The elements that make the Canadian Rockies a year-round destination meet in Canada’s highest town of Banff. Established after railway workers stumbled onto a thermal hot spring, Banff National Park became Canada’s first national park in 1885 and today stands as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lake Louise, a hamlet in Banff National Park, is recognized by its majestic emerald blue colouring in the summertime and snow-capped mountains in the winter where the massive Victoria Glacier and Rocky Mountains provide a backdrop worthy of Broadway for skating on Lake Louise.
As the world has spent much of the last few months indoors, one ray of light is Banff reopened this month and is ready to welcome guests back into town. Although things might seem a little different and precautions are still in place, the restaurants and bars of Banff and Lake Louise are happy to welcome you back.
To help narrow down your selections, I have included six extraordinary dining experiences that should not be missed:
FAIRMONT BANFF SPRINGS:
I have had the pleasure of experiencing many Fairmont properties across Canada, and now I can add Fairmont Banff Springs to the list. Located in the heart of the park, the world-famous hotel stands as a centrepiece in the picturesque alpine town of Banff, Alberta. Canada’s Castle in the Rockies has been providing hospitality to guests for more than 130 years.
Before heading out to hit the slopes or for a long hike, start your morning off right with a buffet breakfast at The Vermillion Room. The kitchen serves dishes inspired by French elegance and Canadian charm with fresh seasonal fruit, smoothies, eggs and applewood smoked bacon enjoyed while overlooking the Rockies.
BLOCK KITCHEN + BAR
Block Kitchen + Bar offers a fresh global menu and creative cocktails surrounded by an urban-rustic setting. The warm space features birdcages and bare bulb lighting hanging from the ceiling offering a fun, playful vibe.
Chef Stéphane Prévost’s menu reflects Izakaya influences, a love for curries, a commitment to sustainable, Ocean-Wise certified seafood and the use of local products. His dishes are meant for sharing; some of my recommendations include pork – kimchi gyozas, Asian lettuce wraps and Tokyo fries dusted with nori.
PARK DISTILLERY RESTAURANT + BAR:
Park Distillery prides themselves on serving customers their gin. It may have something to do with their water originating six glaciers high in the Rocky Mountains gaining minerals as it travels across rich limestone deposits and grain that is sourced from a high-altitude family farm in the Alberta foothills. Master Distiller, Matt Hendriks, says they hand-mill, hand-mash and hand-distill everything to preserve the purity of the ingredients and only produce in small batches. Their rustic atmosphere and wood-fired dishes inspire smokey-savoury cuisine like their St. Louis ribs and rotisserie chicken with campfire drippings gravy. Park also offers a plant-based menu which includes vegetarian cocktails and gluten-free beer. The menu is campfire inspired and meant to be shared with good company.
BRUNCH AT THE BISON:
In case you did not know, Alberta is known for its cattle. So, when you have the opportunity to brunch at The Bison and order the bison benedict, you jump on it. The menu changes with the seasons keeping with the farm-to-table approach. From spiralized squash fritti with Alberta honey to their signature Bison short ribs, you are going to love the taste of Alberta.
DINE AT 7500 FEET – BANFF GONDOLA + SKY BISTRO:
Banff’s Gondola will take you to new heights. With six mountain ranges, visitors can experience the Summit in many ways – take a stroll along the Mountain Boardwalk for breathtaking views while keeping an eye out for wildlife or by visiting the rooftop observation deck which offers a full view of the town and mountain range.
Indoors, the experience is equal parts excitement and exploration, with an interpretive centre and theatre to captivate the child in all of us. The family experience package includes Gondola admission, cookies, an activity book plus free admission for children (one child per each regular paying adult).
It is also where culinary expectations rise to new heights with menus that rival the views.
At the top of Sulphur Mountain, you will find the grandeur of the Rockies at Sky Bistro. Chef Anthony Mason collaborates on sustainability to share purchase resources and purchasing power. Chef’s locally sourced ingredients are complemented with a distinctly Canadian menu renowned for its farm-to-summit cuisine, locally distilled spirits and regional craft beers. As a starter to share (if you dare) the duck thyme & citrus confit wings with Saskatoon Berry puree and local honey are out of this world. As a main, the maple smoked beer and Flower Farms Tomahawk Chop with house braised cabbage, sage roasted heirloom carrots, sunchoke and parsnip nage are sure to satisfy any meat lovers dream. *Note Sky Bistro is re-opening June 4, 2020.
FAIRMONT CHATEAU LAKE LOUISE – FAIRVIEW BAR + RESTAURANT
The iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a year-round luxury mountain resort recognized globally for progressive environmental stewardship and responsible tourism. No matter the time of year, when you are seated at the Fairview Bar and Restaurant, you will experience magnificent views framed by the arched windows. The elegant and vibrant dishes highlight everything from wild boar to Brant Lake wagyu while distinctive cocktails and the comprehensive wine list round out your experience. My choice for the evening was the Fairmont Reserve Beef Tenderloin with carrot bone marrow, tallow & soubise potato purée and bordelaise. Come for the view, stay for the gastronomy.
As the world begins to open its doors again, Banff will be waiting for you.