Vancouver-inspired restaurant gives Londoners a taste of the West Coast

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Livia Baumeister and Louisa Stevenson-Hamilton of London were taken with Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighborhood during a visit two years ago, deciding to stay afloat and leave their corporate jobs behind.

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“It was very relaxed, really youthful. Everyone was just hanging out,” said Baumeister, from a beachside residential neighborhood west of the city’s downtown.

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Best friends, both 27, worked in hospitality at the Vancouver Lawn Tennis and Badminton Club for a year and used their free time to explore British Columbia and Canada.

Stevenson-Hamilton said, “The idea of ​​being able to ski and go to the beach and have everything that I wanted while living in the city was such a new idea coming from London.”

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They liked it so much that when the pair returned to London at the end of the summer of 2020, they had a life of giving up their financial careers and investing all their savings in building their piece of Kitsilano in a corner of south-west London. Took a decision to change. , In early October, he opened a restaurant named after one of Vancouver’s trendiest streets: West 4th.

“Every single person said, ‘Don’t do that,'” Baumeister said. “But it felt right.”

taste of home

West 4th’s menu is inspired by Canadian ingredients and the food Baumeister and Stevenson-Hamilton loved eating while traveling the West Coast and other parts of Canada.

For brunch, there’s the Granville Market Wrap with tofu and vegetarian sausage, named after a popular market in Vancouver, or the Eggs Benedict with Bacon from Maple Ridge, Canada, named for a Vancouver suburb.

Dinner options include venison and cranberry tartare and curried salmon.

A Canadian Caesar, made with Clamato juice, is a feature of the drinks menu. The vodka-based cocktail may be a staple in restaurants across Canada, but it’s a rarity almost everywhere.

And no Canadian-themed menu would be complete without poutine, Baumeister said. Primarily, the Quebec Favorite has been a top seller.

While Beach may be missing from West 4’s London version, a clock on the wall with Vancouver time and bottles of Burrowing Owl wine from BC help set the mood. He also recently organized an Okanagan area wine tasting.

Baumeister and Stevenson-Hamilton thought all this would be enough to attract their target market: the young brunch crowd from nearby upmarket London neighborhoods such as Chelsea, Fulham and Parsons Green.

But to their surprise, some of their most dedicated clients so far have turned out to be expatriate Canadians. Stevenson-Hamilton said she gets a table or two from Canadians, some from outside London.

“We did it as a local Fulham restaurant, which we enjoyed, but we didn’t expect to have this huge Canadian following, which is a lovely thing,” she said.

familiar experience

Architect Tannis Paul, 47, a Winnipeger who lived in the British capital for six years, is one of those repeat clients. He said that a piece of Canada in the city is exactly what London has been missing.

“There’s just something about it that makes me feel at home,” Paul said.

Paul said West 4th has managed to capture some of the essence of Vancouver’s outdoor lifestyle.

There is a large solarium in front of the restaurant. Not quite outside, but perhaps more appropriate given London’s infamously humid climate.

An airy blue, green and white color scheme, books about the Rocky Mountains and some Canadian music in the background contribute to the West Coast vibe.

“It’s cozy, the people are friendly, and it just adds to the atmosphere,” said Paul. “It’s an overall feeling. It’s just fresh and good.”

Melissa Turner, 42, who is originally from Orangeville, Ont., and owns a London-based online education company, said that after living 15 years away from home, it’s nice to find a place that feels and feels familiar. Is.

“It’s funny, you can hear the Canadian accent,” she said of subscribers who could be heard in the background during an interview with businesshala.

Baumeister said that for some Canadian tourists who stop by, it’s their curiosity that draws them in.

“It’s that fascination with, ‘Who liked my country so much that they wanted to bring it back with them?

Canadian cuisine is rare in London

Competition in the Canadian-themed restaurant category in London is very slim.

You can find pubs, cafes and eateries from every corner of the world in the British capital, but Canadian cuisine is rare.

Toronto-headquartered Tim Hortons says it has 40 locations in the UK and counting, but no stores close to central London. The Maple Leaf Pub in Covent Garden has been around for decades, catering specifically to the sports bar crowd.

The fact that West 4th offers a different kind of Canadian experience appealed to 36-year-old Tiffany Rocoz-Wong, a Vancouver chef living in London, on her first visit.

“It’s not a sports bar with Canadian flags everywhere,” Rokose-Wong said. “It’s not fake.”

She said she is proud to see this more elegant Canadian version complete with some of her favorite Canadian wines.

“It’s emotional for me.”

According to data company Statista, approximately 90,000 Canadians live in the UK, making it Canada’s largest population outside of North America.

As with all those Canadian expats, West 4th’s owners may find an untapped market, said Ben Floyd, director of restaurant consulting company Lumiere.

Floyd has helped set up successful restaurants across London and says West’s Fourth concept sounds like a good one, but owners should expect some challenges.

Half of London’s restaurants failed in the first year, he said, and the pandemic has made staying open even more challenging. About 10 percent of restaurants nationwide closed their doors between spring 2020 and spring 2021, according to Data from Market Recovery Monitor,

The owners of West 4th are safe from their sales figures to date, but they said the restaurant is usually booked out Friday through Sunday.

that canadian charm

Floyd said a London restaurant the size of West 4 in a similar neighborhood would need to generate at least 18,000 GBP (about $31,000 Cdn) in sales a week to break even.

West 4th has seating for about 15 tables and a large bar in the middle of the room, which initially caught Floyd’s eye.

He said the bar certainly contributes to an immersive experience but can be a bit risky.

“In central London, you pack as many tables as you can,” he said.

As for the menu, Floyd finds the Canadian theme “interesting” and the selection familiar enough for Brits that it’s not “polarizing”.

But it is the story of the owners and their travels and their presence at the restaurant that is the real draw, Floyd said.

“I don’t necessarily know what Canadian food is, but I do know that Canadians are warm and friendly and inviting people, and they can play with that.”

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