In case you haven’t heard, there’s lots to love about Victoria, the capital of British Columbia — where the climate is mild all yearlong, the architecture is advanced and the natural scenery is beyond breathtaking. But what you might not know is that Victoria also claims fame to some serious food and drink. How is this, you might ask? Well, the city is bordered by both ocean waters and fertile farming land, giving local chefs unparalleled access to clean, pristine seafood and seasonal produce 365 days out of the year. The next Copenhagen anyone? Perhaps. Let us share with you five places to eat incredibly well in and around the city.

1. Ulla
Tucked away on the end of a sleepy street in Victoria’s Chinatown – which also happens to be Canada’s oldest – is Ulla. The address and exterior may not dazzle, but it’s what happening inside that’s charmed everyone from cutting critics to eager tourists since opening in 2010. The welcoming vibe of the space – it feels like someone’s hip living room, graced with original art, old books and smart light fixtures – sets the perfect backdrop to chef Brad Holmes’s whimsical cooking. Ingredient and technique-driven, every dish (starters, mains, even desserts) is striking in composition and balanced in flavor, just like palate-pleasing works of art. The dishes lean both meaty and new-American (sweatbreads, heritage short ribs) with some unexpected twists like a scallop ceviche with charred cucumber mayo. 509 Fisgard St, +1 250-590-8795 ulla.ca

2. Catalano Restaurant & Cicchetti Bar
Besides being the city’s sleekest reservation, there’s another reason to book at this restaurant at the Magnolia Hotel. Specializing in regional Italian and Spanish cuisine, Catalano satisfies all types of cravings, whether you’re feeling a little peckish or really ravenous. Savory cicchetti (Venetian-inspired bites) like crispy fried polenta, risotto balls and meatballs are pitch-perfect and make for ideal bar snacks. Those with heartier appetites should look no further than the seafood mains like the Sardinian fish stew (sweet, plump scallops and salmon simmered in an elegant tomato broth perfumed with fennel and saffron). Wash it all down appropriately with a bellini or Peroni. 619 Courtney St, +1 250-480-1824 catalanorestaurant.com

3. Foo
It’s tough to imagine a better lunch spot in Victoria than Foo, where quick, affordable and delicious collide. The menu is short, but smartly represents the most iconic Asian flavors and dishes. For example, there’s Thai-inspired ground pork curry, where the minced meat simmers in a creamy coconut broth and gets topped with a clutch of chopped peanuts, cilantro and mint. The caramel chicken takes its cues from Vietnam with equal parts sweet, salt, tang, and heat. The service is low-key and casual – simply step up to the counter to order and carry away – with forgiving prices to match, since everything is under $12. 769 Yates St, +1 250-383-3111 foofood.ca

4. Brasserie L’ecole
Here, it’s all about French bistro food done right. The long, narrow and dimly-lit space lends a cozy, homey feel — and the service is so fuss-free and warm that you’ll want to linger here for hours, which is easy to do. An ideal evening would commence with a glass of Pineau, followed by some gougères (French cheese puffs) and a bowl of smooth chicken liver mousse. A crisp endive salad dressed with a mustard vinaigrette would cleanse your palette, readying it for your entree. The steak frites arrives with a choice of beef (bavette, sirloin or strip), golden potatoes and shallot sauce — and is a simple, yet convincing reminder of why French cooking rules. 1715 Government St, +1 250-475-6260 lecole.ca

5. Ferris’ Oyster Bar & Grill
Deemed by many a local institution, these sister restaurants – they’re housed in the same building over two floors – have been in business since 1991. Featuring strictly local British Columbia oysters, you can order them every way imaginable: raw, smoked, breaded, baked, pan-roasted, even as boozy shooters. But the most popular and arguably the best way to enjoy them is in the famous oyster burger. Crispy, panko-crusted oysters are topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and ginger-spiked mayo before getting tucked into a squishy, slightly-sweet white bun. It’s a deeply satisfying, and dare we say it, life-affirming. No wonder why Ferris has packed in the crowds for over 20 years. 536 Yates St, +1 250-382-2344 ferrisoysterbar.com

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