Mama sneaks off to one luxurious night at Sooke Harbour House. This place has been on my bucket list since Anthony Bourdain went there on No Reservations some years ago. (Tony has been there? Then I want to go there too – like when I ate bratwurst sausages early one morning in Queen Victoria Market just like Tony did).
Because I was dining alone, and had nobody to talk to, I wrote in my journal:
(at lunch) I am at the very famous Sooke Harbour House restaurant. The setting is simply lovely. Let us focus on the food. I’m a bit peckish now, so I order a salad (flowers and radishes, and sunflower seeds) that tastes like I’m grazing right in the luscious garden. There were two cookies waiting for me in my room, all warm and soft and oatmealy, and I think to myself: “I’m not going to eat both of these. I’m just going to have half.” Ha, “I’m just going to eat half” is the great lie we tell ourselves. I had half and then another half and then two other halves. BAM. Two cookies are in my belly. I walk around the well-appointed grounds, gazing at deer and the silver bobbing seal heads in the ocean while I await my dinner reservation.
(Later, at dinner): There is a French family behind me with three young children. I’m cheaping out and ordering an entree and dessert a la carte. I blush at my own frugalness The French family is all in, ordering the four course meal for each of them, with wine pairings for the adults. Their children happily consume black pearl oysters and sunchoke soup. (If my own child was with me, he would be demanding fries and ketchup).
I’m happy to be seated at a window with a view. Outside, there are wandering Bambis, tall totem poles, the simmering ocean, and cloudy mountains. As an added bonus, two seals are zonked out right outside the window, snoozing on a rock. When I travelled solo in Australia, I was always seated near the ‘Toilets,’ and often had to ask to be moved. This is not the case at Sooke Harbour House, for I have secured a primo spot.
The service is professional and pleasant, and well-schooled in all things vino. I overhear my server convincing a couple to order white wine with their oysters. I order the gnudi because the name makes me giggle. The food is pretty but not quite precious, for I know that is prepared with great care, and most of the ingredients are harvested from the rambling gardens outside. Their tag line should be: Sooke Harbour House: where the food actually tastes like food. I eat my gnudi slowly, eager to savour each little pillow.
The setting is: a roaring fire. Plush white couches. The view, the view, the view. Funny little crab sculptures on the wall. Stained glass inserts of birds and fish. White tablecloths and knotty pine chairs with woven seat covers. I’d call this style: wealthy academic. Or beachy grandma. The grounds smell like fennel and salty fish. The smoke from the fire is popping and bursting. There is lite classical music in the background. Save for my Kindle and iPhone, this could be 1997, and that’s ok.
I finish with Quark cheesecake (Quark, now that’s retro ingredient) with basil ice cream, sour cherries and brittle. It is a soft dessert, so the brittle helps. Those sleeping seals are really out of it. Perhaps they’ve shared a bottle of wine.
I retire to my room and I build my first ever fire all by myself. This pleases me. I crack open the curtains at 4:30 am to be woken up by the ocean view. Bread pudding french toast arrives for me in the morning, and I eat it out on the little deck beside my outdoor tub. (There is something terrible sad about bathing alone in such a large tub, so I take a pass). I finish my time with a walk up Whiffen Spit with the dogs of Sooke (and their owners). It is 20 minutes out to the end of the Spit, where I dutifully snap a selfie and head back, my sandals crunching in the gravel, nodding and smiling at the Labs and German Shepards who gallop past me. Ah, British Columbia. This really is the most beautiful place on Earth.