All dressed up and no place to go were my initial thoughts after my Friday evening dinner plans fell through. Just as quickly as plans come together they can change. That’s life. However, I have learned not to be disappointed when it happens, but to instead see the opportunity to explore my community by dining solo. You never know what you might discover and that’s what I find exciting!
With clean blow-dried hair, fresh make-up and a simple outfit of skinny jeans, a blue tunic and heels, I was ready to go out! It would have been a bummer to climb into my pajamas for the evening, so instead I Googled “best places to dine solo in Victoria”. The top recommendation was a French-inspired restaurant in Oak Bay called Vis à Vis, only a 10 minute drive from where I live on Gyro Park, in Victoria, BC.
Dining solo is liberating and empowering!
One of the many things I have learned over the years, and especially through my travel experiences, is to be okay with going places on my own. It’s liberating and empowering! Dining solo can be fun! It’s an opportunity to learn something new about a place. Heck, even about myself! It’s also a great way to meet new people. So I slipped on my coat, grabbed my purse and headed out the door on a personal dining adventure…and Vis à Vis was a gem of a place!
First Impressions of Vis à Vis
The restaurant looked warm and inviting from the outside. People dined on the patio, something you can still do in October in Victoria’s temperate climate. I could see people inside through the rustic country-style windows enjoying drinks at the bar and dining at tables.
A friendly host, by the name of Markus, welcomed me when I walked through the door. He was nicely dressed in a white dress shirt with a black vest, tie and dress pants. All of the tables inside and out were occupied at 7:00 p.m. so Markus guided me to the bar where Christian, the bartender, invited me to view the wine menu.
I ordered a glass of M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut, a medium to full-bodied French red wine. It was among the cheapest on the menu at $9 for a 6 oz glass, but it was lovely and flavourful.
I felt like I had stepped through the door into Old Paris
The ambiance was warm, relaxed and social. Casual elegant seemed to be the attire of choice. The place had a cultural appeal like how I think a French bouchon might have felt decades ago. French jazz and pleasant conversation filled the room. Edith Piaf was one French jazz artist among other instrumentals that I heard throughout the evening.
The décor was stylish. The wrought iron lighting fixtures hanging above the bar were unique like something you might see in an early 1900’s train station. It was easy to drift off to another place and time.
The wall behind the bar was stocked with a large collection of wines and goblets.
Black chalkboards advertising macarons and charcuterie hung over top of an old brick wall.
I met two women, Rita and Donna, while I sat at the bar. When I asked what drew them to Vis à Vis Donna said, “We wanted to go to Paris for the evening.” I guess I’m not the only one who feels Paris in the atmosphere at this bouchon / bar.
Christian recommended the seafood Bouillabaisse with mussels, clams, salmon, scallops, prawns, nugget potatoes and leeks in a fennel-tomato broth. It was exquisitely savory, definitely a good choice. Markus sat at the bar beside me after his shift and enjoyed the Bouillabaisse too. He said that most of the menu items are French inspired. The chef even spent time cooking in France. No wonder the food tastes so good!
Guests may also be pleasantly surprised to receive an “amuse bouche” – a “little bite” or hors d’oeuvre – before their meal. It will always be different based on the chef’s inspiration that evening.
For dessert I tried a lavender-flavoured macaron, a small meringue-based cake, since I didn’t try one while I was in Paris. If you are wondering how lavender tastes, imagine sweet fragrance on your tongue. It tastes just like it smells.
Rita and Donna shared the chocolate epiphany dessert. Markus joked that it should really be called “Death by Chocolate” because it’s so good. One might be tempted to gorge themselves on it. While I sat back and drooled, I could see that the ladies savoured every spoonful.
The two staff that I spoke with, Christian and Markus, were cordial and social. I could tell that they enjoy their work at Vis à Vis and that customer satisfaction is a top priority for them.
Christian chatted with guests while he busily prepared and served drinks behind the bar and meticulously polished and inspected wine glasses. He’s a UVic student studying linguistics and biology and has worked at Vis à Vis for a year and eight months now.
Markus, always smiling, welcomed guests and helped behind the bar. He is an actor outside of working at Vis à Vis. Like Christian he also studied at UVic. He spent six years in the acting program and now acts with a local theatre production company called Working Class Theatre. I learned about a Scrooge play that will be performed in Victoria over a one week period during the Christmas season, perhaps another solo excursion or something to see with a friend.
People Come Back!
One end of the bar sees many familiar faces, I was told. There are regulars here. People come back which says a lot about a dining establishment. I understand why. I will definitely return whether I feel like dining solo or together with family and friends.
A ‘Dining Solo’ Success!
I had a successful ‘dining solo’ excursion! I met new people, learned about an upcoming theatre production and I felt like I had the French cuisine experience at Vis à Vis that I didn’t have, due to budget and time restraints, when I visited Paris in May. Read my post, Two Days In Paris, to learn about my short, but memorable experience there.
More About Vis à Vis
Vis à Vis is more than just a place to eat. It’s an experience!
Vis à Vis also converts to a café in the morning beginning at 7:00 a.m. when they serve breakfast. They also serve brunch, lunch and dinner or if you simply wish to enjoy a glass of wine and nibble on a charcuterie (meat and cheese) board at the bar you can certainly do that too. Vis à Vis stays open until “late” rather than to a specific time so guests can enjoy the evening without feeling rushed.
Vis à Vis is located at 2232 Oak Bay Avenue in Victoria if you wish to experience it yourself. Hours are 7:00 a.m. to “late”. View the menu here. Reservations can be made at 250-590-7424 or, if you enjoy dining solo like me, just sit at the bar. I highly recommend it!