When a little birdie told us that there were two talented chefs serving some serious food out of a small bistro in the Old City Quarter, we knew we had to investigate.
The Nest Bistro is owned and operated by chefs Nicolas Braun and Jennifer Ash. The pair offer Pacific Northwest fare with French and Italian influences leaving their mark on every plate. Hailing from Vancouver, the pair settled in Nanaimo after realizing the location and size were just right for their prospective restaurant. Their joint efforts have produced a cozy and intimate space with an inviting atmosphere to match. The modest decor plays on their namesake with birds, feathers and branches accentuating the simple but elegant layout. Teal tables line a leather bench and chairs, with bright counter seating along the window.
As it was past noon, we were able to justify a glass of the house white each as we ruminated over their understated but enticing lunch menu. With tantalizing choices like their signature Seafood Trio with crab cake, filo prawns and a tian of baby shrimp cocktail and comforting baked Jenny Mac we knew we had difficult decisions ahead. Our cheerful server asked if either of us had any food allergies prior to taking our order, a considerate gesture which we appreciated.
We decided to share the Forest Mushroom and Brie Tart as our appetizer. The pastry was thin, crisp and piled high with wild mushrooms cooked to perfection. The taste was superb! The light sauce allowed the earthiness of the mushrooms to really shine through. A colourful medley of artisan greens from Nanoose Edibles topped with an edible daisy added a nice touch of freshness.
Next we ordered one of The Nest Bistro’s signature items with a reputation that certainly preceded it: the Spinach Herb Gnocchi. House made gnocchi with seasonal veggies are prepared with your choice of tomato, pesto, rose or pesto cream sauce. We opted for chef’s choice of sauce with a filet of wild Coho salmon. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the accommodating staff split our order into two portions, each with its own crunchy piece of sourdough bread from La Boulange bakery. Tender pasta, carrots and asparagus tossed in a delicate pesto cream sauce and sprinkled with a generous helping of parmesan cheese. The grilled salmon was flaky with a lovely smokey flavour.
Our lunch culminated with not one, but a trio of desserts! The most beautiful part of the dessert menu is that it comes in offerings of solo, duo or trio portions, ideal for those with a taste for variety or an obsession for sweets. Most women get excited about chocolate, and we were no different so the Warm Chocolate Ganache Cake was a given. This decadent cake baked with Bernard Callebaut belgian chocolate was served with fresh berries, blueberry coulis and vanilla ice cream. A moist and nicely spiced Ginger Cake with Caramel Sauce and the daily Ice Cream Sandwich; lemon cookie with vanilla ice cream rounded off our dessert gorge fest. We shamelessly polished off all three in a matter of minutes.
During our meal, sous-chef Jennifer took the time to step away from the kitchen to chat with us. In addition to taking great care in how their food is prepared, Nicolas and Jennifer also take pride in using the best locally produced ingredients supporting local suppliers whenever possible. This philosophy can be seen all over their menu. The drink list features wines from the Cowichan Valley and is well represented by Vancouver Island micro breweries including Nanaimo’s own Wolf Brewing Company. Many of their signature items also showcase Island producers such as cheeses from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, fresh chicken breasts from Island Farmhouse Poultry and charcuterie from Markt Artisan Deli. It’s a fine balance to incorporate local and keeping the business on the Island without offsetting food costs, and their efforts are not going unnoticed.
In one short year they have garnered loyal following. Food enthusiasts everywhere are flocking to The Nest Bistro for its affordable excellence. And with Nicolas and Jennifer having celebrated their busiest service on record during their one year anniversary, it looks as though they are thriving here in Nanaimo. If you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy a satisfying meal with friends, this is the place for you. We definitely took pleasure in our visit to The Nest. Our only regret was not staying for their dinner service, a mistake which we plan on correcting in the near future…armed with a bigger appetite.
The Nest Bistro
486A Franklyn Street
250-591-2721 (reservations recommended)
Closed Mondays & Tuesdays
Open for lunch Wednesday – Friday: 11am – 2pm
Dinner Wednesday – Sunday: 5pm – 10pm
Have you had a chance to enjoy a meal at The Nest Bistro? If so, what did you order? Post your answers below!