Ladysmith’s Wild Poppy Bistro

Duck Salad Bowl at Wild Poppy Bistro, Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Duck Ponzu Salad Bowl

Who knew? Who knew that a tiny town of 8,500 perched on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island could be home to an upscale bistro – gluten and peanut-free, no less! Well, the good residents of Ladysmith know, and that’s obvious the minute you step through the door of the Wild Poppy Bistro. You wait for tables, even at 1:30 on a weekday afternoon, and you wait a bit for your food. But all of that, we discovered recently, is more than worth it.

Wild Poppy isn’t large, by any stretch of the imagination – seating tops out at accommodation for a couple of dozen. There are large artistic renditions of poppies on the walls, bare wood floors, bare wooden tables. In other words, there is absolutely nothing over-the-top fancy about the place. The food follows the same mantra. There is nothing high-end on the menu, but plenty of innovation, plenty of local-and-fresh, plenty of gluten-free and plenty of really tempting stuff.

By the time we arrived the daily quiche was sold out, so we took up our menus again and pondered the numerous mouth-watering options. One of the many salad offerings? A cup of house-made soup? Veggie enchiladas? Or maybe the pulled pork grilled cheese?

Yesteryear Farms Sausage Plate at Wild Poppy Bistro, Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Yesteryear Farms Sausage Plate

Ultimately, I settled on the duck ponzu salad bowl and my husband opted for the Yesteryear Farms sausage plate.

It took 35 minutes from the time we entered the Wild Poppy until our meals hit the table so, a warning – don’t go through that door if you are starving and need to eat right now. Plan ahead to allow the kitchen to work its magic – it will be worth the trouble.

The duck ponzu salad bowl arrived in the form of a colourful, artistic heap of duck confit, edamame, ramen noodles, shaved fennel, Savoy cabbage and snap peas, finished with a ponzu sesame vinaigrette. My mouth is watering at the thought of it – the flavour and texture combinations were masterful, and the vinaigrette was a perfect complement to the ingredients.

Wild Poppy Bistro, Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Inside the Wild Poppy – packed, bright and busy!

My husband’s sausage plate featured two flavourful, tender, plump sausages with a perfect blend of seasonings. The sausages were accompanied by a substantial chunk of aged cheddar cheese, rhubarb chutney, a gluten-free roll and house and potato salads (the latter of which he said he hadn’t enjoyed anything as good in a very long time).

Of course, we couldn’t pass up all the goodies in the display case, located right next to the till. So, a decent gluten-free ginger cookie for himself and a really lovely not-too-sweet butter tart in an excellent gluten-free pastry for me.

In addition to all the goodness on the food end of things, it was nice to see that the Wild Poppy also features locally-roasted Peaks coffee, tea from the nearby Westholme Tea Farm and botanically-brewed sodas from Fentiman’s.

We learned during our foray in to the Wild Poppy that the bistro has just celebrated its four-year anniversary. In a world where restaurants appear and fail with regularity, it’s no small wonder that the Wild Poppy continues to survive and thrive. Great food, friendly service, upbeat vibe. Now, if they had just offered a refill on our coffee….

Wild Poppy Bistro doesn’t have a website, but it can be found on Facebook at:

Price rating: $-$$

The Wild Poppy Bistro is located at 541 First Avenue, Ladysmith

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat.: 48.993942 Long.: -123.817997

48° 59′ 38.1912” N 123° 49′ 4.7892” W


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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