Restaurant review – Chill Winston (Gastown)

Living in Vancouver and not participating in the Gastown dining and dancing scene is akin to eating ice cream without a cone. Walking around Water Street at night with good friends pretty much ranks high up there with being curled on the couch watching a movie and drinking hot chocolate: pure bliss.

We hadn’t had a chance to spend time together as a group, so B, H, C and myself decided to go out for dinner, and we settled (at B’s suggestion) on the general Gastown area. I hadn’t spent substantial amounts in this area in recent years because this was the general area where my ex and I used to hang out all the time. Thus… you can imagine, bad memories!

So my friends decided that it was time to exorcise those demons, and we settled for a restaurant in Gastown that both H and I had been wanting to go to (and B had already beeen to): Chill Winston.

From the outset, Chill Winston looks sort of, kind of hipster-ish. Located at the very end of Gastown, on Alexander Street, it boasts a great patio. However, once you are inside, you can discover that the place has a great ambiance. The lighting, the tables, the overall decor and distribution of furniture and bar, everything looks in place. The food is excellent as far as taste goes.

Now, the critical part comes here. I am not fond of restaurants where the service is sub-par, and Chill Winston’s restaurant practices are so wrong on so many levels it’s not even funny. The portions are very small and overpriced (for what they are, I think they’re charging too much). We ordered anchovies and some carpaccio in the way of appetizers, and then I ordered salmon ($15 for two micro-slices) and potatoes (which I’ll have to admit were really good). H and I shared a dessert (the seven varieties of chocolate) which was also rather small ($ 8). B had been here for lunch and she had mentioned it had been good, which I can believe. She ordered the turkey dish, which I found extremely tasty. The dessert (while small) was also to-die-for. I found the salmon quite bland, though.

Now, I am sorry but if you are going to charge between $15 and $30 per entree, I am expecting you to at least provide me with substantial portions, good flavor and great service. And I expect the bread and butter to be free (we got charged for two orders of bread and butter, can you believe it?). While my friends think that this level of poor service is pretty much normal for Vancouver’s dining scene, I was very disappointed (particularly having just recently had dinner at places like The Cascade Room, La Bodega and The Water Street Cafe, where the service is superb).

The waitress didn’t offer to bring a glass of water to everyone on the table, we had to ask for it. Paper napkins? You have got to be kidding me. I could not believe it… No, no, no! Oh, and you want to hear the kicker? The waitress asked us if we were done with dessert. We said “no, we’re still working on it“. Five or ten minutes later, the manager (apparently she was the manager, not sure if she was but she looked like it) came and asked us “are you still working on your dessert?“. I can take a hint, thank you very much. The charging for bread and butter, the paper napkins and the not-so-subtle “can you please get out of here now?” were definitely deal-sealers and I am not coming back here for dinner.

Honestly speaking, the food is great, the ambiance is excellent but I wouldn’t call Chill Winston a place to dine out. This is a place to go and have one or two drinks with friends (a lounge). I found the place overpriced and lacking in service. And those are two factors that will always drive me away from any restaurant.

Anyhow, I have to agree with H when he says that when I started my blog, I thought of my restaurant reviews as just accounts of what had transpired that evening with my friends, and now I have a more of a food-critic eye. I think that’s true and I can’t help it. I eat out a lot, and I compare restaurants on the basis of service, food, and pricing.

One thing I can’t deny is that I had a really good time. But that was just because I had the pleasure of spending time with H, C, and B. This was the saving grace of the evening, having some of my closest friends spend a night out on the town with me. Only next time, if we are going to Chill Winston, it will have to be only for a drink or two.

I have to admit, though, that the owners of Chill Winston really know their business, because The Vancouverite gave them a very rough second review (the first time apparently the service was good) and they responded on the comments section with a very classy and elegant response (read below on the comments section). It does show commitment to the customer. Hopefully next time I go to Chill Winston (if I do) their service will have improved by then.

Chill Winston in Vancouver

Related posts:

  1. Chill Winston (Gastown)
  2. Restaurant review – The Alibi Room (Gastown)
  3. Restaurant review – Salt Tasting Room (Gastown) – NDMD ’08
  4. Restaurant review – La Casita (Gastown)
  5. Restaurant review: Boneta (Gastown)

Comments (0)

[...] Lorraine aka Raincoaster reminded me of a good spot in Gastown (as I was complaining about Chill Winston) in addition to my trusty Flux, La [...]

Jordan StewartOctober 27th, 2008 at 11:17 am

Hello Raul,

It has been a year since you posted this review of our wee CW. The last sentence states that you’d come back and give us another shot; have you? I’d like to know how it went!

Other than the service your (probably long-since terminated) server gave you, the other comments were long-ago added to our database and are constantly taken into consideration when making directional decisions (as are all comments brought to our attention).

If you haven’t yet been back, please ask for me if you’re in. I look forward to meeting you, Raul.

Jordan Stewart
Owner, Chill Winston

PS. Alas, with the incredible volume we do, paper napkins will have to suffice (for now). But they are the most expensive paper napkins we could find ;-)

PPS. When you try dining with us again, I suggest a weeknight. The vibe is entirely different! One of our goals (and indeed successes) was to create a environment that felt entirely different at different times of the day or week.

RaulOctober 28th, 2008 at 11:31 pm

Hi Jordan,

Will be back at Chill Winston soon. Not before this damn stomach ache subsides! :D

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