This past Saturday, I took my wife and and daughter to see the last day of the VAG's Giacometti exhibition (and the first days of the Indigenous Transits and Returns, both great btw) and upon exiting the museum was hit by that most Vancouvery of dilemmas—where do you go for brunch? All of the usual suspects—Chambar, Medina—would have horrendous waits so I figured I'd bite the bullet and head to nearby Hawksworth, fully intending to get shellacked by a monster bill.
But a funny thing happened—it wasn't that pricey. Well, let me qualify that: it was a bargain compared to the nearby Jam Cafe, which no doubt had a line of at least an hour long. Hawksworth on the other hand, we strolled right in. The menu has plenty of pricey landmines—the crab and prawn toast is $32—but if you're careful it's sort of an amazing deal. As in the French Toast is $16, versus $15 at Jam Cafe. The portions at Jam may be bigger, but they're not even close to better than Hawksworth's beautifully crafted brioche version with dusted coffee and cinnamon and topped with banana and toasted hazelnuts.
Service is no contest, plating and presentation, not even close. One is fine dining level and the other is cheap and cheerful, minus the cheap. And it's not just one loss leader either: my wife ordered the brunch prix fixe and for $28, she got a plate of perfect octopus ceviche, followed by lamb cavatelli with stinging nettle sauce and an apricot and fresh ice cream dessert. Three courses at the White Spots are literally more expensive and you don't get to sit beneath a $80,000 Harland Miller painting.
Alas, the thrifty need to be a tad vigilant. Coffee, listed on the menu as "coffee beverages" is $6, which is bad enough, but it doesn't appear to come with refills (I got a second after brunch and got dinged twice). Also my wife's cappuccino had a 76-cent upcharge for almond milk. And don't charge me $5 for your own filtered water. On climate strike day.
But all in all, it's a remarkable bargain for the focussed. Many in our city decry that we never get enough respect from the world press for our amazing dining scene. But to get respect, you have to give respect: in this case to a place that offers proper service and an actual chef toiling in the kitchen. You'll spend a $1 more but you'll save an hour standing on Beatty—a fair bargain by any stretch.