For the past couple of years, the department store restaurant has been having a moment in Vancouver. While the days of the Woodwards food floor and the Eaton’s Malt Stop are long gone (anyone remember those?), both Nordstrom and Holt Renfrew have been dishing up high-end eats in their downtown Vancouver stores.
Holt Renfrew Vancouver debuted their Holts Cafe in the fall of 2016, but currently the concept is getting a cross-country overhaul. Late last year the retailer revealed they had launched at national culinary partnership with Chase Hospitality Group to swap out their in-house Holt’s Café concept in five locations with Colette Grand Café, including in Vancouver.
In Toronto, Colette Grand Cafe began as a single standalone concept, though they are now operating inside Holt Renfrew at the Yorkdale mall. Vancouver’s Colette has just made its “grand” launch in the past couple of weeks, though they are in more of a “soft open” phase as small changes will continue to be implemented on the menu and in the decor of the dining room in the coming months.
Focusing on French-inspired bistro fare, Vancouver’s Colette will ultimately turn the menu to focus on more seafood dishes, taking into account our prime Pacific location. Each Colette will have a regionally-specific bend to the menu, and diners can expect to find elegant fare using as much locally-sourced ingredients as possible.
Currently the Colette menu offers lunch and dinner guests a range of contemporary share plates, an array of salads, pastas, and substantial mains. Dishes like a classic Beef Tartare sings with technique and the welcome balance of brine from the capers, creaminess from the yolk, and the saltiness of the accompanying waffle-style potato chips.
A soup, like the vegetarian potato, leek, and black truffle veloute, brings the drama with a tableside pour and vibrant tones and textures. Among their share-able plates is a flatbread made with a well-achieved gluten-free crust, topped with crab, cheese, chilis, and fresh herbs.
You’ll find a lot of the French inspiration in items like the Moules Frites, Nicoise salad, and a decadent seafood-filled and plump pale yellow omelette. The menu veers off to Italy with a series of pastas, along with appies like Fritto Misto made with shrimp, calamari, and artichoke.
Colette uses all Ocean Wise-endorsed seafood, including for a lovely Arctic Char dish served with tender cauliflower, green beans, and a bewitching brown butter vinaigrette that made lead you to keep eating those veggies even after you’re full. (But they’re veggies, so it’s good for you, right?)
The goal is to have Colette’s menu include flexible options for diners with dietary restrictions and preferences; Steven Salm, who heads up Chase Hospitality, is himself a vegan, and counts in his portfolio the wildly popular Toronto-based concepts Planta and Planta Burger, which are all plant-based eateries.
So far, Salm says they aren’t planning to bring Planta to Vancouver, however he says Colette will have a quarter of its menu be plant-based. Currently there are quite a few vegetarian options, but diners who prefer to be completely animal product free will want to chat with their server about modifications.
Further evolving the menu and continuing to bring in new elements to the decor of the posh space will happen in the coming months. Luckily, the team on board is carry over from the Holt’s Cafe era, including local industry vets like General Manager Andy Wong and Chef Jason Harris, who both previously worked at the Fairmont Pacific Rim.
True, Colette is a fancy restaurant inside a fancy department store (and it’s completely inside; the kitchen closes an hour before the store since there is no street entrance for guests to exit after eating), but it isn’t overly stuffy or extravagantly priced (just stay clear of a cocktail called “Beautiful,” as it will ring in at $45).
Colette Grand Cafe is located inside Holt Renfrew Vancouver (737 Dunsmuir Street) next to Louis Vuitton.