Beneath the fluttering canopy of a breezy cabana, an elegant woman radiating a richly bronzed tan leans back on a low-slung teak sofa. Across from the bar, an R&B guitarist strums bouncy hits by Bruno Mars and Alicia Keys. Next to the fire pit, a dapper gentleman in dark sunglasses introduces himself to a solo-dining bombshell and orders a bottle of Veuve Clicquot.
This swish rooftop retreat feels as if it was transported from South Beach or Las Vegas. The only telltale sign that places it in Vancouver is the circus of passive men who were too frigid to flirt before Mr. Champagne swooped in.
Reflections, perched on the fourth floor of the restored Rosewood Hotel Georgia, is one of Vancouver’s sexiest al fresco hot spots to see and be seen. Surrounded by brick walls, glowing light boxes and shimmering waterfalls, the secluded courtyard is designed for people watching.
The space does attract a well-heeled crowd. And reservations can sometimes be tricky to secure to those lacking Brazilian blowouts and VIP privileges. I overheard the hostess telling a woman there was an hour-long wait. Ten minutes later, she was seated beside us. I suggest you call directly, well in advance.
The bar boasts an extensive sparkling selection. The cocktails are killer and include something for all types. Head bartender Robyn Gray, formerly of Pidgin, mixes his drinks with precision, a splash of fun – and a dash of pretension. In addition to sunny-day classics (mint julep, pisco sour, hurricane), there are a variety of punch bowls that serve six and a frozen coconut-scented chi-chi Slurpee (a vodka-based pina colada blended in a genuine 7-Eleven machine), which should rightfully be called sex on the beach.
The compound swizzle is made with rum that’s been infused with coconut oil – an haute-couture spin on grubby old Malibu. Although luxuriously smooth, the $14 cocktail is far more affordable than the “Designer Cocktail” drinks, which include a $40 mai tai and a $30 cuba libre. The extravagance seems a tad ostentatious.
Head chef Ken Nakano has created a compact Spanish tapas menu with similar quirks and inconsistencies. Some of the dishes are terrific. Spicy lamb merguez sandwiches, stuffed in soft hot dog buns and smeared with brightly minted yogurt, are utterly addictive. The peanut butter milk chocolate bar is layered with crunchy-creamy textures and decadently dusted in gold flake.
A flat iron steak is cooked medium rare, thinly sliced and slathered with a freshly chopped green-herb chimichurri sauce that’s kicked up with garlic and robustly drenched in olive oil. I told everyone sitting around me to order the new steak dish. It was a vast improvement over the previous version.
The menu has gone through some changes. It was wise to remove Saltspring Island mussel salad that was served so cold its coriander, ginger and albarino vinaigrette was clenched up and tasteless. But the new heirloom tomato and burrata shrivels under same chill. The tomatoes are insipid. The cheese needs to warm up and breathe.
There is only so much room in the rooftop’s small outdoor grill kitchen. By necessity, many of the dishes have to be prepped and stored in the hotel’s basement kitchen. But the salads would be so much better if taken out of the fridge sooner and served at room temperature.
The garnishes could also be cut with a bit more care and refinement. From chunky compressed watermelon on the burrata to the ragged-edged carrots on the steak, many of the elements look like they were hacked by a child who couldn’t get a proper grasp on the knife.
Yes, it’s a picnic-style menu designed for outdoor grazing. But rustic doesn’t have to be sloppy. Such a sophisticated setting deserves an equally elegant flair reflected in its food.