It’s a drizzly Monday morning and as the workday ramps up, I’m in need of a little inspiration. I’m fortunate to have a live/work space that is a place I really like to be. Even so, as one of Victoria’s self-employed folk who toil from home, I crave a change of scenery now and then.
I’ve heard Nourish in the Harbour (225 Quebec Street) is a new middle ground for those who don’t require a regular external or co-working space, but who occasionally enjoy working on the fly. If you haven’t been, the beloved resto-café is located in a gorgeously appointed 1889 character house on Quebec Street. Inside, it’s like inhabiting a world dusted with confectioner’s sugar where the tally of so many beautiful touches (edible and otherwise) has a profoundly calming effect. It’s full of big windows, soft light and dark floors.
I’ve been a fan of Nourish and its wholesome, inventive menus since the original restaurant opened at Glendale Gardens (now Horticulture Centre of the Pacific). The addition of an urban hub has helped Nourish to spread its wings and find new and loyal audiences. Just a block or two from the Parliament Buildings, it manages to feel off the grid and intimate.
It may be mid-morning but diners are already abuzz in the main floor restaurant. I know they’re enjoying some heavenly creations: eggs benny with cashew hollandaise, homemade bone broth, the whimsical oatmeal pancakes. For today at least, that’s not why I’m here. I head for the café nook to the right where I’m greeted by lovely familiar faces — owner Hayley Rosenberg and general manager Katherine Murphy. I tell them I’m eager to check out the room above the stairs and they nod enthusiastically. Word is starting to get out about work-friendly space on the second floor and they say it’s already well used. I’m invited to grab a coffee and hunker down out of the rain for as long as I like.
Packing my laptop, I head up the original (and delightfully creaky) nineteenth-century staircase. I can’t help but feel as though I’m exploring a relative’s house without permission. The Study is to the left. It’s light and airy with a sprawling bay window banquette, individual tables, a cozy couch and homey touches: leafy plants, decorative pillows, book-pressed ferns framed on the wall. The Parlour next door serves as available swing space on days when private functions aren’t scheduled.
In the study, it’s easy to feel part of an amorphous work posse sharing company under one roof. The WiFi is reliable and there are plenty of outlets to charge your devices. Non-working guests who wander in seem to understand this is a quiet, creative space and adopt respectful whispers. The chatter of happy diners drifts up from the main floor. In fact, the whole house radiates a sense of happy-to-be-here, from friendly counter and wait staff, to the upper-floor freelancers grateful for space to linger.
On this morning, I chat with Sarah who’s working away across the room. A professor who teaches Politics of Environmental Justice at UVic, she tells me she’s been coming to Nourish to work for the past month or so, and already it’s a favourite spot to prep for her classes. She usually tries to nab the bay window seat for its natural light and glimpse of the harbour, and enjoys time here so much it’s now her go-to spot for meetings with her students. As we’re talking, a server arrives with a steaming bowl of soup. Nourish’s full menu is available from the café counter.
When you’ve finished earning your keep for the day, you can slip downstairs for more of the thoughtful local fare. Stick around for dinner or a hard-won cocktail with friends and live the Nourish mantra: “Eat with people you love.” Hayley and crew might add a new tagline to the mix: “Work where you feel welcome.” If you get there first next Monday morning, save me a spot; I just might be a regular.