The Aerie Resort and Spa

The Aerie Resort
Tel: 250.743.7115 - Malahat


I visited the Aerie a few years ago and hated it -- over priced, mediocre food, snotty service and the most hideous decor I've ever seen in a so-called fine-dining restaurant. It took awhile for me to get over that horror, but having heard rumour of an ownership change and decorative re-modelling, I decided to give it another chance. Good thing I did. The new Aerie is turning things around, with approachable pricing and far more sophisticated food. They still need to lose the roman columns when you drive into the property and the pink and mint green exterior paint, but they're getting there..

The dining room used to be a combination of deco and aboriginal art and furnishings, with shoddy looking finishing details on the windows and walls. They've cleaned it up and while nothing special, the decor is simple and quintessentially fine dining. We were seated with several volumes of menus and wine lists. They could still use some work here -- putting two pages of menu inside a kilogram of menu book is just silly and old fashioned. Nevertheless, upon cracking the menu, I was delighted to see a severely pared down a la carte and two table d'hôte menus. Shockingly, one of those menus was a raw and vegan menu!!  Wholly change-up! (I later discovered that they're promoting a 'spa retreat' concept and the raw/vegan thing is part of that campaign.) Despite the fact that the raw menu looked interesting and not entirely unappealing, we went for the Thanksgiving menu. Compared to the $150-per-person menu I'd had on my previous visit, the special menu was a reasonable $65 with $45 wine pairings. The price was right, but I would have liked to have seen better pairings, or an option for an upgrade.

Unlike the old Aerie, they're going with more local products and contemporary presentation. Our fist course was a chestnut soup with sour cherry foam, served in a coffee cup with biscotti on the side. The foam was a weird pink colour that didn't enhance the appearance of the brown soup and I thought the presentation was a little Thomas Keller-wannabe, but I like chestnut soup and it was tasty.

The second course was a seared scallop on risotto. The scallop was tasty and nicely seared and the risotto was correctly al dente. It was well portioned and garnished and, while not terribly exciting, we liked it. The apple and rosemary gratinée that followed was almost the highlight of the meal -- simple, but really nicely executed. Rosemary is so easily overpowering, but they managed to pull it off as an accent flavour.

The main course was turkey, of course. Nicely cooked breast, that I presume had been brined, and dark meat confit, which was much more like a rillette than a confit. The confit reminded of sausage stuffing, but more refined -- it was interesting. Unfortunately, the potato pavé was burned on the bottom, someone had slipped that past the chef.

The dessert was a trio of ice cream, a somewhat over-sugary tart and a super-delicious pumpkin milkshake -- one out of three isn't that bad.

Not a flawless meal, the service was good and the food was reasonable value with a few notable items and not too many stinkers. It's still a fairly stuffy atmosphere, but new staff has alleviated the worst of it. All in all it was a pleasant excursion out of town, that I would be happy to repeat.  

reviewed Oct 6, 2007