Disclosure: This was a complimentary tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation.
Holt Renfrew, one of Vancouver’s largest luxury retailers, has recently taken over the block previously occupied by SportChek/Atmosphere. The result of this is an expanded vendor selection and the opening of Holts Café, a full-service restaurant located in the back of Holt Renfrew’s central floor. With West Coast eats on the menu and a premiem branding, is this restaurant a luxurious dining experience or a cheap import? Read on to find out.
Food and Drink:
Team Tastic came here for an early evening dinner and we had the following:
- North Arm Farms Beetroots ($14)
- Seared Hokkaido Scallops ($22)
- Steak and Spinach ($23)
- Lobster & Pacific Shrimp Roll ($23)
- Potato Gnocchi ($22)
- Caffé Latté ($4.75)
- Coconut Cream ($10)
The North Arm Farms Beetroots was a vegetable plate with pickled beets, goat cheese canneloni, and roasted hazelnuts. The beets (of various colours) were plentiful and the goat cheese canneloni was a surprise highlight. It looked just like the pasta! The dots of purée were cute and made for a fun dish to swirl vegetables in. It was also cool to see produce sourced from Pemberton, BC, so kudos to this Canadian chain.
The Seared Hokkaido Scallops came with pea shoots, scallion puree, radish, and black truffle. The green scallion sauce was my favourite part of this dish as it started out herby with the scallion and finished off savoury with the truffle. The scallops were very well cooked though I wish there was something obvious to do with the delicious leftover scallion purée (we ended up dipping our fries into it; it was so good!). Nonetheless, even though I liked the puree more than the scallops, this was a juicy dish.
Our salad was the Steak and Spinach. This came with gem lettuce, soft-boiled egg, fried green tomato, and bacon dressing. Bacon dressing! I always claim sauces are a big part of making restaurants great, and sadly there was just a tinge of bacon dressing in this salad. I understand being calorie-conscious, but I wish there was more bacon dressing in this salad.
One thing to note is the toughness of the meat. This arrived medium-rare but the steak was one of the toughest steaks I’ve ever had in a salad and was way tougher than a medium-rare striploin. I suspect the steak in the Mains menu would be more tender but I’d recommend getting ready to dice up your steak if you order this salad.
Two saving graces were the soft-boiled egg which arrived fashionably yolky and the fried green tomatoes. These delightful in being crispy without leaving an oily residue on the plate or in my mouth. Crunches were real.
From the sandwich menu, we had the Lobster & Pacific Shrimp Roll which came with Japanese mayo, butter lettuce, avocado, cucumber, and coriander. The execution on this sandwich was great. Each half got a lobster claw and more importantly, the bread was cut so that the toppings caved into the middle. This helped keep the toppings secure and make for an easier bite.
The sandwich came with a side and we had the Parmesan and Chive Fries. These were served fresh and had a satisfying crunch. As mentioned above, we scooped up the rest of the scallion puree with these fries. Great combination! Considering the fries are normally $6, I think the Lobster & Pacific Shrimp Roll was probably the best value tonight.
Our Main dish was the Potato Gnocchi. This came with wild mushrooms, confit tomato, flowering kale, parmesan, and pea shoots. Each bite of gnocchi was full of flavour so I really enjoyed this dish. I think at $22, I expect a little extra effort such as adding ridges to the gnocchi (our gnocchi were just regular blobs). I’ll need to investigate a few more restaurants at this price point before holding that judgement though.
Moving onto desserts, I started off with a Caffé Latté. It seemed appropriate given that this full service is named “Holts Café”! Like most other full-service restaurants, the latte art was non-existent but I appreciated the tall glass which is much better than what I can say about the latte at Hy’s Steakhouse. Proportion-wise, this latte was quite milky, so if you want an average punch of espresso you’ll need to ask for more espresso.
And finally, a real dessert. I have to give mad props to our server for recommending this one before we read the menu and the pastry chef for designing this because this dessert was drop-dead gorgeous. I likened the quality of this dessert to Nightingale’s, and noticed Holt Cafe’s sweet desserts are $10 compared to Nightingale’s $12!
This Coconut Cream came with a lemongrass sorbet, lemon financier, coconut cream, and Okanagan nectarine. Again, sourcing nectarines from BC makes me feel closer to this Canadian chain. The biggest joy here was the lemon financier and the coconut cream. Mixed together, this had a quintessential “MMM” sensation I seek for any dessert. On top was a lemongrass sorbet which I admit was on the icy side, but perhaps this was part of the gorgeous aesthetic of gold sparkles on a golden floral dessert.
Overall, my favourites of the evening were the appetizers and the desserts, and I can see the restaurant as a great place to unwind after a hardcore session of shopping, or a midway pick-me-up for those unfortunately waiting for the rest of their party to finish shopping.
As soon as you step in, Holts Cafe looks like a restaurant lifted from a hotel. Royal blues and soft greys make up a very developed restaurant theme. Think polish, prestige, and vibrant. The washrooms (two unisex single stalls) are both cute little pods with marbled floors and sink areas. Make sure you pay a visit.
The chairs in the dining area are clothed which gives them a softer feel and I could sit in them for hours. There looked to be seating for about 60 guests from my point of view and this accommodates groups up to about 8 guests. Note: you don’t have to be a customer of Holt Renfrew to dine at Holts Cafe.
There were 2 or 3 servers during our early dinner session which I thought was very generous given how small the crowds were. Our server came by frequently to ask how things were going, top up waters, and was very prompt when we had questions about the menu. It wasn’t too busy here at 5:30pm on a Saturday so I suspect one could easily just walk in without a reservation. Food arrived all at once after about 20 minutes which was standard.
One-liner: Luxurious high cuisine with top-value desserts that matches a luxurious shopping experience
Highlight: Coconut Cream
Estimated cost per person: $35-50
Would I go back? Yes for the desserts.
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