Vancouver Getaway: Trains & Tikis part 3

March 4, 2011

Waldorf! Waldorf! Waldorf!

Papua/New Guinea shield in lobby

With the Chipmunks movie closing down normal activity in the restaurants, Tiki bar, cabaret and club, the hotel was very quiet, especially at night. A good thing, as I’d find out. When the dance club, two floors below my room, reopened on the weekend, the music went straight to my room (the bass, anyway).

Carved wooden mask in hallway

If I’d been counting on a restful night because I had an early morning meeting or was travelling, I’d probably have been pissed. But I was on vacation and didn’t need to get up early, so I watched tv until after the music stopped at 2:30 in the morning. Here’s a helpful hint if you’re going to stay at the Waldorf and value quiet: Ask for room 131 – that’s where my friends M & M stayed and they say the music didn’t bother them (avoid room 125).

Beautiful painting in M & M’s room. Looks like velvet but it’s painted on wood.

This lovely lady was in my room. She creeped out some of my friends (the eyes are a little dead – they don’t have any whites or highlights). I think she’s a beaut. What do you think?

Funky chairs.

More original art.

Each room has vintage (70’s) stereo equipment. Mine had this gorgeous Marantz tuner amp. The sound was great. It’s hooked up to a dual cassette deck with mix tapes made by DJs in the Tiki Bar.

Comfy bed.

Not much of a view. The Waldorf is on East Hastings Street (not the scary druggy part, that’s further west), a few blocks away from the industrial docks (more about that later).

On the weekend there was a vintage clothing sale happening in the hallway right outside my door.

On Friday night the Tiki Bar reopened.

Atomic Al surveys the scene. Behind him is the DJ booth – the sound system is entirely analogue.

Pepino Magico – Tequila, cucumber, lime juice, agave sweetener, chili-salt rim.

Right now there are no classic Tiki bar cocktails on the menu. I was told they’ll be relaunching the bar menu soon with a Mai Tai, a Blue Hawaiian and some other drinks I forget.

Taboo Dan stuck with rum and coke

On Saturday night, M & M and I enjoyed a great meal in the hotel’s Leeteg Room.

Edgar Leeteg quote in restaurant: “My paintings belong in a gin mill, not a museum”

They bake their own bread. It’s wonderful.

Starters. Foreground: Pan Tomaca (crusty bread rubbed with garlic, tomato seeds, olive oil and fleur de sel). Middle: Manchego cheese and Serrano ham. Back: Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician stle octopus).

My main was Fabada Asturiana – a bean stew with bacon, pork shoulder, chorizo and blood sausage. Sort of a Spanish version of cassoulet. I didn’t like the beans much (no bean dish has ever measured up to the cassoulet I had in Spain in 1978) but I loved the meats.

The shining star of the meal was dessert. Marlena had this wonderful Arroz con Leche Quemado (caramelized rice pudding). Michael had a rich, dark molten chocolate cake with ice cream (Fondante de Txocolate).

My dessert was called Torrijas con Quenelle de Queso de Cabra – crsipy spiced cinnamon and red wine soaked bread with a goat cheese cream quenelle. Not so pretty to look at but intensely flavorful.

On Sunday morning we met Pepe le Tiki and Atomic Al for Brunch Mexicana in the cafe.

Heuvos Rancheros with Chorizo

The cafe has a beautiful, spare mid-century look.

After brunch, Marlena and I went downstairs to the Cabaret for “Day For Night,” an eclectic and ambitious Sunday afternoon film series.

This week they were showing a couple of NFB films – Claude Jutra’s charming Rouli-roulant (1965) about young skateboarders, and Don Owen’s feature length The Ernie Game (1967), a depressing film about a young man with mental problems. It’s probably best remembered today for a cameo appearance by Leonard Cohen singing a song at a party.

On Sunday evening before boarding the train back home, we had dinner at Café Nuba (in the same space we had brunch).

Najib’s Special (crispy cauliflower)

My Beef Tenderloin Kebab with pomegranate reduction was cooked perfectly.

I had a great time at the Waldorf, notwithstanding the whole movie thing (they gave me a special deal to compensate for the inconvenience – very generous and unexpected). The staff was wonderful to us, very friendly and endlessly accommodating. I’d stay there again, and I’d say go check out the Tiki Bar, restaurants, special events and gigs and so on, even if  you don’t stay.

Before I left, I asked for some hotel memorabilia with their new logo on it (matchbooks, postcards, etc.). They didn’t have any yet but they managed to find some really old ones for me.

click to enlarge

A vintage postcard showing the three theme rooms back in the day:

The Tahitian Cocktail lounge (top left), which is practically unchanged.

The Hawaiian room (top right) when it was a restaurant. Now it’s the Cabaret. The half moon window at the back houses a stage, the tables have been moved upstairs to the new restaurants, and the huge Hawaiian mural on the wall at the left has been covered with a curtain that can be pulled back.

The Menehune Room (bottom) was a banquet room, now it’s a club (a menehune is a little person, like a leprechaun, of Hawaiian folklore). The thatched ceiling had to be removed because it was a fire hazard. The carved wooden columns have been hidden behind bamboo for their own protection (one of the menehunes lost a nose).

And a vintage swizzle stick.

The figure is the drummer from one of the Leeteg paintings in the Tiki Bar.

Next time: Beyond Waldorf.


3 Responses to “Vancouver Getaway: Trains & Tikis part 3”

  1. Jenny Says:

    Wow, that place looks amazing. I wish it had been like that in the ’90s when I used to often go up to Vancouver for a weekend. We would drive by and sometimes peer inside but nothing was ever happening and we’d heard the rooms were iffy (I think maybe it was even closed at one point? or maybe I’m making that up…) Really nice to see something so cool revived/preserved. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. stinky Says:

    thanks for sharing your treasure finds – the waldorf appears to be an eclectic oasis.

    you never said – did you get alvin or theodore’s autograph?

    • swankola Says:

      Didn’t see any chipmunks. Just extras. One of the managers showed me around the hotel while the movie was still shooting – the cafe was dressed to look like a casino. It was so convincing I thought they hadn’t renovated that part of the hotel yet from the days it was the Grove Pub and had VLTs.

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