Maybe it was the snow and the silent, white beauty outdoors. Maybe it was the warm lighting and soft jazz that greeted us as we came through the door. Maybe it was the fact that we had the best table in the house, with a pretty view of forest and lake. And there is no doubt in my mind that the food and cheerful service added to it. Mostly I guess it was the combination of all those things – a perfect storm (of the snowy sort) that recently converged to afford us a romantic, relaxed evening at Nanaimo’s Bistro At Westwood Lake.
Normally there is no way we would walk into a place this popular on a Saturday evening without a reservation and expect to even get a table, much less the best one in the house. But snowy nights on Vancouver Island mean cancelled reservations (20 on this particular occasion) and we were the first ones through the door. Thus, we enjoyed the pretty view of the lake as the snow drifted down and dusk drew in.
Despite the gloomy financial outlook for the evening bistro owner Gaetan Brousseau proved to be an attentive host who delivered our meals with aplomb and great good cheer. His attitude certainly added to the excellence of the experience.
We began our meal by sharing a Dungeness crab cake accompanied by a colourful small salad dressed with a light, flavourful vinaigrette. I was so pleased to see Dungeness crab on the menu – I can never understand why, when this superb and most flavourful local ingredient is so easily accessed, restaurants insist on putting inferior crab into their crab cakes and other seafood offerings.
Our main courses included a perfectly cooked juniper berry crusted venison loin accompanied by spaetzle and tender-crisp vegetables for my husband. I opted for a flavourful mushroom and leek-stuffed chicken breast, which came with parmesan polenta and a colourful medley of vegetables. Both meals were beautifully presented and provided a happy combination of unique textures and flavours that complemented each other. It was really nice to have something other than potatoes as the carbohydrate component on the plates.
Dessert arrived – a dense and decadent slice of dark chocolate truffle tart with chantilly cream for my husband and a flavourful lemon semifreddo topped with tiny meringues and fresh fruit for myself. Again, beautiful presentation and nice combination of flavours. My only criticism here is that the semifreddo was more like a pudding than the classic half cold/frozen called for in the true translation of the word. But, the combination of lemon and fresh fruit more than compensated for the lack of correct texture.
Although I had been hoping to visit the Bistro at Westwood Lake at what I thought would be a more photogenic time of the year, we ended up having no regrets about making our initial foray to this lovely spot in the dead of winter. I can’t wait to return when the weather warms up and the trails around the lake can be hiked and enjoyed without benefit of boots and heavy clothing. And of course, we will finish our next visit with lunch or dinner on the pretty patio overlooking the lake. Something to look forward to, for sure!
The Bistro at Westwood Lake is located at 2367 Arbot Road in Nanaimo, adjacent to the Westwood Lake Tennis Club. Further information and menus can be found at the website:
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat.: 49.16674518484529 Long. -124.00690905396732
N 49 10.005 W 124 00.415