Five foodie finds in Oak Bay

A food writer takes us on a trip to where the community eats

  • Aug. 26, 2019 8:30 a.m.

– Story by Joseph Blake Photography by Don Denton

Every month for the last few years when my old kayak partner comes down from his Cobble Hill farm for a visit, we’ve eaten lunch at dozens of local bistros. We’ve grazed the food scene and eaten at places when they’ve just opened their business or expanded, renovated, or changed chefs. I’ve also written about local restaurants for two decades and these are my five favourite lunch spots in Oak Bay.

Charelli’s Cheese Shop and Delicatessen is one of my favourite places in Oak Bay. I’d visit the tiny, overflowing, European-style Charelli’s just for the rich, cheese aroma of the shop — let alone the great customer service, delicious samples, and mouth-watering sandwiches. Monthly cheese-tasting on Saturday afternoons are linked to the store’s Cheese of the Month Club offerings. But it doesn’t stop there. Wine tasting events after hours (hosted by sommelier Ernest Sargent) and what staff and regulars call the best breakfast sandwich in town (I agree!) have also been bringing the faithful to Charelli’s since 2003.

Some minor expansions mean there’s a take-out kitchen serving up soup and sandwiches Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and more delicious sandwiches Tuesday through Thursday served from 10 a.m. until they run out of fresh baguette.

Up to five people work the store’s narrow confines and counter on the weekend and they are smart and passionate about food. Cheese, smoked and cured meat, condiments, sauces, specialized hardware, books and even bartending supplies — this Foodie find has it all.

Both my kayak partner and I love Japanese food, so Bon Sushi is one of our go-to lunch spots in Oak Bay. I almost always choose the sashimi bento with salmon, tuna and other raw fish, dynamite roll, seaweed salad and miso soup. We’ve also tried Bon Sushi’s udon bento with beef or chicken teriyaki, and tempura bento. All are delicious but I always go back to my favourite bento box. The little restaurant’s tiny kitchen also turns out excellent Agedashi tofu, various noodle dishes, and an array of delicious, special fusion rolls like the dragon roll, crunch roll and the spicy TNT roll.

Chef Jun Shinn is the son of the owner who bought the restaurant seven years ago. In early spring, Bon Sushi underwent a minor renovation with new, darker gray walls that warm the bright space featuring cool jazz background music. Small tables on the patio overlooking Hampshire Road, Athlone Court and Oak Bay Village are just another plus for this thriving, 28-seat, family-oriented business.

Jay and Quinn Forsythe renovated and reopened Windsor Cafe a little over a year ago after managing Lemongrass, Jay’s family’s Cadboro Bay restaurant. The young couple has figured out that the 1934-built space, with Quinn’s father’s paintings on the wall and big windows looking out on Windsor Park, is best suited as a breakfast-lunch spot. No more dinners. Salvaged, scorched Cedar milled into benches, tables, the bar and signage warm a bright, light trio of rooms on three floors.

I often eat on the patio and I was happy to see prawn scampi and chorizo mussels still on the new, spring-summer menu when I revisited the cafe in April. I look forward to trying a couple of new menu items, including Madeira rigatoni, cavatappi pasta and smoked gruyere cheese. With draft Hoyne Dark Matter, Phillips Blue Buck, mimosas, Caesars and VQA house reds and whites, Windsor Cafe is the perfect place for a drink and a nosh or just a coffee and pastry.

Demitasse Café, Kitchen & Garden Centre is very near my home and just a short walk for a double cappuccino and chocolate croissant. Besides being a welcoming space to grab a morning, custom-roasted coffee and pastry, the Demi is also a hangout for the local, commercial gardening community and the parking surrounding the business is packed with landscapers’ trucks during lunch.

Chefs produce burgers, sandwiches, wraps, soups, and a very creative combination of pizza by the slice to eat in the garden or at a handful of tables inside. Everything is made with locally-sourced produce that’s often organic.

The Demitasse Garden Centre wraps around the outside of the building and offers rare and unusual plants and trees, as well as providing home garden design and garden renovation service. It’s a truly unique and wonderful Foodie find in Oak Bay.

Ottavio Italian Bakery & Delicatessen is a convivial community hub. Head baker Cam McCaw has been at Ottavio for a decade and he makes the best croissants in town but this hot spot might be most famous for its cheese.

“Our focus is cheese,” says general manager Genevieve LaPlante, listing special events like the ‘The Big Cheese Cut’, ‘Festa Italiano’ and last year’s ‘Saturday in France’.

“In early fall we’re planning a Blue Cheese Festival with samples from some of the 20 kinds of blue cheese we carry.”

I love Ottavio’s Italian-style Illy Coffee, their panini sandwiches, and local-sourced fresh salads and soups. The menu offers a healthy lunch rationale for a dessert cone of Ottavio’s in-house, Italian-style gelato made with organic milk and local fruit and berries.

It’s also a consistent source for quality products such as Amoliva Olive Oil — a premium product masterfully produced on the Tuscan property of a couple from Oak Bay.

Food and Wineoak bay

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 test tube. (Contributed)
test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health launches online booking for COVID-19 tests

Testing is available to anyone with cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms

Mainroad Communications warns of coming weather event.
Mainroad Communications notifies drivers of snowfall event over next 24 hours

It’s that time of year again. A weather event is heading to… Continue reading

Cranbrook's Casey Hanemayer reaches a rating of 1022, jumping up 17 points and becoming the highest ranked player in Canada. Paul Rodgers file.
Cranbrook’s Casey Hanemayer becomes Canada’s highest-rated disc golfer

Cranbrook’s Casey Hanemayer has become Canada’s highest ranked disc golfer, after the… Continue reading

Salvador delivers donated sand for Scout sandbag sales. Photo submitted
Support Kimberley Scouts; buy a sandbag

Salvador Ready Mix is delivering several loads of bedding sand to Resker… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Interior Health records 21 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Thirty-six cases remain active; two people are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Volunteer registered nurse Stephanie Hamilton recieves a swab from a driver as she works at a Covid-19 testing site in the parking lot at Everett Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
13 more COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

There are 624 cases in the region since the start of the pandemic

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Touchstones Museum has opened up Nelson’s Cold War bunker to the public. The unique exhibit includes artifacts from the 1950s and 60s. Photo: Tyler Harper
Take cover! Cold War bunker opens to public in Nelson

The shelter was built in 1964 in case of nuclear fallout

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

Most Read