If you’re downtown Victoria, looking for an excellent lounge that offers not only a huge selection of drinks, but also amazing tapas, you have to come to Veneto Tapa Lounge!
This past Saturday, my good friend Mark and I discovered what has to be one of our favourite places to eat and drink in all of Victoria.
Veneto is part of the Hotel Rialto, a beautifully restored heritage building that is Victoria’s newest boutique style hotel.
Originally built by Chinese merchant Lim Bang in 1912, the hotel has become a treasured landmark of Victoria’s downtown core.
When you first walk into Veneto, it’s hard not to be impressed by the extremely well stocked bar in front of you. With it’s marble top stretching the length of the room, it’s so inviting that my friend Mark and I decided to sit there not only for our drinks, but our tapas too.
When we first sat down we were introduced to one of the “Mixologists”, Simon.
Yes, mixologist is maybe just a fancy name for bartender, but as we soon discovered, Simon really knew how to mix an excellent drink.
Veneto has an absolutely huge drink menu, with extremely knowledgeable bar staff. Whatever you want, they can make.
As it turns out, the night we were there they were in the midst of switching over to a new drink menu so we got to sample some of their newest creations.
Now I have to mention that Veneto specializes in more exotic and creative drinks, as opposed to your plain Jane rye and cokes, etc.
That’s not to say that they won’t serve you a rye and coke, but just that these guys are REALLY experienced and know their craft very well, so it’s worth asking them to recommend something for you as opposed to simply ordering “the usual”.
The first round of drinks that Simon recommended to us were the “Wax Poetic” ($12), and the “Sparkling Negroni” ($9).
The Wax Poetic was made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, fresh pressed grapefruit, Peychand’s bitters, agave, and lemon.
Neither Mark or I had tasted anything like it. I wasn’t as much a fan of it’s bitterness though so I let Mark finish it.
The Sparkling Negroni was closer to my liking, but I still wasn’t totally happy yet.
I asked Simon if he could make me something a bit sweeter, and he said that he would make me a drink that would “make my head spin”.
It wasn’t officially on the menu yet, but the “20th Century” is apparently a classic cocktail.
Simon informed us that the drink was actually invented in 1939, and created to commemorate the new engine that began pulling the Twentieth Century Limited passenger train that connected New York with Chicago.
With all this history and build up, I had high expectations for my drink.
When I first tasted my 20th Century, I thought, “Wow”. Once again, I had never tasted anything like it.
I couldn’t quite tell what was in it, but it was refreshing, a bit tart, and had a subtle sweetness to it. I really liked the taste and was dying to know what was in it.
It turns out the tartness I was tasting was the fresh lemon juice which had been combined with Tanqueray gin (London), Lillet Vermooth (France) and finally white chocolate syrup.
It was a neat combination of flavours that worked amazingly well together. You have to try it sometime to understand what I mean.
After another round of new and interesting drinks, we decided it was time to try some tapas.
The first thing we ordered was “Sliders” ($4.50 each). The plate came with three of what looked like mini burgers.
The first one was topped with grilled jumbo prawn and hollandaise sauce, the second one had crisp bacon, smoked applewood cheddar and crispy onions on it, and the third one was topped with portabella mushroom ragout and brie.
All three of the sliders had amazing flavour and both Mark and I loved them!
One thing that I think enhanced the taste of the mini burgers was my flight of red wine.
They have a few to choose from, and I chose the “G.S.M. Deconstructed” ($10) flight. It consisted of three 2 ounce tasters of Grenache wine; one from Australia, one from Chile, and one from California.
All of the wines I tasted were excellent, and if you’re ever unsure about what wine to order, getting a flight is a great way to find out what you like and what you don’t.
Next we ordered the“Lamb” ($14). Like all the main entrees, it was served “tapas style” with three different styles of the dish in one entree.
The first lamb dish we tried was southwest rubbed seared lamb sirloin with cranberry ancho sauce. It turned out to be my second favourite of the three.
The second was garlic and thyme marinated lamb t-bone with cranberry texas red wine reduction, and the last was red wine and thyme marinated braised lamb shank fricassee.
Now with descriptions like those, do you think I didn’t just LOVE all of them?! Well I did!
The second one was especially mmmmmm and I was all over the sweet red wine reduction that it was cooked in.
The great thing about tapas is that you get to try lots of different flavours without getting stuffed. Since both and I were really enjoying the food here, we decided to another another entree.
This time we ordered the “Crab” ($14) which was also served tapas style, done three ways.
Once again both Mark and I were not disappointed. All three dishes were great, and I thought the crab and ricotta stuffed pasta shell baked with creole parmesan gratin was especially amazing!
Overall I have to say that Veneto Tap Lounge is an awesome place to come to eat and drink.
This is a very happening place and I love the atmosphere.
I also have to mention there’s a live DJ who comes in on Friday and Saturday nights, and plays “chill wave” music (DJ’s description) from 9 pm until close.
This is definitely one of my favourite lounges in all of Victoria.
IN A NUTSHELL…
Veneto Tapa Lounge
Address: 1450 Douglas St., Victoria
Phone: (250) 383-7310
Hours: Mon – Thurs 4 pm – 12 am, Fri 4 pm – 1 am, Sat 5 pm – 1 am, Sun 5 pm -12 am
Price: $$$ ($15 – $25 per entree)
Dress: Smart Casual