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Trio of patios serves up fun, sun and a little shade

Remaining days of summer perfect for outdoor dining

The Hired Belly has donned sunscreen and shorts to selflessly perform more deck research. We'd be foolish to pretend there's not a surfeit of worthy real estate for consideration, but this particular trio of contrasting über-patios rarely disappoints-and we figure there's still enough summer left to enjoy them.

One can't help but wonder what sort of impact the late fall arrival of the contentious new Cactus Club will have on the Boathouse at English Bay (1795 Beach Ave., 604-669-2225), king among beachside decks since it started, replacing the long vanished English Bay Café in the late '80s.

We go mainly for the setting, but the drinks (good beer and cocktail specials) and the food are both serviceable and dished with a smile. Beware of busy weekends however, when the bartenders apparently can't keep up the pace. We waited a good 20 minutes for our pints of Stanley Park Amber the other day-which had us wondering if they were being shipped from the brewery (which is located on Annacis Island). They might want to brush up before CC lands across the street.

Indulgent business lunches may be a thing of the past but nothing compares to the lure of C Restaurant's shoreside patio (1600 Howe St., 604-681-1164), which appeals equally to shade seekers and sun worshippers, budding tycoons or not. C's smart, black parasols keep you as cool as a proverbial cucumber while perusing an impressive range of lunchtime offerings, including a tempting chefs' "Business Menu" (four courses for $35). However, our choice found us luxuriating in the simply described "seafood salad on organic greens," which yields a plethora of superlative tastes, from smoked trout, spot prawn sashimi, seared sea scallop and Dungeness crab meat, all sustainable, perched on organic greens. A glass of Anne Sperling's Okanagan Riesling makes for a perfect pairing.

Another quintessential West Coast experience finds us headed south, across the Arthur Laing Bridge to the Flying Beaver Bar & Grill (4760 Inglis Drive, 604273-0278) on the Fraser's Middle Arm. The Beaver combines duties as the "go-to" airport pub (ideal for meeting folks between flights, who don't have time to head downtown) with its role as Harbour Air's float plane terminus. That bonus affords a constant stream of arrivals and departures, including no shortage of classic de Havilland Beavers, for which the pub is named.

The beer list is dutifully mainstream (though with some good options) and well priced, with super draft specials offered on Sunday. Wines, too, are decently affordable. Bountiful burgers and serious nachos, plus a heavy duty breakfast menu (only on weekend mornings), add up to one of the area's best pub lineups. For lighter tastes, go with the sesame-crusted tuna tataki and avocado slices. The Friday and Saturday night free shuttle bus for locals in Richmond and Marpole means you don't have to drive, and they'll pick up and drop off at the Canada Line. Hint: Go early on weekends and on sunny days if you want an outdoor seat.

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Canada sends one of its strongest teams yet to this October's Giffard International Cocktail Challenge in Angers, France, in Jacob Sweetapple of Fairmont Pacific Rim and Justin Taylor of Four Seasons YEW Restaurant and Bar. As the city's cocktail culture continues to flourish, it will be interesting to see how this high powered duo fare against shakers from the world over. Stay tuned.

info@hirebelly.com