by Andrew Morrison | It’s coming up on 10 years (!) since the opening of the “Modern Latin Cowboy” themed Century restaurant and bar at 432 Richards Street. Back then I remember marvelling at its potential on camera for the Food Network’s Opening Soon show, playing late night games of poker when it was a mess of construction dust and desperation, and taping interviews on opening night after far too much nervous cocktail prep. Of course, it didn’t work out for Century. In fact, it totally bombed. I can’t remember who I wrote this for in 2009, but I found this passage on my hard drive:
Housed in an old bank building with soaring, gold leaf ceilings, priceless marble floors, walls a thousand shades of tobacco, and brown saddle leather couches that caressed with the softness of history, Century was the most beautiful restaurant I’ve ever had the pleasure to be totally disappointed by, and a wonderful place for a long, slow drink (if you were deaf). The talented, arrogant, and scandalously young chef with a superbly cheffish name – Remi DuBois (26) – created a menu that read like Pablo Neruda’s most seductive poetry but tasted like the dull juvenilia of someone allergic to seasoning (as to how anyone could make plantain fritters and cinnamon maple braised kurabuto pork belly border on not very good is more a shame than a mystery). It was a shocking flop with the foodie set, and after an opening glint of genuine possibility it was shunted off the must-try track by restaurants with a third of the potential. Sherwood left the company a year later and it has since been relegated – though still open and serving a club-going crowd – to Vancouver’s lengthy annals of oops.
I’m remember of its unfortunate end whenever I walk past its imposing frontage. I love old building-to-restaurant conversions, and though this wasn’t the first for the address (previously Lola’s, Ballantyne’s), it certainly was the most daring of them. It’s not very often that a restaurant with a Che Guevara mural opens in an old Edwardian bank building! Especially one that came pre-loaded with a ridiculous amount of original character (wine-stained marble floors, Italian Skyros marble walls, gorgeous door frames, mirrors, chandeliers, wainscotting, bank vault, etc.), not to mention its very own ghosts (among them a murdered teller, if I recall correctly). It’s still very much there, of course, lying either dormant or beyond my field of vision as a nightclub or private function space. The internet has nothing on it except for its past, which I was glad to be an infinitesimal part of.
Many thanks to Century owner Sean Sherwood for readily supplying the memory-jogging images when asked. Fun fact: Ron Oliver and Simon Kaulback (co-owners of Mamie Taylor’s in Chinatown) met at Century while tending its impossibly beautiful, deco mirror-backed bar.