Stanley Park's revamped Prospect Point gets a lift

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      Prospect Point is renowned for its spectacular lookout: the highest point in Stanley Park, it offers the kind of wow-inducing panorama that dominates postcards and Instagram posts. It may be best known, however, as a tourist trap: try getting anywhere near the place in the peak of summer, and good luck making your way past the Hop-On, Hop-Off buses and rented bikes.

      It’s certainly never been a draw because of its food. A tearoom was built on-site in the 1950s. Over the years, the building was added to several times, making for a dark and awkward space, one that served up concession-type fare like ice cream, fish and chips, and burgers and fries.

      However, newly renovated, the restaurant is unrecognizable from its past versions, and its menu has been revamped as well.

      Local entrepreneur Nancy Stibbard’s Capilano Group, which owns Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, luxury lodges, and other valuable assets, acquired a 25-year lease with the City of Vancouver for Prospect Point’s dining facility (as well as that at Stanley Park Pavilion) in 2014.

      The place’s contemporary facelift is bright and airy, with sculptural light fixtures and warm wood accents. Some of the interior walls even feature wooden planks that have been repurposed from the Capilano Suspension Bridge itself.

      When you first walk into the building, there’s the Trading Post—a gift shop similar to the one at the North Shore tourist attraction—and the Prospect Point Café. The latter recently launched a new menu, with items meant to be taken to go or consumed on its 60-seat patio. Local highlights include macarons from Langley’s Kitchening & Co. (with green-tea-and-jasmine and salted-caramel flavours, among others) and savoury items such as preservative-free beef-and-pork sausage rolls and smoked-salmon quiche by Vancouver-based Tartine Tarts, which prides itself on using family recipes that have been handed down from one generation to the next. In addition to house-made sandwiches and snacks, the cafe also serves Port Moody’s Rocky Point ice cream (which will have a separate stand in summer).

      Walk through a wide foyer to Prospect Point Bar and Grill and look through the floor-to-ceiling windows, beyond the large central bar and massive outdoor deck (complete with a fire table and yellow umbrellas for sunny days), and through the park’s tall trees: there it is, the Lions Gate Bridge, almost close enough to touch. Catch a ship passing underneath or a floatplane soaring over top (or both), and you couldn’t ask for a more quintessential Vancouver scene.

      Some say “the better the view, the worse the food,” but, like the décor, the current fare is notches above what you would have found here years ago. That’s not to say the spot is going to win any culinary awards; it isn’t the place to take friends who are fussed over the temperature of their caviar (which, granted, in the right setting, is serious business).

      With several share plates, the menu is casual, running in the same vein as so many chain restaurants where you can find something for everyone, even your grandma (except that here, a few items come in half portions for those aged 65 and up).

      All of the seafood is Ocean Wise, and local products are abundant. Among the suppliers are Richmond’s Cherry Lane Farm, Pemberton’s North Arm Farm, and Cawston’s Klippers Organics.

      A nice starter (and a good one to split) is the tomato and bocconcini salad, which comes with olives, garlicky crostini, red onion, and heaps of arugula. Salt Spring Island mussels bathe in a bacon-bourbon cream sauce, ideal for soaking up the accompanying light rye bread. Black beans and red kidney beans make a satisfying veggie burger, the patty slathered with sautéed mushrooms, onions, and truffle aioli.

      The Oceanside Spaghetti dish—apparently, one of the most popular mains—features fresh seafood such as shrimp, salmon, and scallops. Its tomato sauce contains parsley, oregano, tarragon, and dill, but I wish the dish had been brighter in both colour and flavour. The grilled salmon is just that: an unfussy plate with arugula and roasted-potato hash browns, though the fillet suffered from a few too many minutes over the flames.

      People with hearty appetites might opt for the spicy vegetarian chili served with marbled rye, or penne with steak and wild mushrooms in a rich truffle-cream sauce. Happy hour would do nicely for those seeking a lighter bite; the bar features local favourites Stanley Park, Parallel 49, and Central City Brewing on tap.

      There’s also a long list of old-school spiked hot chocolates and coffees. If you’re strolling the seawall and get caught in the rain, you could hike up for a B-52 with a view. At the very least, traffic on the Lions Gate Bridge will be much easier to take.