Summer in Vancouver is all about the patio. Almost any patch of sidewalk will do, really, but it’s certainly better if that chunk of concrete comes with a decent cocktail or two.
That said, our very favourite patios are Vancouver’s hidden ones, those quiet urban oases that we share only with a handful of people in the know. Finding a new one is like discovering treasure buried in your own backyard.
Just the other day, for instance, I discovered the patio at Gotham Steakhouse (615 Seymour St.). I know, I know. It’s not exactly new – the restaurant’s been around since 1999, after all – but I’d never realized that the nondescript wall on Seymour Street hid a romantic little spot with cosy banquettes, an outdoor fireplace and leafy trees twinkling with fairy lights.
“It’s very private,” says bar manager Barry Jackson. “You’re not being bothered by a lot of noise from the street. There’s really good food and good cocktails. You can go for a romantic dinner with your wife or husband. It’s a really nice vibe out there.”
Indeed it is, which is one of the reasons why Gotham is the kind of place where one-time customers quickly become regulars. Another reason is the well-crafted cocktails.
“Our regulars gravitate to classics like the Manhattan, Old Fashioned and Whisky Sour, but they’re slowly trying new things, which makes it more fun for us,” says Jackson, who adds creative twists to classics with fragrant infusions, housemade syrups and seasonal flavours.
His most popular patio cocktail is the Margarita, but Jackson kicks up the traditional lime drink with coconut, raspberry, jalapeño or even a spicy pop rock rim. “There’s an infinite number of margaritas I can create,” he says.
Bubbly cocktails are also popular.
“People seem to gravitate to the French 75. I probably sell 50 to 100 on a busy afternoon or night,” Jackson says. “At happy hour, every woman who comes in orders one of these.” (Unfortunately, though, the happy hour menu is not available on the patio.)
He uses the traditional French 75 recipe (lemon, gin, sugar, sparkling wine) as a template, replacing the gin with oaken gin or vodka, for instance, or infusing it with floral flavours. (See recipe.)
Patio drinks are typically bright and refreshing, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go for something rich, dark and bitter. After all, that’s what Jackson himself would do.
“I’d probably be drinking a Boulevardier or a Vieux Carré,” he says. “I just think they’re really interesting.”
Whether your taste runs to the rich or the refreshing, here are just a few hidden downtown patios where you can enjoy a great cocktail or two.
1906 Haro St., adessobistro.ca
This secluded garden patio tucked between apartment buildings is a great spot to enjoy an antipasto platter on a summer evening.
Patio drink: Bella Rosa
212 Abbott St., donnellygroup.ca/clough-club/
A tiny garden oasis at one of Gastown’s best cocktail bars that might be the best use of a sidewalk in the city.
Patio drink: Clough Club Daiquiri #3
Listel Hotel, 1300 Robson St., foragevancouver.com
The picnic tables in the tiny “back yard” at this popular farm-to-table resto are among the city’s most coveted brunch seats.
Patio drink: Grapefruit Mimosa
1328 Hornby St., umberto.com/giardino
Travel to Tuscany without leaving the city by stepping into Umberto Menghi’s lush, 80-seat garden terrazza.
Patio drink: Aperol Spritz
1118 Mainland St., minamirestaurant.com
Petite and pretty, surrounded by lush plants, this intimate Yaletown spot is perfect for late night bites or a romantic date.
Patio drink: Coconut Cooler
Rosewood Hotel Georgia, 801 West Georgia St., 4th floor, rosewoodhotels.com
Possibly Vancouver’s most glamorous patio. An urban garden setting with chic décor and prosecco on tap.
Patio drink: Watermelon Smash
—by Joanne Sasvari