The VG Restaurant
Address: 2 Lombard Place
For those who explored Winnipeg’s dining scene before the era of cheffy fast casual and tapas style menus, The Velvet Glove holds cherished memories of lofty dining and recollections of flaming crepes Suzettes served tableside. Today, the elegant room is still wrapped in the original warm wood paneling, tables are dressed in white linen, and the service remains impeccable. Yet there is nothing stogy about the décor or the cuisine. With a new chef and new brand status as the VG Restaurant, clearly this spot has sights on winning over a fresh segment of diners while continuing to delight with quality and inspiration on their dinner plates.
The restaurant’s haute reputation is balanced by trendy promotions like Backdoor Burgers and Taco Tuesdays (served for take-away from the back door of the restaurant) which draw downtown office workers and instagramming hipsters.
Inside, lunch options are also in step with fashionable diets and flavour profiles sweeping the continent. Vietnamese pho with a vegan twist substitutes traditional beef broth with a vegetable and ginger stock that harnesses the power of eight different mushrooms. The steaming concoction is studded with tofu, edamame beans and silky rice noodles, and garnished with a mop of pea shoots.
These green garden wonders are a locavore’s dream, harvested from the hotel’s own rooftop, where an urban garden yields chard and kale, herbs, heirloom tomatoes, and 50 kilograms of honey gathered from Beeproject Apiaries-supplied beehives. Much of this bounty makes its way onto a crisp and fresh plate of greens, goat cheese, and popped wild rice dressed in honey vinaigrette, aptly named the “Manitoba Salad”.
The first born-and-raised Winnipegger to take the helm of the Fairmont kitchen, chef Tim Palmer has stacked the dinner menu with local producers and seasonal ingredients in sophisticated applications. Local bison tataki is a beautifully presented array of thinly sliced, lightly seared loin served with tangy ponzu soy sauce on a bed of mustard cress. White fish roe prepared with lemony yuzu and briny pickled honey mushrooms give the plate added texture and tartness.
Wild boar chops are the kind of showy labour of love only a talented kitchen could produce, subjected to a 24 hour brining and cold smoking process (using crab apple juice and apple wood chips) before hitting the grill. The chops are finished with a drizzle of silky black garlic and apple cider coulis, a tart, dusky match for the sweet and nutty meat.
The dessert menu is small but satisfying. Servers may no longer come bearing chocolate covered cherries, but a rich chocolate and hazelnut pate with honey sponge toffee, courtesy of the rooftop bees, shows off the perfect combination of hospitality and local flavour.