Chambar Restaurant may have relocated just next door to its previous spot, but it’s been a big move in other ways. The Belgium-focused eatery now serves breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch as well as dinner in a much bigger space with the kind of designer surroundings that Wallpaper* readers would drool over.
As the green-labelled Coca-Cola Life seems poised to prove, newer isn’t necessarily better. Thankfully, that’s not the case here. The space is fresh, the kitchen is more than double its previous size, the opening hours are much longer—and most importantly, the restaurant’s spirit hasn’t changed. It still feels cozy, and those who loved it before will love it now.
With 280 seats, including some on a swanky, comfortable patio that will be open year-round, Chambar has a lounge, a long bar, and seating on two floors inside. The interior is warm, with exposed brick walls, wooden floors and beams, some wooden tables, red leather circular booths, and black leather banquettes. Omer Arbel’s eye-catching, sculptural light fixtures consisting of multicoloured blown-glass orbs connected by metal rods resemble a Calder mobile. Then there’s the striking wine-storage cabinet in black fronted by metal-frame windows that antiques dealer Scott Landon sourced from the oldest church at UBC, co-owner Karri Schuermans told the Straight following an anonymous lunch visit.
About the ownership: Schuermans runs Chambar with chef Nico Schuermans, while Café Medina is now owned solely by the two’s former business partner, Robert Kane. Though the restaurants have split, some of the menu items that Schuermans created for Medina show up in modified form on Chambar’s breakfast, brunch, and lunch menus. Take the paella (with fried egg, curried orzo, avocado, and tomato salad), for instance, or the tagine (with grilled merguez, poached egg, saffron tomato stew, halloumi, fried pita, and hummus). The beloved moules frites are still on the dinner menu, with the standout Congolaise version featuring a tomato coconut cream broth with smoked chili, lime, and cilantro.
Chambar is well suited for the midday crowd, whether it’s suits having a power lunch, couples doing it right with a bottle of wine, or friends who want to linger—staff don’t make you feel hurried. Service was interesting this visit—our server couldn’t answer most of our questions about specific ingredients, but she admitted she’d just returned from holiday. A busser, meanwhile, carefully inspected the white plates she brought for us to use with shared dishes, taking two back not once but twice because she deemed them insufficiently polished.
There are fewer than a dozen dishes on the lunch menu, plus four from the breakfast menu that are served all day (including that paella and a fricassee with braised short ribs, roasted potatoes, fried eggs, and aged Gruyère). Waffles are served until 3 p.m. What this all means is you need to study the menu carefully so you don’t miss anything. And the cliché “something for everyone” holds true here. (The waffles, which come with sauces like dark chocolate and fig marmalade, were surprisingly dry on this visit. The piece of bacon as garnish for the bacon-caramel topping was inadvertently placed in the salted-caramel sauce we also ordered. Whoops.)
The restaurant opened in late August and at press time was transitioning to a fall menu, so some things our group of five tried are no longer available. However, still on offer is the mezzes plate, which, with the Salade Vert (made with Hannah Brook Farm greens), would be enough for two for a nice, light lunch. It’s lovely and colourful with puréed beet, carrot and sultana salad, chewy roasted eggplant, hummus, grilled halloumi and tomatoes, and a puckery baba ghanoush infused with lemon confit, all with fried pita chips for dipping. This plate would also be perfect with a mid-to-late-afternoon glass of wine. Chambar isn’t doing happy-hour specials right now; here’s hoping that changes.
A tamarind-glazed pork chop was on the dry side, even with its accompanying buttermilk corn pudding. It’s an item I wouldn’t bother with again. Both the juicy butcher’s steak with peppercorns and mustard greens and the seared albacore tuna with a sesame and miso emulsion we ordered are no longer on the menu, but diners can expect heartier dishes like braises and stews to be added to the selections as the days get darker. Lunch items range from $10 to $20; waffles are $3.15 plus $1 per topping.
When it comes to beverages, Chambar may be best known for its extensive cocktail and beer lists (including some of Belgium’s best and strongest brews), but it also has an impressive selection of bubbles: three by the glass, including Blue Mountain Brut and Ployez-Jacquemart Champagne, and 11 bottles.
Perhaps pairing some sparkling wine with a waffle or two among friends could become a sweet new Vancouver tradition.