I’ve been sitting on this story for a few months now, having agreed to keep quiet about it on the understanding that I’d be the first to tell it once the time was right and the ducks were lined in their proverbial row. It’s great to finally be able to break the good news about Chambar’s expansion.
With the end of their lease for Chambar and Cafe Medina on the horizon, owners Karri and Nico Schuermans, with Robbie Kane of Medina, have agreed to move out of their current side by side locations on Beatty Street. (For the sake of brevity, we’ll cover what Robbie has planned for Medina in a follow-up post and only cover Chambar’s move in this one)
The Belgian/Moroccan-themed themed Chambar, inarguably the most impactful restaurant to open in Vancouver in the last decade, will be moving into the building next door that is currently under the renovation knife (see the rendering below). They take possession of the two-level space very soon, and hope to have the “new” Chambar open at some point this summer (June at the very earliest).
The new restaurant will be roughly twice the size of the current one, with about 270 seats between two levels, a 50 seat patio, and private rooms that can fit 20 – 80 people. There are lots of opportunities for new design motifs to fit in with the old, but I suspect it will look very similar to the original. Yes, in addition to the branding, relaxed vibe, deep drinks programs, and casual flirtations with fine dining, much of its furniture will also be making the move, which is great news because who doesn’t love the original tables, couches, banquettes and button-ed up red booths? “The layout will be just like the old Chambar,” Karri explains, pointing out how the front will be the lounge and bar area that narrows at the waist to open up into a dining room. “The new place has brick and beams, too,” she adds, referring to the core aesthetic of the original. One big change is that the wall that divides the patio from the interior will be glass (said patio will also have its all-day sunshine filtered by young trees – sounds awesome). Also making the move will be the staff, though they’ll definitely be needing to hire a lot more people considering the breadth of their expansion.
The tiny kitchen will also grow, which will allow chef Nico and his team to do lots of smoked meats, sausages, breads, et cetera – the types of things that he’s always wanted to do but couldn’t on account of the diminutive nature of their original kitchen. “After a few years,” Nico says, “you think, I’m bored of this, I need to move on and the cooks want to see new stuff. We want to make everything in house now.” It’s widely known that Nico can cook at a much higher level than what he currently dishes out (trained at the Michelin-starred Villa Lorraine and toiled at Comme Chez Soi, the Savoy Hotel, and Sydney’s Alhambra), so it’s fair to wonder if the food will be slightly more elevated this time around. “I know, but the current concept works. People like it.” he says. “We’ll always have the mussel pots and the tagines, but the rest of the new plating will be seasonal, with the menu changing about every two months. I really want to focus on that, the farmers, all the way pushing for quality.”
They’re going to be making an entrance into the late night game, too, with a 20 item tapas menu for the expanded lounge and bar area (twice the size of the original with more casual seating arrangements). “People can come and have a meal, relax, have a bottle of wine.” Karri says, asking rhetorically “Where can you go late at night for a bottle of wine with a friend that isn’t a crazy loud pub?” Come to think of it, you could do that at breakfast, too, since the new Chambar will be open all day, serving breakfasts, lunches and dinners, plus brunches on weekends.
Construction starts shortly. Best case scenario: they are out of the original Chambar space in May and into the new Chambar a month later.