“Has it been a while since you’ve tried residence dining?” asks the website for the University of British Columbia. Don’t be scared off by bad memories, it implores, “residence dining has come a long way.” It’s never good to make a promise you can’t keep, but astonishingly, the dining hall in the Place Vanier residence delivers.
Right from the moment you walk into the spacious food service area, the recently renovated Vanier’s feels more like a restaurant at a ski lodge (complete with a cozy stone fireplace) than a greasy slop house exploiting captive first-years. There’s plenty on offer, from Asian and fusion to a grill and sandwich bar, and the prices are reasonable.
To see whether the food lived up to the decor, we started with an entree of meatballs in tomato sauce and cheese with a side of steamed vegetables, a dish that could easily have gone oh so wrong. The cheese was stringy and hot, the meatballs and sauce packed with flavour. Likewise, an order of chicken balls with spicy Thai sauce kept you wanting more.
Another nice touch was the pizza. We tried a vegetarian Hawaiian served on a thick, whole wheat crust—great for filling the gut when the meal plan money is running low. Possibly the most memorable dish was also the simplest to make. A good old ham and cheese grilled sandwich that was done to perfection, with slabs of real cheddar. There are breakfast joints in Vancouver that could take a cue from this place.
There were disappointments, though. The pasta bar offered a spaghetti dish with roasted vegetables and chicken that looked as good as anything mom would make. While there was plenty of chicken served up, though, the pasta itself was too oily. An apple crumble dessert also failed to live up to its appearance, and was way too soggy.
But these were exceptions. Vanier’s lives up to its billing. This isn’t your father’s university dining hall.