A few days ago, Will and I made our way down to The Orange Room, which recently reopened under new management. It has long been a favourite haunt of ours, so we came with high expectations and a little fear that the elements that made The Orange Room so great (delicious menu, friendly service, live music, stylish atmosphere) might be missing under different management.
We came away reassured, though our experience was somewhat marred by new restauranteur growing pains (more on that later). It was exciting to have a whole new menu to try. The standout was the pistachio-encrusted tuna steak skewers, which were rich and savoury. We also enjoyed the ‘Coquille Saint-Orange Room’ – Scallops in garlic butter and white wine sauce with mushrooms, onions and sizzling gruyere cheese. The potato yam pavé was less to my taste. It’s a layered yam and potato cake with cream, garlic and herbs. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t feel it stood up to the unique flavour of the other dishes.
There were lots of interesting little flourishes that show the new owners have put in a lot of thought about the experience they want to create at The Orange Room. For example, they are passionate about sourcing local suppliers, so the beer on tap is from Surrey’s Central City Brewery. Because it’s a brand many people are unfamiliar with, The Orange Room offers beer tasters served in diminutive drams no bigger than a shot glass. It’s just enough to tell that, for example, the pale ale isn’t to your taste, but the ‘winter ale’, though unexpectedly pale, is pleasantly smooth with a hint of apricots.
Sampling isn’t yet available for wine or other drinks, but our server hinted that a wine tasting concept could be on the horizon. Given the local focus, we put in a good word for adding Pacific Breeze‘s wines to the list – we visited the Stewardson Ave. ‘Garagiste‘ winery recently as well and were very impressed with both the bold taste of the product and the local story behind it.
The changes made to the ‘old’ Orange Room are subtle but worthwhile improvements. Re-envisioning the Orange Room as a tapas restaurant makes the menu feel more cohesive. The lighting seems brighter, and the decoration has been pared back somewhat. The room itself is the same deep reddish-orange, and the the furniture is the same, yet the space has been gently reworked to provide more kitchen space and better traffic flow among the tables.
Now, about those growing pains… although the menu looked delicious, many items were marked as unavailable, whether sold out or pending supplier relationships. The service was pleasant, but slow. When we went, the kitchen was backlogged with orders and so it took a long time to get our food. We spotted one of the new owners, Zoe Watters, zipping around the tables, working behind the bar and then finally donning a chef’s hat and apron to get things moving behind the scenes. Despite the frantic pace, Zoe took a few minutes to chat with us while we paid the bill and told us that they’ve been much busier than they expected. It seems we were not the only ones hungering for the Orange Room’s return.
All in all, we were pleased with our experience. The problems we encountered were unfortunate, but understandable given that the owners are new to the restaurant business. The Orange Room delivered the goods where it counts, in atmosphere, menu and charm. Live music isn’t currently offered, but we were assured that it was coming soon. With a little more time to work out the kinks, the Orange Room will remain a beloved local eatery. In the meantime, it’s well worth the visit.