Cactus Club's new West End location was constructed with exacting sustainability standards
Chef Rob Feenie developed a distinctly West Coast menu for the Cactus Club’s newest West End location
Cactus Club Café has always been a local favourite for casual elegant food but its newest location right on the beach at English Bay in Vancouver’s West End has elevated it to destination dining. The building is gorgeous and fits in beautifully with the neighbourhood’s effervescent, beachy feel. The contemporary building is dominated by glass, accented with aluminium and wood. There’s glass on nearly all sides so you can see right through to the water from street level, and nearly every table upstairs has a spectacular view.
First LEED Gold-certified Restaurant in Canada To-be
Not just pretty, this building was constructed with exacting sustainability standards in the hopes that it will soon officially be designated the first LEED gold-certified restaurant in Canada. Other green initiatives at this location include a living, energy-efficient green roof; an organic herb garden on the second level; and water-efficient practices such as rainwater irrigation.
The new building occupies the exact same footprint as the concession stand it replaced, and while it's only 5,400 square-feet, every last inch is used wisely, seating up to 170 people upstairs (street-level) and up to 104 people downstairs (beach-level).
In the warmer weather months, its patio and beach-accessible concession window will help with crowd control; even on the drizzliest days and nights during its opening months, you could often see a lineup (reservations are not accepted).
Food and Drink’s Dynamic Duo: Chef Rob Feenie and Sommelier Sebastien Le Goff
The menu, as always, focuses on globally inspired and contemporary flavour profiles designed by Food Concept Architect Rob Feenie. Because this is Cactus Club’s first waterfront location, there is a little bit more of a focus on seafood here, with signature dishes that are exclusive to the West End location. Emphasis is on the freshest sustainable and local ingredients, including Ocean WiseTM sustainable seafood.
Not to be overshadowed by the food, Sebastien Le Goff, world-class sommelier, has been working closely with Chef Feenie and the bar and kitchen teams to create a wine menu specifically for English Bay. He’s worked in top restaurants in Vancouver, across Canada and around the world, and was recently nominated for the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame Industry Award (2011). Le Goff’s extensive and nuanced knowledge of wine could easily make him an intimidating force if he weren’t so affably charming and charismatic.
Lunch at the English Bay Cactus Club
For our predominantly seafood lunch for three, Le Goff paired each of our meals with different glasses of wine: Azul Vinho Verde (delicious; $8), Haywire Pinot Gris (delicious, with a bit more alcohol-heft; $12), and Jaune Serra Cava Brut (delicious, with bubbles; $7). Cactus Club has a really lovely, extensive list of wines, all of which are available by the glass.
Lunch itself was not only delicious, but also carefully prepared. Two out of the three of us had serious food allergies and needed modifications with our meals. All of our requests were checked thoroughly with kitchen staff and they happily made alterations and suggestions so we were all able to enjoy a great meal without needing to reach for an Epi-pen.
The ceviche was great for sharing and came with fresh, house-made tortilla chips that arrived warm, salty and crunchy. They were perfect for scooping up the mélange of Ocean Wise salmon and prawns, with red onions, Thai basil, mint, cilantro, drizzled with nuoc cham dressing ($14.00).
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
We also sampled the roasted butternut squash soup. Deceptively simple, this soup – a Rob Feenie signature dish – was rich, velvety, and deeply satisfying, especially on a cool, damp day. It’s served with one perfectly seared scallop and garnished with a bit of apple curry foam and a drizzle of basil oil ($8).
Sides: Szechuan Green Beans and Artisan-made Ravioli
The Szechuan green beans were crisp and flavourful with just enough heat to complement their earthiness ($9).
The ravioli and prawn trio came with plump butternut-squash-filled pasta pillows topped with sautéed jumbo prawns and pine nuts ($13, larger size available).
I love sablefish and order it whenever I can. You can almost do no wrong with sablefish, but in the hands of Chef Rob Feenie, it’s near perfection. His Ocean Wise sablefish has an Asian flair, prepared with shitake mushrooms, asparagus, fingerling potatoes and normally with a Peking duck broth (shown without broth; $27).
Grilled Tuna Club
The grilled tuna club is made with Ocean Wise albacore and bacon, dressed with tarragon tartar, arugula, cilantro and pickled ginger, served on an olive oil ciabatta with a side of sea-salt fries ($14.75)
Classic Key Lime Pie
For dessert we split the tart and tangy, yet creamy and luscious key lime pie ($7.75). It’s made with freshly squeezed key limes and presented classically, with a graham cracker crust and hand-whipped cream. The portion is generous, although we did finish it off entirely without hesitation.
Caramel Chocolate Trio
And after hearing some highly qualified recommendations, we were easily persuaded to try the caramel chocolate trio ($7.50). Unless you happen to have three in your group, you’re going to have problems fighting over the third cup. Each glass contains chocolate mousse overlaid with crunchy sponge toffee, topped off with warm caramel foam.