For my 25th birthday, Leo took me to The Observatory on Grouse Mountain. It is one of those places that you would only go for special occasions, and most budget-travellers would not be able to afford this fine dining experience. However it is appropriate for those holiday makers who have a little bit of extra cash to spend, or those couples who are on a romantic break and want a well-rounded experience.
If I wasn’t living in Vancouver, it probably wouldn’t make it on to my detailed tourist itinerary because of these reasons. If you are short on time (or money) then you probably wouldn’t even consider taking a trip up the mountain. But if you do get the chance, I highly recommend it.
Here are four reasons why you should splash the cash at The Observatory:
Anybody that’s been to Grouse knows that this is not a drive-up mountain. The mountain is only accessible by the old-school gondolas which makes it a slightly more expensive mountain to ski or snowboard on. When you make a reservation at the restaurant your ticket is included so you’re basically getting a free tourist experience! The gondola ride lasts 8 minutes and takes you pretty high up – the base is 1100m. It was raining on our evening, but the rain slowly turned into snow as we travelled higher up which was pleasant and unexpected! On a clear day, this would be a really lovely journey – you can see the trees in detail and their branches weighed down by thick layers of snow. Even if you’re not interested in skiing or snowboarding, this would still be worth the ride.
At dinner, you are given a wine list. It’s not a drinks list – it is quite literally just a wine list. (This is not to say that they don’t offer beer or cocktails, because they do.) There is an amazingly large selection of wines by the glass and by the bottle. Neither me or Leo are wine connoisseurs but we know that New Zealand wine is one of the best, and guess what? There was a lovely Marlborough Savignon Blanc on the menu. This was an obvious choice for us, and I think anybody that likes wine could find one of their favourites on this list.
It was snowing when we stepped off the Gondola and walked across to the Chalet. It was so beautiful! There was perhaps 20cm of fresh snow over the last 24 hours, making it feel just like Christmas. I had a cheesy grin on my face from the moment the first snowflake touched my nose.
The restaurant is fitted with large windows and most of the tables allow you to sit next to one, so you’re looking out at this white wonderland. If it was a clear day, you would be able to see more details in the landscape and perhaps some distant lights from the city. However, because of the snow, our views didn’t reach very far. This made it more atmospheric though – even when it was dark the snow was bright, absorbing the light from the building. I can’t describe how romantic it was without going into cliches.
There is nothing much to say here except that I ordered the salmon and it came with seaweed tempura. I’m a big fan of tempura but I’d never had a seaweed version before. I was so happy about this scrumptious side that it almost took my attention away from the perfectly cooked salmon. I could have eaten a whole bowl of just tempura.
This love affair with the tempura might seem trivial but it is a testament to the chefs at the Observatory. We could not fault any of the dishes and every element was tasty and surprising. It truly is an excellent display of food. It was not hard for us to imagine why this restaurant was deemed as ‘award-winning’. The presentation was immaculate!
Whether you love or hate the cold weather, there is nothing better than being indoors and watching the snow fall down outside your window. Accompany that with a small fireplace, large glasses of wine and decadent creme brûlée desserts, it’s almost like you’re in a movie. I would definitely recommend going in the winter rather than the summer – it just wouldn’t be the same! Oh, and save up some well-earned pennies before you go.