A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I took a little day trip up Vancouver Island. I wanted to show him the beauty B.C. has to offer, and the gorgeous places I was lucky to have grown up near. Our travels took us pretty far up the island; we stopped at the beach in Parksville, wandered with the goats at Coombs, and took a stroll through Cathedral Grove. As a tour guide with limited time, I think I did rather well in giving him the Vancouver Island experience.
But none of this would have been possible without a decent lunch in our bellies. I’d wanted to try the Malahat Chalet for quite some time, but unless you’re travelling up the island it’s a little far for a weekend brunch. Since we were going past the restaurant anyway, I figured it would be the perfect start to a day of seeing the island’s natural beauty.
Located at the summit of the mountain, the restaurant overlooks the Saanich Inlet and has extraordinary views from its outdoor patio. Their patio has tons of seating, so you’re usually guaranteed a seaside/mountain experience with your meal. The rustic, ski lodge décor of the restaurant suits the mountainside location. An array of sweets, tarts, puddings, and pies greet you at the door – treats crafted in their own bakery. As you round the corner toward the patio, there is a large bar area complete with a variety of liquors and beers on-tap.
While we marvelled at the views from our table, a waitress kindly gave us a menu and asked for our drinks order. However, when I asked what kinds of tea they had at the restaurant, she was immediately flummoxed and ran off to check. When she returned, she could barely remember the teas she had just looked at, so I ordered an Earl Grey. My boyfriend ordered a coffee. How nice of him. My tea arrived in the hands of a second waitress, who forgot to bring me a spoon. But hey, the Chalet gets points for their adorable china!
The menu had heaps of options from seafood appetizers to burgers and sandwiches to full on steak and potato dinners. It didn’t seem like they had much of a niche but chose to cater to every taste and palate. We decided to have the Dirty Fries ($10) as an appetizer. These fries are delicious and have tons of flavour from the fresh herbs, garlic butter, and parmesan cheese. They taste as if they were first fried to achieve the crisp exteriors and fluffy interiors and then baked with the toppings. I want the recipe and method – they’re superb. The dip they serve with the fries was also tangy and wonderful.
Once we had received our appetizers, a third waitress appeared at our table to tell us that the Montreal smoked meat sandwich we had ordered fifteen minutes ago was not available. We were a little disappointed, but we made our secondary choices. I decided on the Inlet Clubhouse ($14) with grilled chicken breast, smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, avocado, greens, and a side salad with lemon vinaigrette. While the salad was nothing to write home about, I would definitely recommend the Malahat Chalet’s clubhouse. They’ve turned a classic sandwich into a triumph with succulent, well-seasoned chicken breast, crisp bacon, and fresh avocado. I enjoyed how they chose to leave out the middle slice of bread usual to a clubhouse as I find that third slice leaves me overfull. It was a great clubhouse.
My boyfriend chose Nonna’s Spaghetti and Meatballs ($17), which turned out to be quite good. The meatballs were moist, flavourful, and filled with fresh herbs and spices. They had cooked the pasta perfectly al dente, and the tomato sauce was fresh with the right amount of acidity. He was very satisfied with the dish.
The Malahat Chalet turned into a great start to our up-island trip. Although the staff were a bit frazzled and scatterbrained, the spectacular views and quality dishes more than made up for the service. I would recommend the Chalet as a great lunch spot to anyone doing a little sightseeing on their way over the Malahat. Make sure you order the Dirty Fries. You’ll be glad you did.