Brunch at Jam, one of the most popular new cafes in Vancouver, is an experience to rival the best of what New Zealand and Australia have to offer - but make sure you get there early. We were there just after 8am and by 8.45am there was already a queue out the door - including more than one young couple with a baby on their hip, a gamble against time and small hungry tummies that can only imply Jam is worth the risk of a toddler tantrum. Filter coffee is topped up regularly by friendly staff flitting about the busy place and the food is hearty and tastier than its enormous portions initially suggest. The chicken and waffles ($17.20) and red velvet pancakes ($15) come highly recommended, but I couldn't go past the Huevos Rancheros ($15.60), two fried corn tortillas topped with tomatillo salsa, beans, jalapeno sour cream, guacamole, smoked chorizo sausage, eggs and house made corn bread. Incredible.
• 556 Beatty St, jamcafes.com/vancouver
2 Have a pre-dinner drink and platter at Chambar
Next door to Jam is Chambar, a bar and restaurant with an industrial interior perfect for whiling away a sunny Friday afternoon in. One half of the duo behind Chambar is a Kiwi and maybe I'm biased but I reckon you can tell. The fitout is chic, the staff are friendly and the cocktails are second to none. Vancouver is home to many incredible bars and bartenders and Chambar has had their fair share of award winners working for them since they opened in the early 2000s. We started our afternoon at Chambar with a round of British Columbia-made bubbles, after which I tried the Viuex Carre, a stiff cocktail in the same vein as an old fashioned, featuring cognac, rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters. That was followed by a very well balanced Manhattan, followed by a short nap.
• 568 Beatty St, chambar.com
3 Try the famous bacon and whiskey milkshakes at Save on Meats
is run by "Mr Vancouver," aka Mark Brand, a locally-famous face and former Chambar bartender who is heavily invested in giving back to the community. Save on Meats is a social enterprise operating from Vancouver's downtown east side, a small section of the otherwise affluent city where many homeless people sleep rough and socialise. Brand, a former drug addict, runs a system where customers can purchase a reusable chip to be gifted to someone who needs it, which they can bring back in to exchange for a sandwich. He aims to keep his prices as low as possible so everyone from students to the unemployed can get a hot meal. For those who can afford it, the alcoholic shakes are an indulgent treat and the perfect accompaniment to a late afternoon sammy. The bacon and whiskey shake is a chocolate milkshake with a twist, featuring a whipped cream cap sprinkled with bacon bits and is a Vancouver must-try.
James Coleridge's gelato is award-winning and he's not about to let you forget it. The larger-than-life ice-cream obsessive has given his life to creating superior cones, studying abroad to perfect his craft. He is dedicated to making gelato which is low in sugar and bursting with flavour and is dead-set against any kind of nasty additives, one of the many reasons he'll tell you his product is better than virtually anything else you can get outside of Italy. The inventive flavours on offer at Bella Gelatoria, which overlooks the city harbour, include lavender, earl grey tea and any berry you can think of, as well as perfectly executed takes on classics like dark chocolate and coffee. A perfect after-dinner treat.
• 1089 Marinaside Crescent, bellagelateria.com
5 Get a taco from Tacofino
Vancouver is like Wellington when it comes to quality food - in the grand scheme of things the city is on the small side, but it's absolutely teeming with top quality places to grab a bite to eat. Taco Fino was pointed out to us by our Vancouver tour guide, Jen, as a locally famous place to eat. The fit out is hip, with high ceilings and what appear to be hand-decorated seats and the service is fast and friendly. I chowed down on a tasty fish taco which, for just $6.50, gave me the energy I needed to get a second wind to keep exploring the city and tide me over till dinner.
• 15 W Cordova St, tacofino.com
flies direct from Auckland to Vancouver with Economy Class fares starting from $1059.
For more on activities in Vancouver, go to tourismvancouver.com.