Jun 2016

Feature and Photos By Rita Button

I love going out for dinner, lunch or breakfast! Once in a while I hear people who travel a lot, usually for work, insist that eating out can become tiresome or unhealthy. Inwardly, I scoff at this comment until I remember the number of French fries I consumed at a restaurant the night before.

Then I met Hayley, whose restaurant Nourish at 225 Quebec Street, dramatizes her values; real food that’s not only good for you, but is also an unusual combination of satisfying and enticing taste sensations.  Hayley strives to provide complete nourishment - the organic food nourishes the body, while the overall experience nourishes the soul.

The values that govern the restaurant seem deceptively simple: feed the body what it needs, exercise, and go outside. A feeling of optimum health and happiness, a value Hayley and her husband Rob hold as the basic tenet   of a satisfying life, is the result of applying these beliefs.

Hayley has always worked in restaurants. At the beginning, she waited tables in various Vancouver restaurants, but always felt a little strange about it since most colleagues her age were using it as a way to get somewhere else. Hayley enjoyed working with food and people, and took pride in giving people the best possible experience she could, just as she does today in her own restaurant. However, realizing that she should figure out which path her life would take, she returned to school to learn about and understand holistic nutrition. This gave her the ability to apply greater knowledge to her joy in growing food, and deepened her appreciation of nature.

Continuing her work in Vancouver restaurants, she had to change something, she realized, when she felt as if she were “serving gluttony” on all those plates she carried from the kitchen to her appreciative customers. So on her thirtieth birthday, she went to France and Italy where she experienced food in a different way. What happened surprised her: she didn’t want to go home.

That’s when Vancouver Island got lucky. When she came here on a visit, she felt as if she were back in France or Italy - and so she stayed. The basic list that she had made to figure out her life, remained the same, though she added volunteering at the horticultural centre and cooking in its kitchen to her original list of growing vegetables, eating food you’ve made yourself, exercising, and being outside daily.

Hayley started working at a restaurant in downtown Victoria, but she paid attention to her own list and brought food to work that she had made at home. A few people asked her if she would cook for them, and bring them the food she was making for herself - so she did.

Then, people working for Codan, an electronics company on Erie Street, asked if she would cook for them as well. Suddenly, it seemed, she was prepping and delivering food to very happy clients. Around that time, she realized that the kitchen at the Horticultural Centre on Quayle Road was VIHA approved. This meant that it could be used to serve clients, so she continued her whole food exploration on Quayle Road.

Looking for a new space where she could put some of her theories into action, she found the house on Quebec Street. At first, the restaurant was open for breakfast and lunch only, but as time went on and an appetite for more became obvious, Hayley decided to open for dinner beginning in September 2015.

Looking around at what she and her team, including her husband Rob, have created, Hayley says, wonderingly, “I don’t know how we did this.” Part of it is thanks to her husband Rob who helped her see what she could create. Another part is the team who have contributed their enthusiasm, love of learning, and appetite for creating a place where people are appreciated, and, therefore, appreciate the experience in return. While she admits it was hard work, she immediately adds that it is rewarding work. She and her team love creating a space for diners that they will remember and that might even begin to change their attitudes toward food.

On the first floor is the full-service dining room. Under the stairs to the right as you walk into the house, is the café where you can get a coffee to go, or kefir water, or even a growler or bowl of bone soup to go. A growler (just in case, like me, you’re wondering) is a jar that you can buy filled with either kefir water or bone soup for $12.00. Refills are available for $10.00.

Upstairs is the study where you might want to have a coffee and a snack; the day I was there, people enjoyed chocolate cake with their coffee. It’s a smaller room where you’re invited to read a book or write one—wifi is available—or have a long conversation with a friend. Toward the front of the upstairs area is the parlour, a bigger room where business meetings or gatherings for many different reasons could occur. It’s wired for technology; the table and light fixture are magnificent contemporary pieces made of re-purposed wood. In the corner at the back is the fermentation room where the kefir water brews, as does the sauerkraut.

And then there’s the attic. Hayley got really excited when she talked about the attic, but she wouldn’t say what it was going to become. I’m pretty sure it will be worth the wait.

The house exudes a feeling of home, togetherness, and positive growth. Hayley can’t say enough about gratitude. She is grateful for her team, many of whom have been with her for a long time. Her belief in growth encompasses the whole team. Growing, learning and changing create happiness. When people feel good about themselves, Hayley believes they will want others to feel as good, so the attention to detail allows them to understand each person they meet, whether it be colleague, client or friend. Creating the best possible experience is the goal.  A combination of real food, real environment, and real people - what could be more Nourish(ing)?

The restaurant is open from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm from Tuesday till Saturday, and from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm on Sundays and Mondays. Dinner reservations are accepted by calling 250-590-3426. 

And I almost forgot: Nourish has earned spot #95 on the 100 Best Restaurants in Canada List. Only two restaurants on Vancouver Island were chosen. I know I’m gushing, but it’s easy to see why.