Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Exile Bistro’s fondue dish encapsulates its flextitarian ethos by giving diners the option to either order it with ethically sourced game or substitute extra roots and shoots.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

2.5 out of 4 stars

Exile Bistro
1220 Bute St., Vancouver
Brunch, $7 to $14; dinner sharing plates, $6 to $27
Pacific Northwest
Rating System
Additional Info
Open nightly from 5:30 p.m. to midnight; brunch on Sat. and Sun. from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. No reservations.

You know it. I know it. Everyone – excluding the instant-ramen addicts on Utopia (can you believe those reality show nutters?) – understands that a healthy lifestyle should include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, medicinal herbs, good fats and small portions of wild fish or free-range meat.

Yet it is also true that when faced with the choice between pork belly and fries or quinoa and tofu, it's just so darn easy to be bad. Especially in a restaurant where you can leave the stink of boiled grease behind.

So when a friendly new neighbourhood joint comes along making all that healthy stuff taste delicious without being preachy, it's time to rejoice. How could anyone resist a devilishly charming manager who tries to tempt his customers with holistic green Caesars at brunch?

Story continues below advertisement

"It's good for you," says Cory Munro, extolling the vitamin-rich virtues of this frothy vegan cocktail mixed with potato vodka, pickled veggies, fresh-pressed juice and blue-green algae.

Booze before noon is good for you?

"Everything in moderation," he winks.

I like this guy!

There is actually quite a lot to like about this plant-forward restaurant that features primarily vegan and vegetarian dishes, about half of which can be fortified (if you choose) with ethically sourced game meat. Most of the plants, flowers and herbs come from local forests and small farms.

The restaurant is owned by Vanessa Bourget, a holistic nutritionist and chartered herbalist from Quebec who was the holistic cocktail bartender at the Waldorf Hotel, a bar manager at Heirloom vegetarian restaurant and beverage manager at Nuba.

At Exile, Ms. Bourget wears many hats. She directs the menu and leads what she calls a "co-operative kitchen collective" comprised of herself and four other cooks (completely turned over since the restaurant opened last spring).

Story continues below advertisement

She also does most of the foraging, supplying the kitchen with wild mustard, clover flowers, thimble berries, Oregon grapes, licorice fern root, devil's club and all sorts of mushrooms, including the curiously fluffy and relatively rare lion's mane (also known as bear's head tooth) recently featured with roasted purple cauliflower, spelt kernels and brassica beurre blanc.

Ms. Bourget also creates the apothecary-inspired cocktails, which have garnered a cult following. The tumeric-and-yam bourbon sour is gently spiked with ginger, while a beautiful bright-red beet margarita packs a strong hibiscus-infused-tequila punch.

On the beverage list, you'll also find a few small-batch craft beers and an impressive selection of natural, organic and biodynamic wines that run the gamut from a clean, crisp and cheap Ponte di Piave prosecco to the classically elegant and pricey Domaine Pattes Loup Chablis.

Tucked away like a secret gem on the cordoned off stretch of Bute Street next to the rainbow-painted crosswalk, Exile is a tiny 22-seater. The interior is appointed in dark glossy wood, white upholstery, large mirrors and paper-pyramidal modules that hang from the ceiling like a honeycomb canopy.

Despite its tall sidewalk-fronting windows, the room feels slightly boxed in during the day. On a sunny morning, I'd rather be sitting at the colourful public picnic tables outside. Exile does have a small patio, but the seats don't look very comfortable.

Innovative brunch dishes and exceptionally friendly service compensate for the lack of ambience. Eggs Benedict comes on a crumbly, but deeply herbed gluten-free biscuit topped with runny soft-poached eggs and a brightly acidic hollandaise that uses yogurt in place of butter for impressively plump creaminess and a small fraction of the usual fat.

Story continues below advertisement

If the seasonal toppings include cured venison, I suggest you ask for boar bacon instead. The former is slightly leathery, while the latter is lusciously smoky, meaty and crisp.

The farinata, an eggless chickpea omelette, looks limp and dry, but bursts with bold flavour – caramelized onions, crispy basil, earthy tagliatelle – in each bite. Seed-bread toast has great chewy texture.

Brunch made me eager to return for dinner. And after sunset, the room feels much more cozy. I went on a Monday without realizing it was Industry Night, with a live DJ spinning from 9 p.m. on. It was the perfect spot for a girlfriend get-together. Mr. Munro kept us in stitches all evening. And the tapas-style menu makes it easy to share.

Cedar smoked potatoes is a Canadian northwest rendition of patatas bravas. The potato hash is smoked over cedar boughs, drizzled with cedar oil and a cloud of crème fraîche (all made in-house).

Collard greens, steamed in coconut oil and dressed with black sesame and truffle oil, have a nice firm tooth pull. But when the dishes are this small, they don't need to be staggered so far apart. The kitchen is a bit slow.

But the best way to understand this restaurant is to order the fondue, a dish that encapsulates its flextitarian ethos in a single cast-iron pot. You can order it with game (we had venison and elk) or substitute extra roots and shoots. The latter – an already large helping of radishes, beets, kohlrabi and potatoes – come par-roasted on a wooden platter with sauces (mustard seed, wild herb aioli, sometimes berries) and salts.

Story continues below advertisement

The ambrosial broth is vegan mushroom. But if you want to make it meaty, the kitchen will add roasted-bone glacé concentrated with lots of tasty minerals and collagen. After you've finished dipping and cooking the meats and/or vegetables, you toss a bundle of dry soba noodles into the pot to make a richly decadent soup.

If healthy food always tasted this good, I'd happily exile myself off the island of conventional eating.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies