensional.
- For being a cream dish it was quite light and summery, but the portion was large and the fish is meaty so it was still a very substantial entree.
Braised Beef – 2/6 for the beef, 5/6 for the gnocchi
- House made gnocchi, mushroom cream sauce, parsley $24
- The gnocchi was the redeeming factor because the beef was quite dry, tough and chewy.
- I didn’t really understand the roasted tomato sauce that was served over top and it wasn’t the best complement for the cream sauce or the beef.
- It was a very potent, sharp, tangy, and salty roasted tomato puree and it didn’t do anything for any of the ingredients. I would have just preferred the mushroom cream sauce with the natural braising liquid from the beef.
- The beef was a decent size, but it required a steak knife to cut through and it was quite disappointing.
- The mushrooms were predominantly button and there was the random Shiitake here and there. I would have loved to see some Oyster mushrooms and for $24 I think that’s possible.
- House Made Gnocchi – 5/6
- The house made gnocchi deserves its own section. Holy crap they were delicious!
- Looks are deceiving! They don’t look like traditional gnocchi and they’re fairly large and don’t have fork ridges.
- It looked like mochi and they looked heavy, doughy and bland. Boy was I wrong!
- The texture was amazing! It’s one the best gnocchi I’ve had to date. I’d be happy with a bowl of gnocchi and the sauteed mushrooms.
- I’ve had lots of delicious gnocchi from Federico’s Supper Club, La Quercia and Ebo Restaurant, and I tell you, this one was as good or even better than all of those. I don’t even care that they weren’t “authentic”.
- The gnocchis were fluffy yet creamy pillows that literally melted in your mouth like pureed butternut squash would.
- They were incredibly tender and made from Yukon Gold potatoes so they were almost stretchy, buttery and just so creamy!
- They were very squishy and you could just use your tongue and push them to the roof of your mouth and let them melt away into this beautiful texture of silky richness! Divine!
Trafalgars Bistro has an extensive dessert menu (30+ options) and it’s partly what they’re known for. Although it’s an award winning bakery I can’t say I’m a huge fan of their desserts and I’ve tried a good selection of them now. I just find them a bit mass produced and I would prefer some of the cakes at True Confections over the ones here.
With their casual sister cafe and bakery, Sweet Obsessions Cakes & Pastries next door, Trafalgars Bistro offers the same desserts but just at the given higher price. It’s understandable since you’re paying for plating and ambiance etc., but if you just want to try their desserts and don’t need the fancier atmosphere than I would just recommend going to Sweet Obsessions Cakes & Pastries.
To see my posts for Trafalgars Bistro/Sweet Obsession: Tiramisu, Passion Fruit Flan, Neopolitan Cake, Mango Coconut Roulade, Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Served with vanilla ice cream $11
- It’s $5.50 for the same slice and size next door at their Sweet Obsessions Cakes & Pastries bakery.
- It’s an extra $3 for the scoop of ice cream and maybe extra $1.25 (?) for the cookie, which was all included in the $11 at the Trafalgars’ side. I actually found this pricey since it’s almost a “poor man’s dessert”.
- The portion is generous and it was very good, but it is quite sweet as expected. Any warm dessert served with ice cream is almost an immediate “good” for me though.
- It was very moist and had some flavours of warm spices, but I wanted more texture and flavour from the dates. I could taste some orange zest in the cake as well.
- It actually wasn’t that sticky or ooey gooey and the texture was almost like a dense bundt cake rather than a fluffy cake or spongy cake.
- I’ve had toffee pudding cakes more moist than this one, although this one was still good.
- The toffee syrup didn’t really soak into the cake, but the cake was cut into three layers and in between each layer was a toffee like icing. I assume this would allow for a longer shelf life, but it just doesn’t have that fresh from the oven quality.
- The ice cream is home made and quite good, but also icy rather than creamy and I didn’t see any vanilla bean seeds in it, but it did have a strong vanilla flavour.
- The cookie was a lemon ginger tea cookie that almost melted in your mouth with a soft tender crumb. It was similar to a soft ginger snap, but not crispy or crunchy.
- There was a lot of toffee sauce which was rich, full flavoured and perfectly caramelized.
- This was good, and it’s quite light and not that sweet for a Hedgehog cake.
- I highly recommend allowing the cake to come to room temperature otherwise the buttercream is really stiff and dense and not creamy.
- The buttercream separates from the cake into pieces rather than melting together.
- It was hazelnut butter cream with some hazelnut pieces throughout and then a paper thin layer of real chocolate underneath that.
- There was hazelnut flavour in the buttercream, but I wasn’t a fan of the texture of the cream. There’s just so much of it that it’s a bit overwhelming since it’s pretty buttery.
- It was essentially a basic white cake with simple hazelnut buttercream and hazelnuts in it.
- The edge of the cake was heavily crusted with hazelnut pieces which I loved, but otherwise I found the cake good, but quite ordinary and simple.
- It would be nice to have more of a chocolate hazelnut balance and hazelnuts on top too.
- The chocolate sauce on the side was divine though! It tasted like purely melted 75% (?) bittersweet chocolate and its flavour was thick and intense. Loved it!
- I prefer the Hedgehog cake at Giovane Cafe although very different – see Peanut Butter Hedgehog.
mmmm every time my friends and i go to sweet obsessions we’ve always wondered how about trafalgars but now that there’s a $35 menu, it’s definitely a good reason to check it out 🙂
all the menu items look decadent – especially that leek tart! look at all those apples – yummers! the braised lamb shoulder pot pie reminds me of this puff pastry at chinese bakeries – do you know which one i’m talking about? it has beef and mushrooms on the inside and there’s a circular cutout portion on the top that this dish reminds me of – mmm i’m glad it was moist and tender 🙂
wow i just had gnocci the other day so now i’m sorta sick of it partially because they were so heavy – i’m happy to hear the ones they have here are soft and fluffy – too bad about the beef being tough 🙂
mmmmm the desserts here are touch and go sometimes but i think they’re better than the ones at true confections! 🙂
I’ve wanted to go here for a long time, but it always seems to get pushed aside for something more exciting….. the food seems quite homey, much like Burgoo. Lately we’ve been buying so many Groupons…. Living Social….etc…. coupons on-line, we’re just trying to keep up with that…. maybe it’s time to abandon the deals though and just go explore.
@Linda – I know what puff pastry you’re talking about!! hahah ur funny! I like the Chinese one too! Good comparison!
Ask for the gnocchi on the side! It’s worth the $3-5 or whatever they’ll charge! Ask for vegetarian gnocchi as a side :)… I like the Diplomat at True Confections better than any of the cakes I’ve had at Sweet obsessions so far.. but I haven’t been to True Confections in a while.. but i just find they have more detail.. unless it’s been way too long since I’ve gone. 🙂 i better go back for comparisons sake!
@Jayda Home – Groupons are dangerous!! If it’s for a restaurant ur going to try anyways then it’s great! I’m just have too many on my list I need to knock down and i can’t wait lol
Perhaps an Alsatian onion tart would’ve been a better partner to the frisée . Glad to know that one can find great gnocchi. Barramundi is going to come more and more prevalent because itès farmed and you can buy it live. The sauce for the fish was too bland ‘cos it lacked acidity which would’ve countered some of the fat fishy taste…perhaps some Reisling added ? The lamb should have had some of the red wine reduction poured over it, rather than only on the plate, or it’s pan juices…and what’s up with the price of lamb rising higher and higher(like gas prices) ? Jeez a rack can cost $36. ?!!! And the 3 course menu is $35. ? Nice.
That piece of barramundi looks HUGE! I don’t think I would be able to finish it lol…especially since you said it was kind of one-dimensional. Trafalgar’s used to be my go-to bistro for homey bistro food 🙂 I have to admit that Sweet Obsessions was the main target everytime though. Although I do like True Confections more….but a girl needs variety every now and then, right?
@Bow – hmm bow I think you’re right again… the sauce could have used some acid. Good call. I think maybe because people are ordering lamb more often now? I have no idea, I don’t order lamb too often so I haven’t realized the prices… but I am actually ordering it more often now… I missed it when it was cheap 🙁
@Rachelle – It was huge!! lol I’ll finish it for you next time.. but yes it was simply seasoned with salt and pepper and pan seared. COMPLETELY agree… variety is spice of life! What was your favourite cake at Sweet Obsessions? Maybe I haven’t tried the right one?
Whoops just saw your reply. My favourite is the Dulce de Leche cake, though I admit I scrape off part of the chocolate ganache when I eat it because I think it’s a bit too much and it overpowers the dulce de leche. I’m a sucker for anything caramelish, so I may be biased. The Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse is also great…definitely have to be crazy about the PB+C combo to like it though. I’ve heard good things about their meringue cakes…but never tried them myself as I used to hate meringue (a recent trip to Paris change my opinion completely. The French just do everything better don’t they?). Helps that this place was only 5 minutes away from my high school too…
@Rachelle – no worries! ahh gotcha! Ok caramel.. hmm we have slightly different tastes there, but I do like a fresh caramel that’s not sticky. The Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse I wil try though for sure! Have you had the hedgehog cake from Giovane? that’s really good! I don’t like American meringue, but I like Parisian meringue.. that’s what I like French macarons! 🙂 Do you like those?
Oh yea DEFINITELY. The only souvenirs I brought back for myself from Paris were 2 dozen macarons lol. Review on my site. They were all gone way too fast too………