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December 02, 2011
Cactus Club English Bay Opens in January

Patience being a virture, Cactus Club Cafe Restaurants must have required plenty while they waited for the Vancouver Parks Board to grant them the rights to build on the site of the English Bay Bathhouse. Once papers were in hand however, they set to work transforming what had been a featureless, if iconic, cement block at the foot of Denman and Beach into their newest Vancouver restaurant property. Come mid-January 2012, the modern new Cactus Club at English Bay will be open for business and serving its first cocktails and plates of sake-marinated sablefish.

This week, with construction work still in progress, the restaurant offered local media a hard hat and Champagne preview tour of the site. The question for many of us: “Will Vancouver finally have a casual waterfront restaurant where the food actually lives up to the view?"

From what we’ve seen at this point, it seems a safe bet to say "yes". After all, the crowd-pleasing reputation of the Cactus Club and its menus by “Iron Chef” Rob Feenie are well established. Plus any local can assure you that as far as views are concerned, this particular beachfront location is Vancouver A-1 prime. Even on a dull December day it was offering up a tranquil tableau of distant toy freighters on misty grey horizon lines. Just picture it as a vantage point for viewing fireworks displays or long sultry sunsets and its potential to become "The" dining magnet of summer is pretty obvious.

A quick summary of the layout ...

With 90 percent natural daylight and 90 percent view lines, the new restaurant has been designed to make the most of its environment with ceiling-to-floor, pull-down, double-glazed window frontage; minimal furnishings; and plenty of blond wood walls, ceilings and table tops. Echoing the hues and texture of the beach environmnent and not competing with it, was only good design sense, but a requirement to stay within the former bathhouse’s small footprint also encouraged simplicity.

“This is the smallest new restaurant we have opened yet,” says Cactus Club Cafe president, Richard Jaffray. “It’s almost a boutique operation. In fact, I was joking with my chefs that creating the kitchen was similar to building a submarine -- everything had to be so space efficient and compact.“

A basic rectangle, the 165-seat, 5,000 foot square foot space, has been split into two dining levels, accessible by staircase and elevator, and each with its own bar. Upstairs, the entire back wall will be a “wine wall” with a storage capacity to hold over 500 bottles. (A special winelist for the location will be designed by sommelier Sebastien LeGoff.) Otherwise, the rest of the upper floor space will be take up by dining tables. Downstairs, a lounge and a sunken kitchen area dominates a second dining area at beach-level.

Adjoining the kitchen, is a dedicated smaller kitchen with a pass through window servicing an outdoor concession area. This 80-seat, 2-level patio will be equipped with picnic tables and benches and will extend right out to the seawall.

The concession menu won't be just a short version of the restaurant's, however. Chef Feenie is currently in the process of creating a distinctly different “seaside influenced” menu for each. So does this mean we can expect to see a boxed version of the famous Feenie’s Weenie? We did ask, but the only response we could get from him was a wink.

Whatever the results, it has to be a vast improvement over the traditional Parks Board fare. Stay tuned.


To their credit, Cactus Club has built the entire structure to LEED standards, and they are aiming for the Gold Certification Level. Below are some of the green features on site:

- Seventy-five percent of the materials used in construction were either salvaged or recycled.
- Over fifty percent of all wood used was FSC (Forest Stewardship Council of Canada)
- At least 20% of all materials were extracted or manufactured within 800 km of the restaurant site.
- Parking spots for both hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles will be provided.
- Employees will be encouraged to travel to work by bicycle with the provision of bike storage and private change and shower areas.
- The creation of a green, “living” roof (by the same company contracted for the Vancouver Convention Centre and Vancouver's Olympic Village) to reduce energy consumption,
- Two organic herb gardens on the second floor.
- Landscaping for the restaurant, as well as the surrounding parks board greenery, will be irrigated with rainwater collected from the roof.
- Preservation and protection of the original old trees in the immediate area was a priority.
- The restaurant team will be committed to composting as much organic material as possible, as well as co-ordinating with the Parks Board recycling program.

Interesting note: While excavating for the kitchen, workers discovered the remains of an original cement and wooden pier that had existed at the spot before the turn of the last century. This was removed and recycled.

COMING UP NEXT: the 8,000 square foot Cactus Club Coal Harbour with its elevator tower connected to the former float plane terminal. Look for it to open in the fall of 2012.

P.S. If the Cactus Club at English Bay looks like a place you’d like to work, their hiring fair is open for three more days. Get information here:

See architects renderings of the site below:


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