Nightingale Restaurant Second Floor Dining Room View
Nightingale Restaurant Second Floor Dining Room View

Known for its mellifluous and fulsome song, the nightingale appears in nature and, in multiple instances, in art, from Romantic poetry right on back to Ovid and Sophocles. But in Vancouver, on Hastings Street just a few paces off Burrard, in a retired bank building, a different kind of song emanates each day, each evening, at Chef David Hawksworth’s second iteration, Nightingale. Inside, many the motif clearly is expressed, by images and models of birds in cages. But the most important song here really is the cooking, by Executive Chef Phil Scarfone and his talented crew.

Downstairs features a tall, almost stately, bar, and diners are seated in a room that skies up above for roughly 25 metres. It almost always a lively, chatty space, full of energy. Upstairs, open only in the evenings, is very open, and features three two-person banquettes right opposite the always-busy kitchen. I have, upon occasion, gone up to sit in one of the banquettes and simply observe the kitchen, busily preparing dishes for the diners downstairs, but also doing all kinds of early prep work for the evening’s service. So, never a dull moment.

Nightingale Restaurant Cocktail
Nightingale Restaurant Cocktail

This is fine dining of the approachable sort, service friendly and attentive, the wine list stacked with interesting and affordable options, the menu inventive, sans any pretension, presentation full of attention to detail, and most all full of deliciousness.

This is fine dining of the approachable sort, service friendly and attentive, the wine list stacked with interesting and affordable options, the menu inventive, sans any pretension, presentation full of attention to detail, and most all full of deliciousness.

Some examples include a salad of fresh, crisp and juicy Okanagan apple with Avonlea cave-aged cheddar, walnuts and lemon pepper seasoning, a sensation of textures and flavours that truly whets the appetite. Roasted Brussels sprouts with crispy pecans and sherry vinegar are taken to the next level with fresh, plump red grapes. Again, the flavour contrasts are delightful, each component standing out on its own while acting in complete harmony within the dish. Fire-oven pizzas are uniformly excellent, but if I had to pick a favourite it would likely be the lamb sausage, broccollini, Macedonian feta, and mint.

Nightingale Restaurant Spaghetti Duck Ragu
Nightingale Restaurant Spaghetti Duck Ragu

Nightingale has been a hit since it opened, and continues to serve literally hundreds of meals a day. If you have never been, it’s time to try it out.

Cavatelli with broodingly deep and wonderful duck ragu, pecorino Romano, and crispy sage is something not to be missed. But Chef Scarfone’s way with grilled hanger steak is marvellous. And one of the best things ever is the comte cheese polenta, in this case served with the rib-eye steak. One great way to do things is to order dishes to share, throughout the menu, so you can taste a lot of things.

You might be full by then, but the buttermilk pannacotta with fresh berries and bee pollen is not going to hurt anybody. Nightingale has been a hit since it opened, and continues to serve literally hundreds of meals a day. If you have never been, it’s time to try it out. If you have, you know what to expect, and that is a very good thing.

Nightingale Restaurant Bar
Nightingale Restaurant Bar
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James Tobler was Editor first of NUVO and then MONTECRISTO magazines, over a period of 20 years. He edited and wrote the Passport blog for Kiwi Collection for its first two years as well. He has written four cookbooks, with the chefs, for Araxi, Blue Water Cafe, West, and Cin Cin. He has contributed to a wide variety of publications, including The Globe and Mail, Okanagan Life, Fox News Lifestyle, and Wine Access magazine, where he was Managing Editor. He currently works with Mark Taylor on Gem City Guide, and, now, Inside Spirits magazine.

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