One of the world’s most livable cities, Vancouver is also among the most beloved by tourists. With shiny glass buildings juxtaposed against lush green mountains and nature, it’s like an uncongested, perpetually temperate Hong Kong in ways, with outdoor activities, bicycle culture, endless foodie delights, a unique West-meets-East population, and LGBT friendliness.
To get a handle on the musts for LGBT visitors today, one can consult with Matthew Scott, openly gay chief concierge at the 367-room Fairmont Pacific Rim (1038 Canada Pl., Tel: 604-695-5300. www.fairmont.com/pacificrim-vancouver). Embodying all that’s fabulous about Vancouver, this gorgeous, contemporary property, rich with modern art and architecture (you can take a podcast audio tour), occupies a prime location on Victoria Harbour along the scenic seawall bike and walking trail and nearby Stanley Park. There are complimentary bikes for guests on a first-come-first-serve basis, and the hotel is just a block from downtown’s bustle and commerce.
Summer 2016 saw the debut of ten new, 800-square-foot Owner’s Suites featuring European modernist design, curated vinyl collections and record players, and unbeatable water and mountain views, while all rooms enjoy natural light and earthy, soothing color schemes. The lobby’s RawBar serves fantastic sushi and sustainable seafood (Japanese Chef Taka is a gem), and the perpetually busy Bella Gelateria outshone even Italy’s own artisans by winning 2012’s Florence Italy Gelato Festival.
Pacific Rim’s chief concierge for nearly seven years and member of the Les Clefs d’Or international concierge association, Scott previously worked at neighboring Fairmont Waterfront and Fairmont Empress in Victoria, BC. What does he love most about his 22-year concierge career?
“Every day is different,” he replies. “Once I received an overseas call inquiring about the rental of a llama costume to play a practical joke. A llama costume was not available, but I was able to hire a live llama named Todd with a resume, as Todd had done previous film work!”
Where are the coolest, most chic places for cocktails?
It’s worth seeking out The Diamond (6 Powell St. www.di6mond.com), a hard-to-find upstairs lounge in a classic heritage building just off Gastown’s Maple Tree Square. A relaxed, hipster vibe, and my fave cocktail is the Violet Tower with pisco, grapefruit, Allspice, and Port, plus they offer an fantastic selection of Asian-inspired tapas. Also, Pacific Rim’s lobby lounge! The live music by sought-after local talent and creative cocktails by award-winning bartenders Grant Sceney and Mike Shum ensure it remains the place in Vancouver.
Vancouver is a foodie heaven, so what are some of the most fashionable, hip, and interesting restaurants in town right now?
A fantastic new Asian-fusion restaurant, Torafuku (958 Main St., Tel: 778-903-2006. www.torafuku.ca). Meant to be shared, the food is a playful mix of Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese influences; the miso butter on the hickory-smoked corn is divine. Sleek and contemporary, Ancora (1600 Howe St., Tel: 604-681-1164. www.ancoradining.com), with views over False Creek to Granville Island, serves excellent seafood with Peruvian influence, and a renowned Vancouver sushi chef. A must-try is their Ancora Glacier, which includes oysters, ceviche, tartare, mussels, Escabeche, and sashimi. Opened in 2015, AnnaLena (1809 W. 1st Ave., Tel: 778-379- 4052. www.annalena.ca) is an intimate neighborhood bistro for modern Canadian cuisine with friendly, well-informed, attentive waitstaff. Of particular note is the eclectic collection of LEGO objects d’art curated by Chef Mike Robbins. Bauhaus (1 W Cordova St., Tel: 604-974-1147. www.bauhaus-restaurant.com) was opened in 2015 by Filmmaker Uwe Boll, who wanted to bring contemporary European/German cuisine to Vancouver. Finally, Pidgin (350 Carrall St., Tel: 604-620-9400. www.pidginvancouver.com). Classically French-trained chefs of Japanese descent preparing Asian-French fusion cuisine. My favorite dish there is the Dan Dan kohlrabi noodle salad with tofu.
Who serves the greatest weekend brunch?
ORU here in the hotel. The Pac Rim Benny is a must-try! Joe Fortes (777 Thurlow St. Tel: 604-669-1940. www.joefortes.ca) is a classic chop-and-seafood restaurant with a spectacular rooftop patio. You’d never know you’re right downtown. If your waistline can handle it, the lobster Benedict is worth it! Medina Café (780 Richards St., Tel: 604-879-3114. www.medinacafe.com) is all about waffles and their accompanying toppings like dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, pistachio rose- water, salted caramel, raspberry caramel, and fig. And L’Abattoir (217 Carrall St., Tel: 604-568-1701. www.labattoir.ca), modern French cuisine served in a heritage building in the historic Gastown neighborhood, Vancouver’s original downtown when the railway first came to the city. The homemade currant scones, served warm with jam and clotted cream, will melt in your mouth.
Who are the hottest up-and-coming designers in Canada, and where can we buy their clothes?
The Georgia Strait ran a great article for 2016 Vancouver Fashion Week about local designers to watch, which you can see online www.straight.com/life/657896/7-local-designers-watch-2016-vancouver-fashion-week. Meanwhile, hip, urban clothing is located within Gastown and the Mount Pleasant/Main Street districts. I would also suggest checking out the winners of the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards, which just held their annual event recognizing the best in Canadian arts and fashion (www.cafawards.ca).
Vancouver is a great city for environmentalists and sustainable initiatives. Tell us a bit about that and Fairmont’s honey program.
Vancouver is an extremely eco-friendly city, with the goal of being the greenest city in the world by 2020. Fairmont has been a pioneer of environmental stewardship, and many hotels offer rooftop gardens and bee programs. Our nearby sister property, Fairmont Waterfront, has a thriving bee program with both honey and pollinator bees in their rooftop garden. Their 2015 honey harvest brought 600 pounds of honey, and the hotel uses it in its cocktails, chocolate, desserts, salad dressing, hand-churned ice creams, and even their signature Fairmont ‘Stinger’ Lager.
Since gay marriage is legal and Vancouver is a great place to tie the knot or honeymoon, what are a few of the most romantic things to do?
Picnic at Lighthouse Park (www.lighthousepark.ca) in West Vancouver, a 30-minute drive from the city. Enjoy an intimate stroll through the park’s trails to the lighthouse, clamber up the rocks, and sit back and bask in the sun while enjoying a stunning view. Try a private Lotus Land (www.lotuslandtours.com) guided kayak tour in Deep Cove. You’ll paddle up the Indian Arm, surrounded by old-growth rainforest and luxury waterfront homes, to Twin Island. Here, your guide will prepare a salmon barbecue while you explore the island or just relax on the beach. The Teahouse in Stanley Park (Ferguson Point, Stanley Park, Tel: 604-669-3281. www.vancouverdine.com/teahouse) is a Vancouver institution. Popular with tourists, given its location, you cannot beat the view from the bluff over the ocean. Finally, Mosquito (32 Water St., Tel: 604-398-3188. www.mosquitodessert.com), a Champagne and dessert lounge. Need I say more?
Which guided city tours do you recommend most often to your guests?
Many of our guests enjoy private tours by town car that cover the city highlights: Stanley Park, Gastown, Chinatown, Queen Elizabeth Park, Robson Street, and Granville Island. Tour Guys (Tel: 800-691-9320. www.tourguys.ca) offer fantastic walking tours of downtown, Gastown, and Chinatown at no charge. Instead, payment is via gratuity. This means the guys are giving 110% to wow our guests. Top rated on TripAdvisor.
Where can you go to get the best views of the city?
Grouse Mountain (www.grousemountain.com) is across the harbor in North Vancouver. From the SeaBus (www.translink.ca), a part of public transit, you can savor a downtown view from the water. The Lookout at Harbour Centre (555 West Hastings St., Tel: 604-689-0421. www.vancouverlookout.com), a tourist attraction, is an observation deck approximate- ly 50 stories up. Also, the Aquabus (Tel: 604-689-5858. www.theaquabus.com), a bathtub shaped, covered boat commuting in False Creek between the west side of the city and downtown for a view of Granville Island, floating homes, and the wall of residential glass towers that make up the Yaletown neighborhood.
What about an indoor activity for rainy days, like a lesser-known museum or attraction?
The Rennie Collection at Wing Sang (51 East Pender St., Tel: 604-682-2088. www.renniecollection.org) is a showcase for the private art collection of local condominium mogul Bob Rennie. Carefully collected and curated over the past two-plus decades in the oldest building in Chinatown, Bob and his partner Carey have amassed one of the most significant collections of both international and local artists in North America, even loaning pieces to the Tate, MET, Guggenheim, and Pompidou. We’re fortunate to have works by some of the same artists, like renowned photographer Rodney Graham, Ian Wallace, and Andrew Dadso, as part of our hotel art collection. Tours of the Rennie Collection are complimentary but must be booked well in advance.
If someone is looking for a full-service spa, where do you send them?
Besides our Willow Stream Spa, the Miraj (1495 W. 6th Ave., Tel: 604-733-5151. www.mirajhammam.com), a traditional Middle Eastern spa offers a hammam and gomage, and an intense massage and scrub down. If you are going to venture to Whistler for a day, Scandinave Spa (8010 Mons Rd., Tel: 604-935-2424. www.scandinave.com) is a perfect spot to relax and is set in a forest. Enjoy a variety of body treatments or simply make your way through the grounds, from hot tubs to saunas with varying temperatures, thus constantly warming and cooling the body.
What are the best LGBT bars and dance clubs in the city?
The Davie Village is still Vancouver’s gay district, and its famed bear bar the PumpJack (1167 Davie St., Tel: 604-685-3417. www.pumpjackpub.com) doubled in size a couple of years ago with a major expansion next-door. These days it gets quite a diverse gay crowd, plus the bears. Urban lounge 1181 (1181 Davie St., Tel: 604-787-7130. www.1181.ca) is always great for cocktails, conversation, and shirtless bar- tenders earlier in the evening. The Odyssey (686 W. Hastings St., Tel: 604-408-8802. www.theodyssey.ca), located near our down- town sister property, Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. is quite large, at about 5,000 square feet, and features go-go boys and showers. Vancouver on a whole is quite fluid and everyone mixes. Celebrities (1022 Davie St., Tel: 604-681-6180. www.celebritiesnightclub.com), is a hot dance club that has a ‘gay night’ on Wednesdays with drag queens and more.
Where can someone go at 3 A.M. for a good meal?
Vancouver is not a city that doesn’t sleep, thus selection is limited. A 24-hour vegetarian restaurant in the Kitsilano neighborhood, The Naam (2724 W. 4th Ave., Tel: 604-738-7151. www.thenaam.com), has long been the go-to spot for all-night dining and is popular with the granola and university crowd. Lucy’s Eastside Diner (2708 Main St., Tel: 604-568-1550. www.facebook.com/lucyseastsidediner) is hipster heaven in the Mount Pleasant/Main Street neighborhood. Downtown’s Breka (855 Davie St., Tel: 604-428-8080. www.breka.ca) is a bakery café offering pastries, cakes, soups, and sandwiches. Given its Davie Street location and proximity to the Granville Entertainment District, it’s popular with gay and straight clientele alike.
Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave the city without…
Eating sushi! Head for RawBar at Fairmont Pacific Rim, and the nearby waterfront Miku (200 Granville St., Tel: 604-568-3900. www.mikurestaurant.com) for delicious seared Aburi style. Reasonably priced and popular locally is Kaide Sushi (1375 Richards St., Tel: 604-681-5886. www.vancouverkaidesushi.com). Also, having coffee at one of our many fantastic independent shops featuring local, sustainably sourced beans. I recommend Revolver (325 Cambie St., Tel: 604-558-4444. www.revolvercoffee.ca), Matchstick (639 E. 15th Ave., Tel: 604-558-0639. www.matchstickyvr.com), and East Van Roasters (319 Carrall St., Tel: 604-629-7562. www.eastvanroasters.com).