At Hawksworth, fine dining in Vancouver is alive and very well. Since opening to virtually instant acclaim in 2011, Chef David Hawksworth and his A-list team have subtly gone about their chosen business, of proffering the finest ingredients, almost all local, prepared in imaginative and visually arresting ways.
Chef David had worked with the iconic Marco-Pierre White in London, before coming back to his hometown to open West restaurant.
Chef David had worked with the iconic Marco-Pierre White in London, before coming back to his hometown to open West restaurant. (Sadly, West closes its doors for good in December, with Hawksworth cooking dinner there one last time early in the month.) When the Rosewood Hotel Georgia embarked on its large-scale no holds barred renovation, they came calling, and the opportunity was, to Hawksworth, golden. “A classical fine dining hotel restaurant, designed and built to order, with all of the region’s foods right at our door. It’s really great,” said chef, not so long ago, over a quick espresso in Bel Café, located steps away, just across the south entrance of the hotel. Bel is named for Annabel Hawksworth, PR extraordinaire, who has carefully crafted the Chef’s reputation as he built a stellar group of businesses and causes. Nightingale restaurant joined Bel a few years after the Rosewood project opened. A stellar catering business had been flourishing even before 2011. And the Canada-wide Hawksworth Young Chef Foundation, which awards a competition-winning young chef $10,000.00 each year, puts Hawksworth firmly on national and international stages. He still finds a way to donate time and expertise to Fishing for Kids, held each year at the West Coast Fishing Club, and which benefits the Canucks Autism Network.
A beet and cacao salad, liberally abetted by fresh filberts, was an ideal precursor to a beef tenderloin with lingonberries and sunchokes.
The flagship restaurant remains completely true to its original fine form. On a recent, busy Friday evening, Chef de Cuisine Antonio Sotomayor prepared a unique version of his BC Journeys tasting menu for us. Wines were expertly paired with each of the five courses, and there was not a miss in the bunch. “We really focus on the freshest, most clearly seasonal things,” says Sotomayor. “What we try to do is allow each ingredient to shine, while putting a few of our own flourishes into the mix.” Job well done.
The amuse bouche, truthfully large enough to count as an actual course, is two delicate oysters, fresh and intensely delicious sea urchin, and a lightly marinated piece of plum. This really did its job, whetting the appetite for more. Fantastical pumpkin with maple was taken to the next level with a beautiful piece of house-made bannock. A beet and cacao salad, liberally abetted by fresh filberts, was an ideal precursor to a beef tenderloin with lingonberries and sunchokes. The yuzu cremeux, with Tahitian vanilla and crispy rice, would have been an afterthought but for the fact it was stupendously tasty.
Service was thoughtful, just the right amount of crisp delivery and some affable chat when the opportunity arose. The room, really two rooms conjoined, remains its softly spoken self, tables well spaced, linens, flatware and stems all high grade, nothing ever rushed, nor falling short. Hard to imagine a better way to spend two or three hours. The late Charlie Trotter told me once that “you can be really good for a year or two, okay. But to stay at the highest level, for an extended period of time, seven, eight, or even twenty years, that’s the mark of a great chef.” Well, as David Hawksworth enters his ninth year of service at his eponymous restaurant, let’s all agree, he deserves the honorific.