When it comes to late-night eateries in Richmond, Gudrun Tasting Room is a hidden gem that’s well worth trying out. Patrick Tubajon opened the 40-seat, tucked-away Steveston restaurant just over seven years ago, remodeling the former art gallery with a mixture of beautiful reclaimed wood and an eye for minimalist design. Inside, the ambiance is warm, friendly, relaxed and casual, with dim lighting, beautiful wood tables and an upright piano in the corner. It has the feel of a special neighbourhood meeting space: social, cool and charismatic, without being pretentious. It’s almost like being in your best friend’s dining room.
(PHOTO: LAUREN KRAMER)
The décor is an eclectic mix. Tubajon, previously a ballet dancer and a restaurant veteran, has tree branches on the wall—one even contains a stuffed crow—and a chalk drawing of a pig on a black chalkboard. He named the restaurant Gudrun after a young Norwegian woman who became his roommate while he studied at L’Universite D’Avignon in France. “Every day she would bring home new cheeses,” he recalled. “She inspired both a lifelong fondness and curiosity of cheese, and a restaurant!”
The restaurant Gudrun opened with a mission of eating simply by dining on handmade charcuterie, artisan cheese, wine and craft beer. Chef Paul Finlay, previously of The Alibi Room in Vancouver, took the helm of Gudrun’s teensy kitchenette, transforming its menu considerably.
The menu changes every night, based on the fresh harvest from local farms Finlay frequents. “We always have soup, salad, sandwich and two entrees, one meat and one vegetarian, with seafood offered on weekends,” he said.
(PHOTO: LAUREN KRAMER)
We ordered roasted organic squash soup ($5, pictured above), accented with Gruyere and thyme croutons. It’s not typical fare for Steveston and it was a beautifully presented, wonderfully creamy, filling comfort food. I’m a sucker for a good salad, so I couldn’t resist the salad that night—a fresh mix of greens decorated with acorn squash, apple, goat cheese, roasted almonds and hazelnuts, mint and a mustard dressing ($11, below). It was a fabulous mix of ingredients that signified the season and again accentuated Finlay’s artistic culinary touch.
(PHOTO: LAUREN KRAMER)
As the evening wore on, it became increasingly apparent just how social a place Gudrun is. Our server, Josh, his long blonde hair tied into a bun and a constant smile on his face, has been a fixture at the eatery since it opened and diners know him by name, greet him and include him in the conversation. The sous-chef, Christian, has been at Gudrun just as long and is the artistic talent behind the pig drawing on the chalkboard. Folks know and like each other here and the boundaries between staff and guest are much blurrier than usual. This is not a typical restaurant by any stretch of the imagination.
We opted for the cheesy camembert and caramelized onion potato baguette sandwich. (PHOTO: LAUREN KRAMER)
There was duck and pork ragu ($19) on the menu, as well as Mac & Cheese ($15) but we opted to try the sandwich with caramelized onions, camembert and basil on a potato baguette. It came with a generous heaping of salad and a little bowl of pickles, and it was truly delicious. In each dish there was an undeniable attention to details that distinguishes Gudrun from other restaurants.
The decadent fried polenta cake is served on pureed kabocha squash. (PHOTO: LAUREN KRAMER)
Our final dish was the fried polenta cake ($18, above), served on pureed kabocha squash with miso, king oyster mushrooms, Parmesan, oat crumble, and turnips. It was a decadent culinary sensation, a melt-in-your-mouth dish that represented the perfect cross between entree and dessert.
Around us, folks were sharing cheese plates with an assortment of nine different cheeses, and charcuterie that included house-made pork and duck rilette, chicken liver parfait with saffron and pear chutney, and elk and juniper salami. The wine and beer menu is all B.C. product, a great showcase of local talent.
Paul Finlay, exec chef at Gudrun. (PHOTO: LAUREN KRAMER)
“We also have a supper club once a month,” a very modest Finlay informed us. (The piano, by the way, was donated by a fisherman friend and relocates to Gudrun’s back wall in the early hours of morning. When Finlay’s not cooking you might find him on the ivories, playing Bach and Chopin—but never for an audience.) For the supper club he puts together a six-course menu ($70 per person) with whatever’s in season at the time. In good weather Gudrun can expand its seating to an outdoor table artfully built around a large tree in the small courtyard that separates the restaurant from Moncton Street and seats an additional 18. This time of year, though, peak capacity is 40 guests.
If you have space for dessert and a sweet tooth, don’t leave without trying the sticky toffee pudding ($9), a menu staple that tastes as good as it sounds. If our meal was anything to go by, it’s unlikely anything on Gudrun’s fresh sheet menu will disappoint.
Gudrun is open Tuesday through Saturday, 5:30 to midnight. Info: 604 272-1991 or Gudrun.ca.
Editor’s note: Gudrun’s sous chef is Christian, not Alex, as previously reported.