Elegant, but there’s room for improvement
Oh so THAT’S the name of it! …is probably what you’re thinking. Yes, The Grand Cru is the hotel restaurant at the Grand Hotel Nanaimo on Rutherford Road. You might already be familiar with the hotel’s (fabulous) whiskey bar, which is somewhat dwarfs the small and quiet restaurant area. We’ve visited the bar before (plenty of times) but rarely the restaurant, so it was time to give it the NFB treatment.
Our visit this time was for Sunday brunch. Upon entering the hotel we were promptly greeted… by Barclay (or was it Barkley?), the ancient resident golden retriever. We liked that a lot.
The (human) host was with us right away, and after a sort of bizarre interaction in which our lack of a reservation briefly appeared to be a problem – in an empty restaurant – we were courteously shown to our seats.
The Grand Cru is elegantly appointed, with white table cloths and attractive tableware, but it’s also comfortable. On our visit, there was pleasant holiday décor throughout. The facilities were sparkling clean and bright too. We were seated just by a glowing fireplace, which was perfect on this wintry morning.
Our host and server were both formal, punctilious even, in conduct. In Nanaimo that type of old-fashioned service is such a rare thing that some diners might find it a bit jarring. While the staff were still friendly enough that we felt at ease wearing jeans, we probably sat up a bit straighter each time we saw them coming.
Coffees and a great big sparkling mimosa were ordered and came out promptly. Our coffees were consistently warmed during our meal up by the very attentive team. The mimosa was impressively large – no champagne flute here – but it was flat. Perhaps the bubbly had already been opened a while?
For breakfast, we ordered the Grand banana split for her and for him the brunch special of the day – lobster eggs benedict.
The Grand banana split was not a dessert, it’s a split banana with yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit. As you can see, it was nicely presented, and there was a good amount of food for $11. The yogurt was thick and good and the fruit crisp and fresh. The granola, though, tasted like the old plastic tub we assume it was stored in. It wasn’t a total dealbreaker but it was distracting enough to mar an otherwise nice breakfast dish.
The lobster eggs benedict (pictured above) on the other hand was a success. The bennies were large, with plenty of lobster meat. The eggs were cooked perfectly medium, as ordered, and the hollandaise was perfectly fine. Happily, the English muffin was not overly-browned and was easy to chop up with a butter knife and fork. We only bring this up because too many times have we had to saw away at eggs benny because the crumpet was overdone. Not so here!
Worth a special mention were the hash browns that came with the eggs. These were delightfully crispy new potatoes. They were fried in such a way as to be golden but not be too saturated with fat. Perhaps they were air-fried? In any case, they were crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and overall really good. (Ed note -“Really good” is the best descriptor you can come up with?)
Our bill for breakfast, including tax and a modest tip came to $71. This is a lot for breakfast for two but to be fair there was a $12 mimosa in there and lobster is a premium item. Overall we felt like this was ok but not great value. Had the food really hit the mark, we might have been a bit more comfortable with the price.
The Grand Cru is strange. It clearly works to be an upscale restaurant, but it misses the mark just slightly. The décor and appointments are elegant, but if you look closely you’ll get a a weird sense that everything is held together by duct tape just out of sight. The formal service seems almost anachronistic in modern day Nanaimo, making interactions almost a bit awkward. And the menu is excellent on paper, but the food comes up a bit short on execution.
Still, we have a bit of a tilt towards the Grand Cru. We like what they are trying to do there and we want to see them have success. Perhaps with a few more patrons it can reliably hit the mark in the future. We recommend you temper your expectations, but do check them out. Take grandma for brunch, and say hi to Barclay.