The Helm and Corner Suite: The Opening and Closing of Vancouver Restaurants

New TV show trains local new kids on the block, The Helm, how to survive Vancouver's 'brutal' restaurant scene.

Vancouver’s Helm merits some looking in to

The recent closure of Corner Suite Deluxe Bistro proves the Vancouver restaurant scene is brutal for experienced restaurateurs and newbies alike. But new Food Network TV show ‘The Opener’ trains local new kids on the block, The Helm, how to survive


The Corner Suite Deluxe Bistro opened in spring 2010 with the stellar team of André McGillivray (formerly of Chambar, Lumière, Feenie’s and Boneta) and Steve Da Cruz (who cut his teeth in the bars of Manhattan). Even before they opened they created quite a buzz with the appointment of Food Network star—and hometown boy—Anthony Sedlak as head chef, and then again when chef Jason Liezert stepped up to replace Sedlak before the first cork was popped. The restaurant and bar quickly established itself—winning Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Bar in Vancouver in May.


When they announced last week that they were closed, people were incredulous, proving just how tough the restaurant industry is in Vancouver.


The Helm


1180 Howe Street, Vancouver

email | 604-569-0860


Appearing on ‘The Opener,’ Food Network: date TBA

The brutal, live-or-die nature of the restaurant biz provides the train-wreck-watching allure for the Food Network’s new show “The Opener,” in which David Adjey, the seasoned professional endeavours to turn restaurant rookies into resourceful restauranteurs.


New Vancouver restaurant The Helm gets The Opener treatment

The team behind Vancouver’s new restaurant The Helm certainly seem to qualify for Adjey’s mentoring. The words “unknown” and “novice” seem to be the most commonly used adjectives to describe The Helm’s exec team of Angela Moore, Cameron Wasnea, Laura Francis and David Carlini. But they’re daring to dream big.


The fearless foursome have transformed the Howe Street site (previously Unwine’d) into a swanky spot largely at odds with Vancouver’s recent trend of downgrading dining establishments to cosy neighbourhood eateries.


Emulating the supper clubs of Montreal and New York, the Helm will evolve from after-work drinks into dinner, before becoming a stylish nightclub with live music, DJs and dancing.


Salt Spring Island's Moonstruck farmhouse feta encircled by golden beets with Agassiz hazelnuts

Salt Spring Island’s Moonstruck  feta encircled by golden beets with Agassiz hazelnuts

Image: Rebecca Bollwitt


The Helm’s palatial décor a departure from the usual Vancouver caz

Walking into The Helm I felt a sumptuousness more akin to my days in Monaco than the usual flip-flop, fleece-wearing vibe of Vancouver. This may have been partly due to opening-night opulence on the part of the patrons, but the crystal chandaliers, violet walls with silver relief and the revival of white linen tablecloths certainly played a part too.


A marble bar divides the restaurant, preserving the front’s lively buzz while allowing the rear (which has several cozy nooks created by columns) to foster a more intimate atmosphere.


Fancy, fun food from chef Tobey Nemeth

Heading up the kitchen is the talented Tobey Nemeth, most noted for her work at the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar in Toronto. Her food demands attention for its presentation, texture and taste; from simple little things like warmed olives (why have I not thought of this before) to the beautifully balanced Steelhead Trout.


Like the décor, the food gives a sense of European sumptuousness without being foux-du-fafa.


Video: Helm Chef Tobey Nemeth talks about her inspiration and passion for local and global ingredients



Lesson learned from Corner Suite closure

It remains to be seen whether Vancouverites will flock to The Helm’s uptown style as something that has been lacking from the scene or if it’s too formal for our West Coast tastes, but if the Corner Suite’s closing has taught us anything, you shouldn’t wait too long to try it for yourself.