The Short-Lived ‘Modern Canadian’ Restaurant That Should Have Succeeded But Totally Flopped

The ever-evolving Restaurant Graveyard series looks back at the countless, long-shuttered establishments that helped to propel Vancouver’s food and drink forward. Full A-Z with maps and photos here. May they never be forgotten!

Metro was a good-looking and sophisticated (but ultimately short-lived) modern Canadian-themed restaurant from chef Brian Fowke and frontman Tim Keller. The 150 seater was located in a prime tourist address at the foot of Burrard Street. With its 20 seat bar, convertible private room, butt-hugging leather, white linens, intricately folded menus and superb sight lines, it was arguably one of the most exciting dining rooms ever designed by Evoke ID (see also The Union, Cascade Room, Fable Diner, El Camino’s, etc.). My contemporary (supplied) press notes read as follows:

Metro is “Metropolitan Canadian Cuisine”. Cuisine and ingredients that are purely Canadian, organic wherever possible, seasonal and inspiring. Chef Brian Fowke’s cooking style is modern, built from classically trained techniques and the very Vancouver influences of Canada’s multicultural society. He strives to bring the best out of the bounty of our region’s farms, fields, forests and oceans.

Metro features a 20 item small plate menu, full entrées featuring meat, game, poultry and seafood and daily “blue plate” or Metro Retro plates. A specialty of the restaurant is fresh seafood, meat and game available by the oz. […]

Designed by David Nicolay and Rob Edmonds of Evoke International Design, Metro combines European and Canadian design elements. The room is in natural neutrals of grey, creams and browns with a colour palette influenced by the mountains, water and city scape.

Site lines – Across from the Burrard inlet the view from the dining room and patio is the Pacific Ocean, North Shore Mountains, the white sails of the Pan Pacific Hotel and Convention Centre; Cruise Ships when in dock, and the downtown skyline.

Metro is the first restaurant in Canada to use Mikasa’s new line of luxury restaurant-ware fine china, flatware and stemware.

Italian designed Chairs and barstools are made in Canada using soft cream Italian leather. Slate and tile is from Brazil. Handcrafted chrome and glass light fixtures are made in Portugal, the design inspired by London Modernist designer Tom Dixon. All wood is Canadian Walnut.

Metro is short for metropolitan, referring to Vancouver as an international city and downtown as the central location for the restaurant. However, it is also a play on words as the original location was to have been in the Vancouver Seabus terminal and former train station. Keeping this in mind, white subway tiles are used throughout the kitchen to keep the lines of the open kitchen space clean and minimalist and to pay homage to the subways and metros of Paris and London.

Launched with no small amount of foodie fanfare in 2007, Metro suffered from the start, possibly a victim of its own ambition and ultimate over-reach (If I recall correctly, there were almost 50 dishes on the menu). It closed just a year later, wallowing in the depths of the financial crisis. It’s a shame, really, as the room was a total knockout and the concept – or so I thought at the time – was rock solid. Execution, however, was imperfect and inconsistent, and the timing of the project could not have been worse. Alexandra Gill’s review in the Globe & Mail pulled no punches:

“The name Metro implies sophistication. This dinner, unfortunately, was just downright barbaric.”

The space would lie dormant for a while before being picked up (presumably for a song) by the Hapa Izakaya crew, which used it to launch the also doomed off-shoot Hapa Umi. It would later operate as a Hapa Izakaya from 2012 to 2018. It is now home to a newly reincarnated version of Don Francesco’s.

– Photos courtesy EVOKE ID

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