Do you remember when you were a kid and the adult world felt forbidden and sexy? When your parents would go out for dinner and leave you with a babysitter, and you’d imagine they were drinking cocktails with exciting names, gazing into each other’s eyes over candlelight, having exotic and delicious food served to them, wandering home arm-in-arm and sharing a kiss under the lamplight in the cool evening air? And do you remember how disappointed you were when you discovered that the ‘adult world’ was nowhere near as romantic as it seems? Well, I found the place where that romance does exist. It’s in Vancouver’s Gastown, and it goes by the name of Chill Winston.
I fell in love with Vancouver almost instantly, and Gastown swept me off my feet and planted a big ol’ smackaroo on my heart. It’s a little on the touristy side; this is where the world’s only steam-powered clock exists, after all, but there’s also something inherently cool about it. The streets are cobbled, the lights are bright, and the people are beautiful. As for Chill Winston on Alexander Street, you can’t help but feel cool when you step through those doors. The candlelight illuminates the venue, glowing with a sultry feel, the chefs work in the open kitchen-cum-bar, and couples talk softly to one another in the various seating areas; this is pure sex in a bar.
When asked a few weeks ago what I really wanted to do in Vancouver, my first response was “eat some poutine”, the quintessential Quebec/Montreal treat: fries topped with cheese curds and then finished with gravy. I know; Vancouver is neither Quebec nor Montreal. But this was my first time in Canada! I wanted poutine! There were a few names thrown about for where to get decent poutine in Vancouver but, by the time my last day in town had rolled around, it looked like I was going to depart from Vancouver poutine-less. C’est la vie. There was always next time.
We took a seat by the window and checked out their extensive menu. We weren’t that hungry so decided not to have a full dinner (though their menu looked fabulous), but opted instead for some cocktails (mine a fabulous concoction called a Spooning Jesus), and then I spotted it: their ‘Double Jack Poutine’.
The poutine consisted of thick-cut fries topped with cheese curds, shredded Jack cheese and a Jack Daniels demi. When it arrived at our table in all its glory I was fairly dubious. It resembled a congealed mess of cheese with fries poking out haphazardly, all bathed in a dark brown liquid; not the most appealing looking dish I’ve ever seen. Still, I had ordered it, and I was determined, so my two companions and I picked up our forks and got stuck in.
It’s hard to describe exactly what the poutine tasted like: there was the fatty deliciousness of the cheese curds and the starchy thick-cut fries, but then the saltiness of the gravy which coated your tongue and throat – ending up wrapped around your arteries, no doubt. It was interesting, definitely, but would I order it again? I’m not sure. My companions put down their forks after a couple of mouthfuls and I tried to continue on solo, but when faced with a doomed expedition of fries such as these, sometimes you’ve got to put down the fork and step outside the tent for a spell (you may be a while).
Despite my poutine indecision, the service was fantastic and friendly, the drinks were delicious, the prices were decent, and I still felt incredibly sexy and sultry by pure association. That is until I tried to get up and the cheese curd and gravy rock in my stomach nearly toppled me over. I tried to make it look like my stumble was on purpose by turning it into an elegant skip-hop, but that was probably a worse idea as I’d drawn attention to myself and now people were staring at me from their romantic little tables, unclasping their hands to whisper to one another. The illusion may have been broken but I still felt pretty damn cool.
Chill Winston, 3 Alexander Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1B2, Canada.