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Beach Bay Café and Patio holds court in one of Vancouver’s most iconic locations: English Bay at Denman Street. Former home of Raincity Grill, this relatively new incarnation takes classic dishes and keeps them simple with a twist courtesy of recently-hired Executive Chef Felix Zhou.

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China-born Zhou’s worked in kitchens from London (Michelin-starred Galvin La Chapelle) to Whistler (Nita Lake Lodge), most recently working at Big Trouble (and its predecessor, The Parker). Zhou’s been classically trained in French cuisine and began his culinary journey at West Restaurant under then-chef David Hawksworth.

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Ordering a plate of homemade apple cinnamon beignets with salted caramel dipping sauce – and endless mimosas ($8 when ordered with brunch) – made top priority on our recent weekend outing.

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Chef Zhou has taken numerous culinary styles and brought it to the West End, making Beach Bay Café a lovely, white-washed restaurant with a friendly vibe. The focus here is on casual dining that celebrates the bounty of BC products, from seafood to wines.

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High-top tables with light wood and white chairs add to a beach-like feel reminiscent of a resort, framed by a wall-length sepia mural depicting the old pier at English Bay Beach. A bygone era brought to the modern age with a well-thought out interior design that invites lingering over cocktails — and in our case, mimosas.

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We started brunch with a bowl of creamy (yet not heavy!) seafood chowder containing lardon, leek and potato along with bits of mussels, salmon and other Oceanwise-sanctioned seafood. The chowder was served with a couple of warm, nicely-herbed and toasted slices of baguette.

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A plate of black truffle scramble is complimented with mushrooms and an apple fennel salad. The thinly-sliced mushrooms work well with the soft scramble and apple/fennel/kale combination, adding some freshness to the dish.

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Zhou’s classic fish and chips arrives with a small cup of mashed peas and a gribiche sauce (a dressed-up version of tartar sauce with hints of fresh cucumber). A nice feature of this restaurant is the ability to get an order of this marvelous vodka-battered lingcod (finished with an iSi whip creating a light, crispy crust) to go at the front of the restaurant’s kitchen window.

Available year-round, this feast can be taken across the street to enjoy on the seaside, so if you’re in the area and the weather’s behaving, consider a gourmet picnic!

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Beach Bay’s offering both four-course set and eight-course chef tastings on New Year’s Eve. Reserve and plan on being spoiled with scallops, ling cod (with an optional Atlantic lobster tail add-on!) and sumptuous dessert choices. I’d completely trust Chef Zhou to put together a memorable eight-course tasting alongside wine pourings curated by his team and Bar Manager Adrian Lindner.

Beach Bay Cafe exterior, Vancouver

Beach Bay Café and Patio is open for lunch (noon to 3), happy hour (3 to 5 pm), dinner (5 to 10:30 pm) and weekend brunch: Saturdays 11 am to 3 pm (followed by an appetizer menu as staff prep for dinner service) and Sundays, all day (9 to 5).

Find them at 1193 Denman Street in Vancouver. Note: the restaurant’s closed on Mondays.

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