Restaurant: Gallery Café (At Vancouver Art Gallery)
Cuisine: Sandwiches/Salads/Cafe/Pacific Northwest
Last visited: July 9, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown)
Address: 750 Hornby Street (At Vancouver Art Gallery)
Price Range: $10 or less, $10-20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: 2.5 (based on what I tried)
Service: n/a (pay at cashier)
Ambiance: 3.5 inside, 5 on the patio
- Cafeteria style
- European cafe food
- Good for coffee breaks
- Attracts locals/tourists
- Moderately priced
- Limited, but decent wine selection
- Plenty of indoor/outdoor seating
- Classical music on the patio
- Fantastic patio
- Summer Hours
- Monday–Friday 9am–9pm
- Saturday & Sunday 9:30am–6pm
**Recommendations: Carrot Ginger Trifle Cake
Summer has been shy this year for Vancouver, so although blue skies aren’t always in order, this grand patio at Vancouver Art Gallery’s Gallery Café is still a fantastic spot to be (as long as it’s not raining). The patio is certainly the highlight here and an attraction for locals and tourists. It’s open to the public so you don’t have to come from an exhibition in the Vancouver Art Gallery just to enjoy it.
It’s spacious and almost busy all the time, but there’s plenty of seating and it’s not so bad waiting for a seat while listening to classical music playing from their outdoor speakers. The music makes it more of an elegant patio, and being located in the heart of downtown, it’s a nice “escape” from the city while still being in the city.
However if there’s no space outside, the inside seating isn’t bad either. It’s a minimalist and clean dining room with a simple cafeteria set up which attracts quite the crowd at lunch. I’ve only been here a few times before, but the food hasn’t been anything memorable and it’s not a selling factor, although I think it should and could be. On this occasion the food was okay to good, but I guess the ambiance made up for it to some degree. Even if they were going for this level of “cafeteria style food”, the quality should compare to Whole Foods, which I find does a great job with their “food court” like approach.
Being located inside the Vancouver Art Gallery, it’s somewhat natural to assume that the Gallery Café would be a bit more special, elegant, or creative. I’m just going to say it, but I really think the restaurant needs an update. Cooking is an art, and here it just felt like a dying one.
With a BG Urban Cafe like set up of very mediocre looking food, I really think it could use a makeover. Personally I think it would be such a tourist attraction if it did something like Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego, but I know that’s asking for the extreme. I’m not suggesting that the food be pretentious, but it should be at least somewhat creative and representable of Vancouver’s talent and appreciation for the culinary industry. It should be an attraction. The Gallery Cafe has a prime location and great space and I think they could be doing so much more with it.
The menu items and offerings are all very simple, despite how it may sound. It may seem extensive and there’s a lot listed, but there actually isn’t much selection. There is a daily specials menu and there are a selection of quiches and entrees, but nothing looked very inspiring.
In this case, less is definitely more, so fewer items with fresh, quality, local ingredients and clean execution would have been the way to go for me. The passion in the food just seemed lost and too obviously mass produced. It was quite pricey considering what you get, but given that it is the Vancouver Art Gallery it is to be expected. Generally, I found the emphasis and value in the ambiance and brand rather than the food and ingredients.
On the table:
- Tuna, Cheddar + Dill Pickles $7.95
- In the display case it looked like a decent size, but after it was pressed, it was incredibly small and definitely snack size.
- For the price, I would rather go to Nu Greek Street for a Chicken Souvlaki Pita. That may be comparing apples to oranges, but even for a tuna melt I would suggest the one at Everything Cafe, which is actually very good.
- It had a good flavour, but it was predominantly coming from the cheddar cheese and pickles and I couldn’t taste much tuna.
- The tuna could have been chicken and it was flaked into small pieces and perhaps marinated with a bit of lemon for a tang.
- I have a feeling it’s just the tuna that doesn’t get used up from the ahi tuna salads. That part doesn’t bother me, but holding back on the amount of tuna does.
- There were semi-cooked crunchy red onions, a good amount of melted cheddar cheese, and a bit of parsley, but the long slices of crunchy dill pickles were almost overpowering.
- The pita was generic and a bit dry, but thin, and overall it seemed more like a chicken quesadilla than a tuna melt to me.
- It was decent and still good, but not impressive for what it was supposed to be, and it’s nothing I would deliberately crave and come back for.
- Pesto Chicken, Tomato & Brie $7.95
- This was actually substantial as a lunch, unlike the tuna melt.
- I must say that the bread almost carried more flavour than the filling.
- The bread was likely out sourced, but it was good bread.
- The bread tasted like a potato and rosemary bread and after it was grilled and pressed it was thin and crunchy and the herb flavours intensified.
- It had a great chew that wasn’t tiresome and nice flavour that carried the sandwich.
- Unlike the 50’s tuna melt, this one had a good amount of ingredients and the only thing missing was the pesto.
- I pretty much couldn’t taste any pesto at all and the chicken was slightly dry, but it was passable, decent, and overlooked.
- It had a lot of thinly sliced chicken and a good amount of creamy, buttery, stringy melted brie and some freshly sliced tomatoes.
- However it could have been a brie and chicken sandwich before a pesto chicken sandwich or suggested “California Panini”.
- As a “Californian Panini” I think avocado would have been an amazing touch.
- This isn’t anything you couldn’t make at home, but I give credit to the bread.
- On the other hand I would have preferred a Smoked Turkey Club House panini from BG Urban Cafe.
There was a lot of baked goods and desserts to choose from, but this sounded the most creative and different. I really wish the walnuts and candied ginger weren’t only used as garnish though and actually incorporated into the cake.
- This was very light, fluffy and airy, but it was quite sweet so it does end up feeling a bit rich.
- I definitely could have used more walnuts, candied ginger, and maybe even some raisins and just more ingredients in general, because it was a very basic carrot cake recipe.
- The ginger flavour was only in the form of candied ginger cubes used as decor for the top and it was the same with the walnuts. There was only one of each in the whole bowl too.
- It wasn’t soaked in any syrup or rum, as I expected it would be since it was a trifle, but the carrot cake was very moist and tender with lots of visible shredded carrots.
- The cake wasn’t spiced that heavily and there was perhaps some cinnamon and nutmeg, but it wasn’t very apparent.
- Since the carrot cake was sweet enough already, I was very pleased to discover that the cream was actually fresh whipped cream rather than cream cheese icing.
- The whipped cream was fresh, not oily, and lightly sweetened and spiced with perhaps nutmeg.
- It was very good and I did enjoy it, but it could have easily been so much better, with not even much more additional effort.
- This is a great way to use up day old carrot cakes, and if that’s what they were doing, you couldn’t tell the cake was day old.