July 2, 2008
Nestled in between high-rises, perched above Robson Square, the Vancouver Art Gallery's café is a tranquil oasis amid the hubbub of downtown. Like the fabulous gift shop below, the second-floor Gallery Café can be visited without having to pay admission to the gallery that houses it. With its wrought-iron chairs, overflowing flower baskets, and fragrant mini herb gardens, the café terrace feels as though it belongs on the Left Bank-a million miles away from the chain stores and boom cars on nearby Robson Street. There's no table service and your plates are loaded onto cafeteria trays, but don't be put off: no curly fries and chicken fingers here. The menu is, instead, a more sophisticated mix of panini and salad, soup and quiche. (We recommend the caprese panini-bocconcini with Roma tomatoes, roasted peppers, and sun-dried tomato oil, $7.95, or the rare ahi-tuna salad bowl, $9.25.) Grab a Granville Island beer or a glass of well-priced wine and settle in with a good book under a Japanese maple tree. Or eavesdrop on VAG staffers-you'll get the inside scoop on all the exhibits you may never see.
When you go, you'll…
a carafe of Mission Hill Chardonnay with friends—at just $26 a bottle, the leisurely afternoon may well stretch late into the evening
gallery staff, office workers, law court denizens, tourists, and coiffed blue hairs
shoulders with the cool kids—the space is transformed on select Fridays, when the VAG hosts its all-night Fuse parties featuring live performances, DJs, and eclectic gallery tours
at the roof: Ken Lum’s Four Boats Stranded are scaled-down sculptures of historic and contemporary ships that once sailed local waters
delicate strains of classical music floating through the air (via hidden speakers)