Cowichan’s Unsworth Restaurant relaxes

Unsworth Restaurant, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The beautiful heritage home that houses Unsworth Restaurant

The vibe has changed, but the ambiance at Cowichan’s Unsworth Restaurant remains very much the same since new operators Christie Pope and Steve Elskens took over a couple of years ago.

Situated amidst the verdant beauty of  the Unsworth Vineyards, the heritage home that houses the dining spot of the same name continues to attract a devoted following.  The feeling is less formal these days – a lot more casual, in fact.  It seems to have more of an appeal for family gatherings, and the menu reflects that feeling.

Beef burger, fries and salad at Unsworth Restaurant, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Not-your-average beef burger

While we adored the ‘old’ more high-end Unsworth under the direction of Brad Boisvert, we found the new iteration just as pleasing.  The restored historic home, built in the early 1900s, seems to be able to morph with ease and grace – it’s a classic, no matter which way you look at it.

Christie and Steve have spent many years cultivating relationships with local food mongers, so there is a great emphasis on the ‘fresh local’ angle at Unsworth.  The menu offers seasonal specialties integrating such delicacies as spot prawns and lamb.  There are small plates for sharing, or larger offerings – all of them innovative.

Spaghettini with lamb bolognes at Unsworth Restaurant, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Spaghettini with lamb bolognese

We arrived for dinner on a Spring evening, when the vineyards were awash in  dusky sunlight.  A clutch of free-range chickens worked their way up and down the rows of grape vines as we perused the menu and enjoyed the pretty view.

I settled on a burger – but not just any burger.  My husband chose the spaghettini pasta with lamb Bolognese, parmesan, mint and parsley.

View from Unsworth Restaurant, Duncan, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The view from the restaurant

Our meals arrived in good time, and I went to work on the generously-sized burger that included beef, smoked chorizo, pancetta, basil cream and sweet and spicy tomato jam. I can only say it was unlike any burger I have ever consumed – the combined flavours were a delightful surprise on the palate and had my taste buds wondering what the heck had hit them.  The burger arrived with fries and a salad – no lack of food on the plate, to the point where in the end we decided we probably could have split a single order and been quite satisfied.

My husband’s pasta dish was also a nice change from the standard beef or pork Bolognese, with the flavour of the lamb coming to the forefront in the sauce.

`We finished our meal by sharing a slice of decadent hazelnut brown butter cake accompanied by caramelized pears, sour cream and whipped cream – a lovely combination that was not too sweet.

Hazelnut brown butter cake with caramelized pears, whipped cream and sour cream at Unsworth Restaurant, Duncan, Vancouver Island

Sweet endings – hazelnut brown butter cake

Unsworth Restaurant has also come up with the concept recently of a CSR – Community Supported Restaurant.   Based on the concept of CSAs or Community Supported Agriculture produce boxes, the CSR accepts pre-paid subscriptions that get participants a set number of meals on designated nights through the winter and early Spring months.  It’s a smart method of ensuring the viability of the restaurant during less busy seasons and has obviously appealed to those in the Cowichan region.  Christie revealed that Unsworth had 100 subscribers last winter.

So, it’s onward and upward at Unsworth.  If the operators continue going in the direction that they started from there seems to be no limit to what they can accomplish.  In the meantime, we get to eat interesting food in a beautiful setting – it’s a sweet deal for all concerned.

            Further information on Unsworth Restaurant, it’s hours of operation, location and menu can be found at the website:


Price rating: $$

            wheelchair-lUnsworth is located at 2915 Cameron Taggart Road in the Mill Bay area

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.660453  Long. -123.589376

N 48 39.627  W 123 35.363



About Shirley

More years ago than I like to remember, I completed the Journalism program at Vancouver Community College and launched straight into a career as a newspaper reporter (thanks to my journalism professor Nick Russell and an opening at the venerable daily Alberni Valley Times.) My work as a news reporter/feature writer/columnist and ultimately, newspaper and magazine editor, took me to many interesting places and introduced me to hundreds of interesting characters over the years. I loved every minute of it, but burnout caught up with me while I was trying to juggle the simultaneous editing of five trade magazines, and for 27 years I abandoned my keyboard (on a professional basis, at least) and followed my heart in a variety of other careers. In 2010 I returned to the journalistic fold, thanks to the encouragement (nay – nagging!) of my husband. I feel no regret – only great joy to be back at the keyboard, and to be spending time interviewing interesting folks and discovering great places.
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