Bishop’s is one of Vancouver’s handful of truly classic restaurants, and seems impervious to the comings and goings of its. Bishop’s first opened its doors in 1985, and has been a mainstay ever since. Both Bishop’s location and its interior are rather unassuming. The restaurant is composed of two rather small rooms, creating an intimate feel. The menu is classic West Coast with a hint of French flair. The ingredients are top quality, local and seasonal. I had been wanting to try Bishop’s for several years now, and thankfully the experience did not disappoint.
First off, we were presented with some bread: two types for my friend, and a gluten-free cornbread for me. My friend uncharacteristically devoured all of his bread, which tempted me to try mine (I almost never eat corn or any grains) – it was delicious. The butter was a little pale and bland for my liking (compared to my beloved pastured Kerrygold).
To begin, I had the Sapo Bravo Red Kuri Squash Soup (minted yogurt, harissa coulis, toasted sunflower seeds). I was excited to try the Red Kuri squash, which is quite a favorite in France, its name potimarro coming from poti for pumpkin and marron for chestnut. The soup was delicious – velvety, smooth, rich, with a touch of sweetness. The sunflower seeds added a nice crunch. I confirmed that it was gluten-free.
My friend had the Wild Boar Terrine (seasonal fruit, grilled brioche, wild rice and pumpkin seeds). The terrine was beautifully presented, and the individual components on the plate were tasty and provided some interest to the dish. But, we didn’t quite see how they all meshed together, especially the puffed rice. My friend thought that the terrine and the stone ground mustard were good, but not the best he’s ever had. The bread was grilled well – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Next up, we were given an amuse-bouche of very flavorful celeriac soup which was quite lovely.
For my main, I ordered the Peace Country Lamb Rack (pomme anna, root vegetables, lamb jus). This dish was gluten-free as well. Again, the presentation was beautiful. And the lamb – oh my. It was gorgeously browned on the outside to the point of actually being crispy. And yet the inside was cooked to a perfect medium-rare. The meat was succulent and flavorful – definitely one of the best racks of lamb I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying. The pomme anna was crispy perfection with a melt in your mouth buttery inside.
My friend ordered the Pitt Meadows Beef Tenderloin (kale, pomme puree, wild mushroom ragout), which was also gluten-free with the exception of the massive onion ring. My friend said the tenderloin was very tender, but not melt in your mouth tender. The pomme puree was incredible – very fluffy. As you can tell from the picture above, it looked like the tenderloin was sitting on top of a white cloud. And the onion ring was one of the best he’s ever had thanks to the thicker fish & chips style batter. The mushrooms were a nice seasonal touch, but could have been more plentiful. Again, top marks for presentation.
We were then given a second amuse-bouche, some organic Okanagan concord grapes – unusual and refreshing. A nice and light interlude before dessert.
We shared two desserts, a chevre flan and a chocolate mousse cheesecake (with candied pecan crust and milk sorbet). Both were gluten-free, except for the cookies that accompanied the flan. This was my first chevre flan, and I absolutely loved the strong goat flavour. The chocolate mousse cheesecake was also good. The cheesecake part was just okay, but I loved the nutty pecan crust. And I was surprised by how much I liked the milk sorbet – I didn’t expect the milk flavor to “pop” like it did, and it had a great texture.
I usually don’t mention the wine, but the red I had blew me away. Especially since I don’t typically love reds. It was a pinot noir from the Okanagan’s La Frenz Winery.
I couldn’t really tell you who our server was. It seemed to be a team effort, with every person there seemingly attending to us at some point. Even the owner, John Bishop, was in the dining room quite often, checking on his customers, and even delivering some dishes.
This type of approach can be a good thing in that you feel like you are getting a lot of attention and can ask anyone for assistance. On the other hand, it can get a little confusing since you don’t know who you should be speaking to. Perhaps I’m simply not used to this type of service, but I think I would’ve preferred some consistency, and having the standard one server with whom you can establish rapport as the night progresses. However, everyone was very friendly, helpful, and professional.
The one minor hiccup involved dessert. The first server knew I had a gluten-free preference. We then had a different server taking our dessert order. I asked him if the desserts we were eyeing were gluten-free. He said that the cheesecake was, but that the flan could be tweaked accordingly, so we ordered it. After it was brought to us, I had suspicions about the cookies. It took a while to flag someone down. After checking with the kitchen, the same server told me that the cookies did contain gluten. Luckily, I don’t have an allergy, and I’m cautious about these things. For me this wasn’t a big deal at all. But it could’ve been for someone with an allergy.
I can see why Bishop’s has been around for as long as it has. My dinner was a textbook example of what a dining experience should be. The food was practically flawless, with consistently perfect execution. Service was terrific. And the plating was gorgeous. The only thing it lacked for me was some element of “wow”, something that would really stick out in my mind. If not for the price point, I wouldn’t even bring this up. It’s just that at this level, my expectations are quite high. I was just looking for that little something to elevate my evening from the realm of very good to extraordinary. Something that would make me rave to all my friends about how they simply must try this restaurant.
But then again, there’s certainly something to be said for being consistently terrific and having superb execution, and clearly this strategy has worked well for Bishop’s for decades. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Bishop’s to anyone looking for an exceptional West Coast meal.