• Tasting Victoria
  • Posts
  • Two Victoria restaurants are in the running for Canada’s best new restaurant

Two Victoria restaurants are in the running for Canada’s best new restaurant

These brand new restaurants focus on exquisite dishes and sourcing locally

📸: From right to left: Ugly Duckling and Marilena’s dining rooms.

Ugly Duckling Dining and Marilena Café & Raw Bar are like two sides of the same coin.

One is an Aquilini-owned seafood restaurant, which garnered tons of buzz before opening in the spring, and has hosted NHL players’ wedding parties. It's run by TopTable Group—which operates multiple premium restaurants around North America—and it took millions of dollars to open.

Marilena Café & Raw Bar is precisely the elevated dining experience Victoria anticipated, and includes a fantastic selection of sustainable, and locally-sourced, seafood.

The other restaurant is a labour of love from an Ontario-born chef who’s spent the past decade climbing the chain of command, and working in some of the most creative kitchens on Vancouver Island: Hudson’s on First in Duncan and Wind Cries Mary in Bastion Square.

Ugly Duckling is chef Corbin Mathany’s first foray into owning a restaurant—and so far, it’s been a success, often sourcing locally.

It’s a tale of two camps, but both have a few things in common, including recent nominations for best new Canadian restaurant by Air Canada’s enRoute magazine.

“This is about B.C. ingredients inspired by Canada’s oldest Chinatown,” enRoute says about Ugly Duckling Dining.

“Victoria is forever changed,” the magazine says about Marilena Café and Raw Bar.

Air Canada’s list of best new restaurants is an annual feature in enRoute. Since its inception 20 years ago, the magazine secretly sends one of its top food critics to scout out some of the best new restaurants in the country.

The list has been whittled down to 30 and they’re all in the running for a spot on the annual top 10 list, which will be announced later this fall.

Vancouver Island is consistently punching above its weight (especially compared to food hubs like Vancouver and Toronto).

Last year, Fox & Monocle in North Saanich made the top 10, and was named the ninth-best new restaurant in the country.