Captive Audience at Stanley Park

stanley park pavilion

The plan doesn’t change much, regardless of what we’re going to see at the Malkin Bowl:

arrive earlyish to get a decent parking spot
wander around Stanley Park for a bit
eat dinner at the Veranda Grill in the Stanley Park Pavilion
watch a show

The plan went off without a hitch until dinner. The Veranda Grill that I remember from times past used to have a reasonable sized menu of pleasant food. You could go there and order a salad, couscous, quiche, lasagne or burgers and there were always several deserts to choose from, everything at reasonable prices. Sadly, it seems that the establishment has changed hands and is nowhere near what it used to be.

My initial impression walking in was that the layout had changed, somewhat. A great deal of the decor had been replaced with a large display of alcohol from Whistler Brewing Company. That in itself did not bother me much. The previous restaurant had served alcohol and I am by no means a prohibitionist.

When we arrived at approximately 5:45 pm, we agonized over the greatly diminished menu posted on the wall. When we went to the counter to place our orders we were informed that the kitchen had already closed for the day, and that left us with only two options for dinner: tuna sandwich or ham and cheese sandwich, of which they had several pre-prepared in the counter display. We weren’t particularly pleased by this, but because we had already paid for parking and didn’t want to lose our spot, we were a captive audience for dinner. We ordered five sandwiches and a couple nanaimo bars, no drinks.

We found out just how captive we actually were when the lady rang up our order on the cash register and it ended up being fifty dollars.

I will take a moment to describe the sandwiches. Each one was made out of approximately a third of a baguette, three tomato slices, two-to-three slices of ham and the same kind of cheese slices that you get at Subway. Each came packaged in a standard sandwich bag. There was nothing wrong with them, but as far as quality and presentation is concerned, I feel that they were hardly worth the amount that we paid for them.

I wasn’t particularly impressed by the service either. There was nothing marked anywhere to indicate that the kitchen closed at such a ridiculously early time of day, and no apology made for the fact that the foods displayed on the menu and their website were not actually being offered. The sandwiches were not marked with the flavours or prices, and the staff did not bother to explain anything about them, unless asked. I am not accustomed to having to interrogate staff for information, but our conversation ran somewhat like this:

Our kitchen is closed.
Do you have any other food?
What do you have?
We have sandwiches.
What kind of sandwiches?
Those sandwiches.
And what flavours are they?
Ham and cheese and tuna.
Do you have any vegetarian options?
We have ham and cheese and tuna.

The people directly behind us had obviously walked in with the same expectations as we had, and had to go through the same conversation.

It became clear quite quickly that the main purpose of the Veranda Grill is now to serve overpriced alcohol. It offers just enough food that it can legally be considered a restaurant and not a bar, as bars are subject to a higher amount of regulation and taxation. With that in mind, I don’t think I will be back any time soon.

Picture of the Pavilion courtesy of this website.

3 Comments so far

  1. Rob Cottingham (unregistered) on September 3rd, 2006 @ 11:30 pm

    Yikes. So noted (and avoided).

  2. bcneocon (unregistered) on September 4th, 2006 @ 4:19 am

    Thanks for the tip. That really sucks. I ate there once a few years ago and it felt very cafeteria-like, defintely not fine dining. Sounds like they’ve gotten worse.

  3. Elizabeth Wilson (unregistered) on September 22nd, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

    I fear for Vancouver Parks food. In August my mate and I decided to get some fish and chips at Jericho Beach for nostalgia’s sake. It was a hot day and there was a big lineup, but we figured, hey, they’ve been doing this since we were kids–no problem.
    But there was. Once our order was taken we settled back and watched. We watched two teenagers building boxes and putting paper in them. Never have two people who weren’t dead moved so slowly.
    Meanwhile there’s one guy at the grill and one guy at the deep fryer. With a lineup of about 30 people waiting for their orders, does the grill guy have any burger patties or hot dogs on the go in anticipation? Nope. He starts an order when he gets it. But he doesn’t go and get it when it arrives. He obeys some unseen signal after it’s been hanging on the little clip thing for 10 minutes. Same with the fryer guy.
    It took us–and I am not lying–an hour to get our food, all the time watching in morbid fascination as these untrained and absolutely clueless individuals bungled everything it was possible to bungle.
    At one point, one of the box-building guys comes in holding a lettuce and looking somehow startled and vacant at the same time. A five-minute conversation with the grill guy ensues, during which the lettuce guy comes to understand that he is to wash the lettuce. Five minutes later he reappears with the wet lettuce. Now the grill guy (ignoring his grill) has to demonstrate how to cut up the lettuce and where to put it once cut. Meanwhile, the grill guy, in a panic, has been trying to serve the burgers before the frozen meat has actually cooked, so they’re being returned to him and he has to cook them some more.
    Finally a young woman, presumably the boss, tells the order taking girls to stop taking orders, and she starts handing out refunds the the people in line. Because our food is going to be ready next, we decline. We want to see what happens. We’ve been gaping, awestruck, at a display of incompetence utterly unmatched elsewhere in our experience. When we ask the grill guy how long it’s going to be he says “I can’t tell you. I’m under a lot of stress right now.”
    I so wish Gordon Ramsay could have been there.
    My burger, when I finally got it, was okay. My husband’s fish and chips were not worth any nostalgia value he might have anticipated–they were just greasy and limp. Don’t know if this the situation at all of the Parks Board concessions, but if it is, they might as well just close the whole bunch down.

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