Victoria’s Cook Street Village features one-of-a-kind shopping and restaurants in a European-like setting
Credit: Dennis Green

Victoria’s Cook Street Village features one-of-a-kind shopping and restaurants in a European-like setting

Tucked away in Victoria’s Fairfield neighbourhood, Cook Street Village is an earthy, eclectic, commercial corridor that attracts the sort of visitors who live and breathe by a simple mandate – relax and enjoy.

As the largest of four commercial nooks in Fairfield, Cook Street Village offers a slower pace, an array of restaurants and shops, and a neighbourhood atmosphere that blends small town ambience with Old World European flavour.

Heritage Neighbourhood

The Village runs along five cosy blocks between Leonard and Oscar streets. Heritage homes, many of which date from the Victorian and Edwardian periods, typify the residential portion of the street. In fact, Hampton Court, one of the city’s most distinguished heritage apartments, marks the southern border.

"I simply love the feel of that area," says Ines Hanl, principal with The Sky is the Limit Design. She frequents the area for its delectable food, atmosphere and funky clothing stores. "Lots of sidewalk coffee, the ocean only a stroll away, lots of unique businesses – for me it’s somewhat Mediterranean.”

Wisteria and English ivy drape over veranda railings and wooden shutters on large character homes adjacent to Beacon Hill Park – a 62-acre recreational paradise established in 1882 with stone medieval bridges, lush gardens, a petting zoo and playground, and miles of trails for walking and horseback riding.

Beacon Hill Park reaches the ocean just six blocks south of Cook Street Village. To the east along the ocean is Clover Point – the 1843 landing place of Sir James Douglas where sun, wind or wild weather can await depending on the season.

Once home to some of Victoria’s first dignitaries, Cook Street Village retains its historical significance in many ways, not the least of which is the commercial sector’s composition of boutique-style family-owned businesses.

Promenade-friendly

Its layout is rare in a large urban setting. None of the streets running perpendicular to Cook Street bisect it, creating a welcoming atmosphere for pedestrians and plenty of corner space for outdoor eating and classic large-scale architectural design.

Both commercial and residential buildings boast traditional claddings, bay and oriel windows, pitched rooflines and beautiful chestnut-treed boulevards that encourage the lost art of strolling. The buildings are set back in a staggered, built-over-time arrangement.

Village Shops and Markets

Several organic food markets beckon with fresh, local produce and organic deli items. The local butcher shop offers Island-grown meats and poultry along with daily-made sausage. Three coffee houses in the Village offer plenty of sidewalk camaraderie under colourful awnings and on timber-framed patios. In the wintertime, indoor fireplaces lure chilly wanderers inside.

Four design stores in the neighbourhood offer a cultural cross-section of vintage, reclaimed and refurbished furniture, antiques and accessories with timeless, one-of-a-kind appeal.

From Mid-Century Modern to French Provincial, the range of styles is wide and satisfying to both the spendthrift and peruser of high-end antiques. The stores' lifetime owners each tell a similar tale: they’ve been in the Village 10 years or more, they have their hands in resurrecting each creation and they scour estate sales and private client lists for treasured pieces that resonate with esthetic beauty and contemporary functionality. They offer a careful mix of new accessories as well, proving that style is very much about connecting the unexpected.

As for design appeal, Hanl says mixing old and new across time periods is a popular way to go in Victoria.

"The stores are certainly a good source to find a treasure that speaks to one's soul," says the designer. "Reclaimed and restored furniture doesn’

Kay's Korner
Credit: Dennis Green

Kay's Korner

A vintage, white-vinyl salon chair and a swivelling oval mirror are at home together at Kay’s Korner. Owner Karin Knowlton says she buys what she loves and recommends Coffee Bar None for the best brew in the Village.

Surroundings
Credit: Dennis Green

Surroundings

At Surroundings, Kristiane Baskerville mixes antique treasures with beautifully selected new accessories for a pronounced interior design bent. "Every piece tells a story," she says. "I look for things with good lines and I think about how people will use those items today." Kristiane says no one makes Americanos like the Soup Peddler.

Mercedes Lane Too
Credit: Dennis Green

Mercedes Lane Too

Tina Bogart-Robson offers utilitarian country pieces reinvented from previously loved furniture and fittings like headboards, doors and window boxes. Her shabby chic creations at Mercedes Lane Too are a stunning complement to her funky line of women’s clothing.

Rack 'Em Up
Credit: Dennis Green

Rack 'Em Up

Cook Street Village is a friendly place for a bike ride or a stroll. The combination of tree-lined boulevards, heritage buildings and independent shops makes the neighbourhood a popular destination for pedestrians.

To Market, to Market
Credit: Dennis Green

To Market, to Market

Independent grocers like Mother Nature's Market & Deli and Island Meat & Seafood lend to the neighbourhood's European-like atmosphere.

Dine Out
Credit: Dennis Green

Dine Out

For an authentic 1950s diner experience, head to Rosie's Diner for burgers, milkshakes and, of course, iconic Betty Boop decor.

You Brew
Credit: Dennis Green

You Brew

Try your hand at winemaking at Wineworks, where you can bottle your own aromoatic bouquet.

Cup of Java
Credit: Dennis Green

Cup of Java

Moka House and Coffee Bar None are part of the bustling restaurant and cafe scene in the Village. Three coffee houses in the Village offer plenty of sidewalk camaraderie under colourful awnings and timber-framed patios. In the wintertime, indoor fireplaces lure chilly wanderers inside.

Splish Splash
Credit: Dennis Green

Splish Splash

Rainbird Boutique specializes in wet-weather gear such as Hunter boots, colourful, funky footwear, umbrellas and rain jackets.

Originally published in BC Home & Garden magazine. For regular updates, subscribe to our free Home and Garden e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the magazine.