Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bel Cafe: Upscale modern bistro lunching

Located inside the Rosewood Hotel Georgia is the equally sleek and sophisticated Bel Cafe. Situated in downtown Vancouver location, the cafe is right on the corner of West Georgia and Howe, right across from the Vancouver Art Gallery. This place looks like a cafe where the "Sex in the City" gals would grab a light lunch. The ambiance is chic with a contemporary European-style cafe feel. Its decor uses relaxed muted tones, rich dark wood paneling, chrome accents and black granite floors. 

This cafe is conceived and operated by famed Chef David Hawksworth (he named the place after his wife Annabel) and it features patisserie-style baked goods, specialty sandwiches and custom-roasted coffee. It is not a big cafe (seating for about 25-30) and it was pretty full when we arrived. The staff were all impeccably dressed, well-groomed, good looking, and polite. We waited about 5 minutes for the corner table to clear out and our group of 5 squeezed in.

We were really hungry from a few hours of intense shopping and since the menu isn't huge- we all ordered food right away and asked for a round of waters. We waited about 15 minutes for our food. All the while, our waters never came. I was really thirsty and I kept trying to make eye contact with the server or the host and didn't want to wave my arms around (since this place has a posh feel). When our food came, I reminded the server, and another few minutes after our food was settled, our waters arrived and was followed by a big apology from our host.

Jayme and I split two sandwiches that were priced at $9-10 each.
The Roasted Berkshire Pork Sandwich with red cabbage, jalape├▒o and house mustard and the Spiced Pulled Chicken Sandwich with bibb lettuce, caramelized onion, provolone and harissa aioli.

The pork sandwich was served on a toasted and grilled multigrain. I really appreciated the flavour, texture and crunch of the red cabbage in the sandwich but for me (and Jayme) the flavours in this sandwich were too mellow and lack-lustre. It tasted good, but was too "one-note" and just not very interesting. It needed a kick or something to brighten up the flavour. 

The pulled chicken sandwich was as good as the menu description sounds. I had read some good reviews from fellow bloggers on this sandwich so I had a feeling that this would be a solid order and it delivered. The oozing buttery caramelized onions were amazing and worked so well with the tender pulled chicken, melted cheese and slightly spiced aoili. The toasted ciabatta bread was a perfect choice- nice and thin so that it toasted nicely and let the sandwich fillings do the talking. 

Presentation was nice and posh too- each sandwich came with tiny pickles and a delicate mini side salad with radish slices. The sandwiches looked quite small when they arrived but they were really substantial and really filling. 

Christine also ordered the chicken sandwich, and Tricia and Tina split a chicken sandwich and each got a small bowl of their roasted tomato soup ($6.80 for a small). 
The both really enjoyed the soup, saying it "tasted fresh" "had a nice full flavour" "just the right level of sweetness" and we all loved the adorable pastry croutons that came with with it.
Half way through the meal, our server checked in and a few of us asked for water re-fills. The re-fills never came...even after the big apology from our host after the first water delay.

As we settled our bill, our host came over and apologized again for the second water re-fill not showing up and gave each of us a complimentary macaroon (regularly priced at $2.00 each). I  ate a passionfruit macaroon and thought it was quite nice. It was pretty to look at, bite-sized and fresh, with a subtle, natural flavour and delicately crisp outer shell.

Bel Cafe on Urbanspoon

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