Back in 2021, Destination Greater Victoria poured through Statistics Canada data and revealed what had long been rumoured: Victoria has more restaurants per capita than any other city in Canada. Such a competitive market means that the bar of success is set high, as Victorians have become accustomed to, and expect, well-prepared, high quality, flavourful food, whether it’s burgers and fries or Truffled Lobster. We are a city of foodies, such that when I am asked to recommend a good restaurant, my answer, inevitably, is that they are all good, but what would you like?
What I would like this night is a special dinner out with my husband. I choose Nautical Nellies, at the foot of Broughton, which has been serving steaks and seafood to Victorians and visitors since 1997. A remarkable longevity speaks volumes about the culinary experiences Victorians have come to expect during those 26 years.
Of course, great food, ambience and service come at a price. It is easy to spend 200 dollars on a dinner for two, even without alcohol. What that affords is a sophisticated elegance of both food and atmosphere. The dining rooms—an upper room, and a lower room that flanks the long bar—feature chocolate brown ceilings, wainscotting, booths and chairs that absorb much of the light, creating a dim interior that seems illuminated by a wide strip of soft yellow wall bearing a collection of intensely colourful B.C. inspired artwork by none other than Nautical Nellies’ owner, Jeff Furneaux. Lights illuminate the art and, softly, each table. The room is also aurally flat, which with the dark colours and the precise lighting, creates a pleasant sense of privacy, even if a friendly foursome happens to be seated right across the aisle, animatedly sharing the Chilled Seafood Platter ($87.50).
Our booth is below a long Furneaux painting of picturesque Telegraph Cove. We arrived early, as available reservations were otherwise very late. Lucky for me, our 5:30 seating allows me to order a double Laphroaig Scotch at half-price ($11.15) which I savour throughout my meal. I elect to begin this special dinner with a Six Pack of Oysters on the Half Shell ($23.). Three Kusshi and three Royal oysters are presented on ice with lemon, cocktail sauce, shaved horseradish, and a Thai Ginger mignonette. A few drops of lemon juice, a few slivers of horseradish and an espresso-sized dollop of mignonette seem the perfect combination. The Royals particularly stood out for the brightness of their flavour.
For my entrée, I have the Simply Prepared Line-Caught Sablefish ($41.95), opting for the Cajun Spiced and Mango Salsa preparation. Sablefish is a beautifully buttery white fish with a naturally soft and moist texture. This is cooked perfectly with a light Cajun rub and served under a sizeable dollop of salsa primarily consisting of chunks of fresh mango. Roasted nugget potatoes, carrots and broccolini, the florets of which come beautifully char-crisped, accompany the fish. All is served on an irregular plate reminiscent of water rippling over sand. Two stripes of what must be the Whiskey Brie Mushroom Sauce complete this Furneaux picture and my palate.
There is no need for dessert, but the Beyond Cherry Garcia ($12.50) is too decadent not to share. Served in a tall, nautilus-shaped glass sundae dish, this dessert layers black cherries with chunks of chocolate fudge cake in vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and a fresh strawberry flourish on top. The entire experience was elegant. The perfect evening to impress a serious date, celebrate an anniversary, or enjoy the 2024 anniversary of your first Valentine’s together.
Nautical Nellies | 250-380-2260
1001 Wharf Street, Victoria