With all its rave reviews and awards, there had been a lot of buildup for me coming to Brasserie L’Ecole for the first time.
I have to admit I was very curious and excited to see what all the hullabaloo was about.
I was on the Brasserie L’Ecole website before we went out for dinner and found out that they no longer took reservations.
Because we were going out on a Saturday and I figured it would be busy, Mark and I decided to head down there a bit before they opened at 5:30 pm.
At 5:10 we joined a line of about a dozen people and I was crossing my fingers that we would get a table in their first seating. Brasserie L’Ecole doesn’t have many tables (13 to be exact) so depending on when you get there, you may have to wait for a table.
Mark and I were fortunate that we got in right away and were seated at the back of the restaurant, a little bit tucked away which we both liked.
As I said, it’s quite small in there, but it’s cozy and I honestly like the quaintness of it.
The overall feel to Brasserie L’Ecole is more of a bistro than “fine dining”, however don’t let that fool you into believing that the food is anything but the highest quality.
We found out very quickly why people have raved about this place.
As soon as we were seated, our server came over and introduced himself as “Sterling”. I believe servers at any higher end restaurant should introduce themselves to you. It makes things more personal and also professional too.
Sterling handed us the drink menu and right away I asked for a pre-dinner drink recommendation.
He suggested the “French 75″ ($7) cocktail and Mark ordered a“Pastis” ($6)and a bottle of French “Gavroche” ($7) beer.
My cocktail was made from sparkling wine, a touch of gin, Cointreau and lemon juice. The citrus flavour was nice and light and the drink was quite refreshing.
Mark said he really enjoyed his Pastis (a French liqueur and aperitif) and his French beer as well.
He has a great palate for beer and loves tasting different kinds from all over the world, and the Gavroche was no exception.
Next up was a round of appetizers. We decided to order a few of these as our server said the portions were small enough that they wouldn’t be too filling.
This was good news as both Mark and I wanted to sample as much food as we possibly could from this highly recommended restaurant.
Our first sampling of food was the “Qualicum Scallop Tartine” ($13). Sterling recommended this and after tasting it, we understood why.
The creamy Gruyere cheese (from Switzerland) went perfectly with the scallops and the smoked paprika and brown butter that it was cooked in made this dish quite tasty.
The next appetizer we tried was the “Sheep Milk Ricotta Gnudi” ($12).
In case you don’t know what “gnudi” is (I didn’t before I ate it here), it is like gnocchi, but instead of being made with potato, it is made with ricotta.
This dish was also cooked in that yummy brown butter and had Parmesan on top. Another great appetizer!
We also tried two“Devilled Eggs” ($3 each), and finished off with some “Morels on Toast ($12)”.
The devilled eggs were good, and I would say they were typical of most devilled eggs I’ve had.
I had a hankering for them and I don’t think I’ve ever seen them on a menu before so that was cool that I got to have one here.
The morels were definitely our best appetizer of them all. Morels are a fancy type of mushroom that many French cuisine chefs like to use.
If you like mushrooms, I highly recommend you try morels sometime.
They aren’t always available as Brasserie L’Ecole changes their menu frequently, but if you’re lucky enough to be here when they are on the menu, this is one appetizer you don’t want to miss.
The cream sauce that the morels were cooked in was to die for (to see my reaction while tasting them, check out the first video at the bottom of this review).
After a very satisfying round of appetizers, it was time to order our entrees.
Mark decided on getting the “Albacore Tuna” ($24) and I got the “Boneless Beef Short Rib” ($25) that our server Sterling recommended.
Both of us were happy with our choices. Mark said his tuna was perfectly cooked, and tasted excellent.
The tuna was served with chorizo, chickpea and smoked olive stew and parsley sauce, all which complimented the dish quite nicely.
My dish was also very tasty and my meat was also cooked to perfection. Very tender with that melt-in-your-mouth kind of feel.
This being my second taste of short ribs at a restaurant in Victoria, I would have to say that I preferred the ribs at Sauce Restaurant over these ones though.
That is only because I happen to prefer the sweet sauce that Sauce puts on their ribs.
The ribs at Brasserie L’Ecole didn’t have much sauce on them, which you may or may not prefer, depending on how you like your meat.
Again, this is simply a personal preference, and not in any way a dig at the ribs at Brasserie L’Ecole.
I do have to say that I especially loved the side dishes of creamed spinach and morels and short rib croquettes it came with.
You gotta love French cooking with those cream sauces!
After our entrees, Mark asked me if I wanted to try some cheese before dessert.
I said sure, as I thought it would really compliment the French wine I had been drinking.
With all the food we had eaten this far, it’s amazing that both Mark and I still had room for more!
We did spend almost four hours in Brasserie L’Ecole, so we really took our time to savour and enjoy everything we ate.
The cheese plate or “Fromage” ($18)was a sampling of six different cheeses.
There was a menu on the wall of the various types you could choose from. They had some from France, Italy, Quebec and British Columbia (not listed).
If you don’t have a big appetite, you can order only one or three types of cheese if you prefer.
As I suspected, my red wine went absolutely perfectly with the cheese.
All the ones we sampled tasted delicious.
The portions were a good size, and yet somehow not too filling so we still had room for dessert, yeah!
I know for the French cheese normally is the dessert, but as it was Mark’s birthday, we thought what the heck, let’s have some sweets too!
So to satisfy our sweet tooths, Mark ordered the“Creme Brulee” ($7.50)and I got the “Chocolate Torte ($7.50).
Both desserts were yummy and though at first I thought my portion looked a bit small (I love chocolate and lots of it!), it turned out that because of it’s richness, it was just the right amount.
Mark said his creme brulee was as good as the best ones he has tasted around Victoria.
So after several hours of sampling the drinks, appetizers, entrees, and desserts of Brasserie L’Ecole, we both ended the night agreeing with the reviews that it’s one of the best restaurants in all of Victoria.
I know I will be back to Brasserie L’Ecole many more times.
With the exceptional level of service and cuisine we experienced here, I’m sure this place will be around for a long time.
My one word of advice for you when you come is to allow enough time so that you can really enjoy the chefs creations.
This type of food is meant to be savoured, not rushed.
Address: 1715 Government St., Victoria
Phone: (250) 475-6260
Hours: Tues – Sat 5:30 pm – 11 pm **Closed Sunday & Monday
Price: $$$ ($15 – $25 per entree)
Reservations: Not Taken
Dress: Smart Casual
Why Come Here: Exceptional classic French country-style meals, every time.