Oak Bay is best known for impeccable gardens and gorgeous ocean views. But it deserves equal praise for its food scene, with an incredible concentration of great restaurants, cafes, and delis. So let’s give it its proper due with a day-long self-guided foodie tour.
Here are eight of Tasting Victoria’s top picks in the area. Walk, run, or cycle between them to build your appetite and take in the scenery along the way.
Vis-à-Vis is best known as a wine bar, offering classic French bistro fare paired with an extensive wine list. But they’re actually open all day, starting with breakfast from 7am. So no matter what time you arrive, you’ll be faced with enticing options—all of them fresh, creative, and authentic.
Dishes range from unique offerings, like a tangy sourdough French toast with strawberry compote, to more traditional French classics like salade Nicoise and steak au poivre. If you’re just popping in for a snack, opt for one of the eclectic cheese and charcuterie boards, accompanied by a wine suggested by the house sommelier.
Ottavio Italian Bakery & Delicatessen
Just up the road from Vis-à-Vis is Ottavio’s, an Oak Bay institution that’s not easy to define. It’s a cafe and bakery. It’s a gelato shop. It’s a deli and grocery store. It’s everything you love about Italian food and drink all rolled into one.
On the cafe and bakery side, you’ll find a small but appealing menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches, accompanied by a gorgeous array of baked goods and dessert treats. Think tiramisu, chocolate mousse tarts, and croissants. Plus, of course, it wouldn’t be Italy without espresso.
If you’re not hungry on your visit, the deli is a wonderful place to pick up some treats for later. The selection of local and imported cheeses is top notch, and the curated collection of grocery items will have you drooling.
The Whole Beast
Further along Oak Bay Avenue, you’ll find the Whole Beast, truly one of the district’s hidden gems. If you’re a lover of cured meats, walking into this artisan salumeria is going to feel like a little slice of heaven.
Opened in 2010, founder Cory Pelan set about to produce handmade cured meats the traditional way, free from unnecessary additives and preservatives. Better yet, he prioritizes locally sourced meats that are ethically raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics.
The shop offers a diverse array of meat products and flavours, as well as a quality selection of preserves and mustards. It’s a one-stop shop for the best charcuterie board you’ve ever made and a true taste of Vancouver Island.
White Heather Tea Room
It wouldn’t be a visit to Oak Bay without a proper afternoon tea, and the White Heather Tea Room is the perfect place to indulge. Tourists tend to pass it by in favour of the flashier Tea at the Empress, but locals know that White Heather is something special.
Their tea is outstanding, as you would expect, but it’s the overall tea service experience that really shines. Tea is accompanied by a tower of both traditional and original finger foods, including sandwiches, scones, and bite-sized pastries. With a diverse array of flavours, colours, and textures, it’s a guaranteed feast for the senses.
The Windsor Cafe
The relatively new Windsor Cafe has a classic West Coast bistro vibe, highlighting seasonal produce, and fresh local ingredients. While the food is outstanding, the ambience alone makes it well worth a visit. The husband-and-wife-owned cafe resides in a beautiful heritage building, and on a sunny day, you can dine al fresco on one of two patios, surrounded by gorgeous blooms.
Even if you’re not hungry, pop in for a coffee or beer—they carry local favourites, Phillips and Hoyne—to take advantage of the cafe’s proximity to the waterfront, Windsor Park, and the Oak Bay Rose Garden.
Faro Handcrafted Pizza and Tasting Room
Located inside the swanky Oak Bay Beach Hotel, Faro is an affordable luxury that’s well worth a visit. The menu changes seasonally in order to highlight local products, but it’s always anchored by the wood stone pizza oven.
The starters are an appealing collection of Italian classics, all focusing on fine ingredients and simple preparation. But the pizzas, with their airy and perfectly charred crusts, are the real reason to visit.
If you’re after recognizable flavours, you’ll love the marinara or pepperoni, the latter featuring cured meat from the aforementioned Whole Beast. However, if you’re willing to get a little adventurous, the sleeper hit is definitely the white anchovy, which beautifully balances fresh tomatoes and bright lemon zest with salty cured fish.
Oak Bay Marina Restaurant
One of the great joys of living in, or visiting, Greater Victoria is enjoying a meal of fresh seafood with a spectacular Pacific Ocean view. For this ultimate West Coast experience, one of the best spots in the region is the Oak Bay Marina Restaurant. It’s just far enough removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown Victoria to feel secluded and special.
The menu has something to satisfy every taste, but it leans heavily on seafood, as it should. For appetizers, that means inspired fusion fare like harissa-marinated humboldt squid. Main courses include seafood risotto and miso-marinated sablefish.
Impressively, the Marina Restaurant has committed to 100% Ocean Wise seafood on all their menus, including the sushi bar, a designation that ensures it was caught or raised sustainably.
Bonus: The Village Estevan
It’s a bit of a trek from the heart of Oak Bay, but if you’re feeling energetic—or want to drive or cycle—The Village Estevan is well worth going a few minutes out of your way. There are now five Village restaurants around Greater Victoria, and this impressive expansion is a testament to the popularity of their original Oak Bay location on Estevan Avenue.
This bright and cheery spot offers plenty of crowd-pleasing favourites like soups, sandwiches, and salads, but it’s the all-day brunch menu that steals the show, having won Best in the City in 2020. They do the classics, like eggs benny, hash, and French toast, but they do them right, relying on skilled chefs and fresh local ingredients to stand out from the crowd.
2518 Estevan Ave.
With winter rains fast approaching, fall is the perfect time to try this Oak Bay Foodie Tour. You’ll enjoy crisp walking temperatures, late season garden blooms, and colourful autumn leaves.
Give it a try, and leave a comment to let us know how it went. What was your favourite bite? Did you stumble across an incredible Oak Bay eatery that we missed? Do you have a photo of your adventure to share? Be sure to tag @tastingvictoria!