The Dishes is a repeating column that asks Islanders to walk us through a map of their ideal day and night on the town. We’re talking breakfast, lunch, happy hour, dinner and late night cocktails. Tax and tip included.
For this edition of The Dishes, we tag along with veteran bartender and spirits enthusiast Shawn Soole of Soole Hospitality Concepts for a whirlwind crawl of his favourite food and drink spots across Victoria. Buckle up and bring your appetites!
Good morning! What’s for breakfast/brunch?
During the week I am not a brunch/breakfast sort of guy but when I get the opportunity to have breakfast with the family I most likely will hit The Ruby on Douglas. My girls (wife Jill and daughter Mila) love it there; they’ve got something for everyone and you can be as healthy or unhealthy as you want. They have waffles for Mila, standard breakfast for Jill and I can have one of the varieties of hashes even when I know I should have granola.
Where should we meet for coffee/tea?
My addiction to great coffee is well known and when I am away, I miss Hey Happy so much. I go for the Nitro Cold Brew on tap always, my wife changes it up. Best spot to try multiple different bean types with a pour-over so when I catch up with my buddy, Solomon, he’s happy. It’s small and bustling, but there is one seat at the end of the row that looks out the back door and I can park myself there for a few hours, plug in my headphones and bang out a ton of work.
Now we’re hungry again. What’s for lunch?
Being away from home for long stretches of time especially this year has made me crave Cafe Mexico more and more. Tacos are on point, always great cocktails and agaves; cochinita or barbacoa is my go-to. I work through lunch so finding somewhere that’s got a quiet bar to perch on to get on my laptop is key, Bodega on Trounce Alley would be the second spot that I can go, have a cheese board or chorizo sandwich and get some work done.
What if we still have an appetite and a thirst around Happy Hour?
I can see that I hang out a lot in Market Square which is my hub of sorts when I am back home working, tons of space for meetings and catch-ups. The Drake is my go-to beer bar, best beer selection in the city, amazing service from knowledgable people and that vibe that you’ve walked into your stereotypical local but with better beer, also has a nice back deck for those summer months. On the other side of town, I like to hit up Chorizo and Co and support Stephen Quigley the best way I can, by drinking and eating. At Chorizo and Co, food is exceptional (have the squid sandwich), the wine list is small but well-selected, love the Stag’s Hollow Albarino and the experience always ends with a shot of Fernet with Steve.
What’s for dinner?
It’s a toss up between Brasserie L’Ecole and Olo, always. Brasserie is a stalwart and will always have a special place in my heart, I go with Jill, I go with friends from out of town; it can be a fancy or casual as you want to make it. Always do Steak and “fancy frites” with a nice Bordeaux, maybe be cheeky and start with Chicken Liver Mousse. Olo, on the other hand, is somewhere I like to go when I want a crazy dining experience with local fare, ingenious plating and a spectacular wine list focussing on natural wines. The menu is always in a state of flux, changing with every season which makes it a spot I love to go when I don’t want to do anything within the norm, something that is truly different.
What’s for dessert?
I’m not a huge dessert person. Jill loves chocolate so anything in that realm satisfies her. I do love to head back to Trounce Alley and have some cheese at Bodega’s new little sister, Poco. Small and intimate; great selection of cheeses and dessert sherries — it’s perfect.
Where are you taking us for late-night cocktails?
This doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, I try to hit a fair few places in the night. With travel and family, being out late at night is just not something I do a lot anymore. Love my go to haunts, Veneto with its new look and young, talented team is always on point, Clive’s is like going home in a lot of ways while some of the newer venues are shaking things up such as Baz over at the Courtney Room and Clayton at Wind Cries Mary. Victoria’s cocktail scene is diverse and special, every block has something to offer whether it be Little Jumbo on lower Fort or Clarke & Co. on Blanshard; every strip has a cool little nook or cranny.