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“Carefully executed food and service”
Review of Hilltop Bistro

Hilltop Bistro
Ranked #3 of 331 Restaurants in Nanaimo
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: US$14 - US$23
Cuisines: Contemporary
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: After-hours, Reservations
Dining style: Casual Dining
Cross street: Nelson street
Reviewed 5 May 2014

We were first time diners with another couple a week or so ago and will now be making this a regular treat.

We were warmly greeted and seated immediately in a cozy corner. Our server, who ended up making our drinks as well, was very well-versed on the menu and all of the unique and traditional cocktails offered. We ordered a round of cocktails to start (Manhattan for me - the soaked tart cherries are divine) and a very gingery dark rum drink for hubby.

On the recommendation of our server we started with the best pate I have ever had. It was like silk and so beautifully seasoned I could have eaten a plateful for my main. We also shared lovely warm olives which I highly recommend.

My entree was a "Butcher's Cut" or Flatiron steak and in short - I talked about it for three days. It was so flavorful, tender and beautifully seasoned.

Hubby had Bison Shortribs, also perfectly seasoned and melt in your mouth tender and rich. All accompaniments were beautifully paired with the star of the plate and enjoyed just as much.

We asked Ally, our server, to pair wines with our courses and she could not have done a better job - they were all exquisite and enhanced our enjoyment of an already perfect meal.

Thank you to Hilltop Bistro for creating an Oasis of elegance in the dining desert of Nanaimo.

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2  Thank Anne C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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131 - 135 of 199 reviews

Reviewed 4 May 2014

I so badly wanted to love this restaurant and still hope to. I have eaten at pretty much every restaurant in Nanaimo, and, after moving away and returning, was pleased to discover Hilltop Bistro. The location is great, the building is quaint but stylish, and the focus on local food and BC wines is impressive. I was quite thrilled not only to find Hilltop, but to find it so close to my home.

In fact, I was on my way home a few weeks ago when I saw the sandwich board type sign on the road advertising the restaurant. I decided to stop and check it out despite not really being dressed for the occasion. When I walked in, the restaurant was busy but not full. I was excited to sit down and see the menu but was soon told I could not dine here this night because "the chef says we're at full capacity."

Full capacity: what does this mean? It was only 7pm and there were at least two tables open as well as the small bar counter. Did they run out of food? Was it not worth serving just one person? Did they not accept my attire? Why was there a sign on the road inviting me in?

I asked if I could simply order a starter or salad but was refused that as well, so we settled on a glass of wine while I perused the menu at the bar counter. The two ladies who were serving were extremely friendly and professional and I sensed they felt a bit bad about the disappointing start. I enjoyed my wine and made a reservation for a friend's birthday while I downed the final sips. I was still determined or this to be my new favourite place and I couldn't wait to tell all my friends.

The next week when my friend and I arrived for her birthday dinner, it was yet another awkward beginning. For some reason, our reservation had been crossed out; although the server explained that someone with the same name as mine had cancelled, that reason doesn't really make sense. Nonethelesss, the two servers quickly accommodated us with a table and we were excited to embark on our dining experience.

In general, the food was very tasty and the presentation was fresh, creative, and colourful. With several local offerings, the menu boasts the best of the season in all categories. The server was patient and clearly knowledgeable about each dish. The problem was, when I wanted to order the braised bison, she said the chef would not allow me to "hold the mushrooms" that adorn the rib. It wasn't like I was requesting a substitution; I simply HATE mushrooms and couldn't stomach the thought of fried fungal decoration ruining my meal. When I questioned the server, she said something to the effect of the chef viewing his meals as "art" and that he puts a lot of thought into the presentation. While I can certainly appreciate this fact, I pointed out it is hardly thoughtful to disregard a customer's simple request. Besides, with a socially-consious bent, you would think the chef would not support the wastefulness of my picking the mushrooms off as the server suggested. The alternative, she said, was to choose another dish. Huh? But THAT is the dish I wanted, sans the "artful" garnish.

Anyway, too shocked to discuss the matter further, I ended up choosing another main course which was as lovely as the frites, starter salad, dessert, and wine. My friend enjoyed her birthday dinner, despite no mention of it from the servers who were otherwise wonderful. All in all, it was a better than average dining adventure, but like I mentioned in my opening, I wanted to fall in love with Hilltop Bistro and it simply didn't happen. Although the food is quite delicious, the overall experience left a bad taste in my mouth that still lingers a week later.

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5  Thank Tamara G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Rczhm, Owner at Hilltop Bistro, responded to this reviewResponded 26 May 2014

Dear Tamara G,

Thanks for your feedback!

We're sorry your experience did not win you over the first time! To make amends we'd like to address your concerns in hopes that you'll give us another shot.

Our little bistro on the hill fills up fast and when we turn people away, trust us, it's the last thing we want to do.

"Full capacity" means to us that the kitchen is at its limit as to what it can produce to the standard we have set for ourselves and that all the tables have been reserved. (Occasionally by people with the same name!)

We put our guests experience as our number one priority. For that reason we stagger our seatings so as to not overwhelm any aspect of the bistro ensuring the quality of our food and service does not suffer.

We're thrilled you appreciate the effort we put into our food. From the locally sourced ingredients to the flavour combinations and presentation. Considerable amounts of time, thought and effort go into everything we do and for that reason (and many others) we decided from the outset to put "changes or substitutions politely declined" at the bottom of our menu.

In today's market we believe the craftsmen is lost. When you can go anywhere and change anything the individual establishment/artisan/craftsmen becomes a matter of convenience to the consumer and not a representation of what the individual can do. Not something to be sought after.

We believe that what we do is unique! We want the reason you come into our bistro to be for OUR take on local food and OUR ambiance and hospitality, not the same blanket menu presented in a slightly different box

9 times out of 10 the reason someone doesn't like a particular ingredient is simply because they haven't had it prepared well. So what we hope is that you'll trust us in our abilities and try something new or love something you may not have thought possible to love!

Clearly this concept isn't for everyone, and we understand.

Fortunately though, we change our menu every 3-4 weeks and post it to our website www.hilltopbistro.ca so you can make your selections before you come.

Our hope however, is that you'll come in with an open mind and an empty stomach and trust us to take care of you and your culinary adventure to the best of our teams combined abilities!

Thanks again!

The Hilltop Team

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 May 2014

This sweet little bistro has the best chef in Nanaimo .
The food is undoubtably the finest around , and beautifully presented .
The staff is professional and seamless .
Do take lots of time , and relax and enjoy every bite .

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3  Thank Vanc0uverIslanders
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 April 2014

Honest lovely food .. not over thought yet elegant. FANTASTIC DINNER . Service friendly and unpretentious. DOES nanaimo and area really know what a jewel they have here...

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1  Thank Carol073
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 April 2014

We LOVED our dining experience here in this small, French-flavoured bistro...

We had the prix fixe option with the wine pairings, a fantastic three course dinner. Everything we ordered was flavourful, beautifully presented & fresh. The staff was gracious & helpful & though the restaurant was full, everyone got exceptional attention & the evening ran calmly & smoothly.

This is a little restaurant that takes good care with its food & service. Its no wonder it was voted Best on the Island in 2013! Highly recommended IMO

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Thank munchy1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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