On the 4th of December, we went to Café Medina on my day off and Jenny started work around 3pm. We wanted to have a nice quick brunch before going to visit the Vancouver Christmas Market in downtown. This was my first time visiting this restaurant after hearing all the great reviews and eating a number of times at their sister restaurant, Chambar. It is owned by executive chef Nico Schuermans and his wife Karri, as well it is co-owned by former Chambar staff Robbie Kane. Nico trained in Belgium at one of their most prestigious culinary schools. He has cooked in one of Belgium’s finest establishments, Comme Chez Soi, with three Michelin Stars. Him and his wife Karri opened Chambar in 2004 and it has been known as one of the city’s top restaurants to this day. Back when Chambar first opened, Robbie started as a server there and made an instant connection with owners Nico and Karri, over the years expressing his dream to one day open his own restaurant. Three years later, when the space down the street from Chambar opened up, he set off to take what he learned at Chambar and create his own vision as a cafe that provides a unique and memorable brunch and lunch experience.
When we first arrived, we parked across the street on Beatty in the parking garage. Just driving past the restaurant we noticed a long line building outside the door, which surprised us given that this was a Wednesday morning. As the air was cold and crisp, we were thankful to have dressed warmly and brought our mittens. We didn’t expect to be waiting out in the cold. When we walked in the restaurant, we were greeted immediately by someone working behind the counter. He informed us to leave our name on the clipboard, and then apologized for us having to wait outside. He was also kind in offering us some coffee while we waited. We stood outside for about 15 minutes before hearing our names being called. Excited that we even got called so soon, we didn’t even bother to worry about where we were being sat. The server led us not far at all, but only to the table right beside the door, which was quite chilly if I must say. Nevertheless, we were glad to be seated and we quickly opened up our menus. The restaurant was at full capacity but the servers seemed to be accustomed to this type of volume. They were friendly and energetic, coming back and forth quite often to make sure we were doing alright. We ordered two interesting drinks which we had not had anywhere else in the past. I ordered a raspberry tea latte and Jenny got the lavender tea latte. These were quite peculiar drinks if I must say and I think that they almost would have been better if they had just been plain tea and not a latte. The flavours were very unique but neither of us were very fond of these and I don’t think we would go for something quite like these again.
One thing I found very exciting about Cafe Medina was their selection of fresh Liège waffles. These are glazed with what I think was honey and dusted with icing sugar. Then you choose one topping that comes with it in a small ramekin on the side. Jenny chose the mixed berry compote and I took the fig orange marmalade. This alone would have made me so happy to eat for breakfast, if I had perhaps 4 or 5! The waffles were so sweet and chewy. Some Liège waffles I’ve had have been dry and stale, which I was very glad to see that these were not. The marmalade that came with mine was incredible. It tasted so rich with orange zest and figs all melded together in one sweet bite of perfection. The berry compote was also very nice with just the right amount of sweet and tartness. Both of these paired beautifully with the waffles and I am excited to try more of these in the future.
For our mains we had two items that were very unique to our standard brunch selection. I went with the Fricasse, which is two fried eggs, braised beef short ribs, roasted potatoes, caramelized onions, watercress, applewood cheddar and grilled focaccia. This dish is served all day and I would say it could be almost more of a lunch or dinner item because of its richness and full, hearty flavours. The short ribs were cooked magnificently, braised in this rich, deep flavoured sauce that coated the rest of the ingredients in the iron skillet which it was served in. I really enjoyed the fresh julienne apples that were on top as well because it gave a really good contrast to the salty beef and gravy. I think the only thing that kept this dish remotely like brunch was the fact that there were two fried eggs on top. This was definitely a huge winner in my book though. I was so inspired, I bought all the ingredients myself and made this dish at home a week later. That post is soon to come!
Jenny ordered the tagine, which is typically a North African dish. But we weren’t complaining. It had wonderful spices and richness to it that anyone would love! This was served in its traditional earthenware pot and had two poached eggs, spicy tomato stew, red pepper, merguez sausage, moroccan olives, cilantro and grilled focaccia. This was served with a bowl of herb filled yogurt and olive oil, to cut the spices of the dish and balance out the flavours. I haven’t had enough tagines in my life to speak to how good this was on that scale, but I will say that the spices were perfect to our liking and all the ingredients were cooked beautifully.
Overall dining here was superb. The service was warm and friendly, the atmosphere is well suited with their menu and nostalgic of an old Gastown establishment. The food is most definitely creative and of top quality, with plenty of fresh, delicious ingredients. I would say this is more of a special occasion dining experience though, the prices are higher than your typical brunch restaurant and it was quite expensive to dine here at the end. But nonetheless a unforgettable experience at Cafe Medina, and we would absolutely return again.
Quality – 5 of 5
Ingenuity – 5 of 5
Atmosphere – 5 of 5
Service – 5 of 5
Value – 4 of 5
Overall – 4.8 of 5