Summit Restaurant
By Tracey Rayson

Italian inspiration

Novelist Henry James praised Lake Como as "out of the rush and crush of the modern world." Fittingly, Lake Como is where Vancouver Island's Summit Restaurant and Villa Eyrie Resort draws its Italian inspiration – from the architecture to the cuisine. The remote and lofty setting atop the Malahat Summit, 573 metres above sea level, delivers incomparable views of Saanich Inlet and Finlayson Arm, hemmed by sky-kissing Douglas-firs and western redcedars. The serenity of course, like the view, is complimentary.

Formerly the Aerie Resort, which closed in November 2009, the property was purchased and rebranded as Villa Eyrie Resort by the GAIN Group, who represents premier automotive brands and is recognized for their superior client experience. After substantial renovations to update and modernize the style and design, the luxury resort reopened in November 2016.

The stunning views and superb cuisine make Summit Restaurant the highlight of the resort. - Volker Grady, general manager, Villa Eyrie Resort
Summit Restaurant executive chef Sam Chalmers.
Summit Restaurant executive chef Sam Chalmers. Photo by Danika Sea Design

A true destination

Villa Eyrie's 80-seat Summit Restaurant was among the top 30 nominees for enRoute magazine's 2017 Best New Restaurants in Canada list, a likely contender due to its high quality sustainable plates, crafted from locally sourced ingredients. "Summit has earned its rightful place as a destination restaurant due to its location north of Victoria and by being part of the Cowichan Valley," says Volker Grady, the resort's general manager. "The stunning views and superb cuisine make Summit Restaurant the highlight of the resort."

Summit shares its menu and fireplace with the Drivers Lounge, the auto racing-inspired casual dining space, and a nod to the world-class Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit, owned too, by GAIN Group. Volker points out that proximity to the motorsport track compliments the restaurant and the resort. "It's a wonderful partnership in that one services the other; we have a lot of members who dine here and stay with us."

Summit Restaurant was among the top 30 nominees for enRoute magazine's 2017 Best New Restaurants in Canada.
Summit Restaurant was among the top 30 nominees for enRoute magazine's 2017 Best New Restaurants in Canada. Photo by Danika Sea Design

Connecting with local farmers and vineyards

Executive chef Sam Chalmers excites diners' palates with educated farm-to-table fare. "We're very much an Italian West Coast restaurant and we fuse Italian ideas with modern West Coast flavours," he says. "My mentality is to cook for our clients, most of who are looking for the finer side of food; however, we still put out approachable dishes for very mainstream diners as well."

Seasonal menus run the gamut from breakfast and brunch to lunch and dinner, including a kids' menu, plus daily happy hour from 3 pm to 5 pm. Also, a three- or four-course family style menu is devised for table sharing. "If one of our foragers brings us some beautiful cauliflower mushrooms and they're not on the menu, we can highlight those in one of our family style dishes," reveals Sam. "It's not only a fun way to dine, it's a great way to showcase what's fresh that week."

Summit procures organic product from local producers, and also from their small on-site farm. "We support Saanich Organics, a great farm cooperative for our vegetables; buying local is important to us and it helps the economy of the entire island," admits Sam. "We also feature local seafood, local chickens, some great beef from Cache Creek, ducks from the Fraser Valley and amazing proteins from Two Rivers, so it's all products we're very proud of."

The restaurant has curated a local wine list, as well as worldly wines of assorted varietals. Pairing comes into play, particularly with the Wine Society socials, where viticulture is recognized and married with a five-course dinner. Sam notes that "food and wine always go hand-in-hand, and here we like to make them dance together."

Volker also adds that it's rewarding to watch their guests enjoying themselves in Summit Restaurant – and experiencing the view. "It's something that doesn't get old. Guests tell us it's a real escape. It's relaxing and there's no stress — and that's pretty special."

[Header photo by Danika Sea Design]

At Summit Restaurant, seasonal menus run the gamut from breakfast and brunch to lunch and dinner.
At Summit Restaurant, seasonal menus run the gamut from breakfast and brunch to lunch and dinner. Photo by Danika Sea Design
Summit Restaurant's executive chef Sam Chalmers excites diners' palates with educated farm-to-table fare.
Summit Restaurant's executive chef Sam Chalmers excites diners' palates with educated farm-to-table fare. Photo by Danika Sea Design
Summit Restaurant procures organic product from local producers, and also from their small on-site farm.
Summit Restaurant procures organic product from local producers, and also from their small on-site farm. Photo by Danika Sea Design
Vancouver Island's Summit Restaurant is located at Villa Eyrie Resort. Photo by Danika Sea Design
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