Must Eat Destinations: Aura Restaurant at Nita Lake Lodge (Whistler, Canada)

Earlier this week, we took you to Vancouver Airport’s incredible Fairmont Hotel, and now we’re heading into the mountains of Whistler, about two and a half hours away from the city (we got there thanks to Pacific Coach Lines), for a meal and view you have to experience in your lifetime. It’s the Aura Restaurant at the Nita Lake Lodge, a stunning dining experience nestled away alongside stunning accommodation just outside the town centre of Whistler, British Columbia.

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As much as Whistler is seen as a winter destination, there are few more beautiful places to spend your Summer – and this is one dining experience that is only enhanced by the Summer weather. Why? Well, mostly because you can sit comfortably on their patio and watch as the sun sets over Nita Lake; while locals, guests and tourists go for their jogs, bike rides and kayaks around the area. And it’s a view that is as beautiful in the dark as it is in the light.

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Both photos were taken from where we were sitting for the meal. And if you think that looks good, wait until you get a load of the food. We started our experience at CURE Lounge and Patio, one of three dining options at the Lodge, which is all about casual dining, using local and organic ingredients, with a fantastic cocktail menu. And in spite of the high quality of the food, the price tags are totally reasonable. Even on their dinner menu, almost all dishes are under $20. But we wouldn’t be enjoying a meal here tonight. Instead, we were here to enjoy CURE’s craft cocktail list to get the night started.

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On the left you’ll see the Ginger Margarita, with ginger infused tequila, ginger, salt rim, cointreau and fresh lime. It had quite the kick to it – and as such was pretty much exactly as you’d expect it to be from the name. On the right we have another variation of a classic, the Godfather’s Mojito, with Gibson’s Finest, Disaronno, orange, vanilla, mint and soda. It was as tasty as it looks – and a fabulous way to start our night. For our meal, however, we would move over to the seats next door at the Aura Restaurant, which is a higher end dining experience served lakeside with a similar yet refined focus on local, seasonal ingredients. Their menu is ever changing, and so what you see here is not likely to be what you enjoy when you pay a visit to their restaurant. To take a glimpse at what they’re serving at the time you read this article, head over to their official website.

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The meal started off with their bread of the day – which arrived still warm, having been baked in house. Today’s variety was a cranberry and apricot sourdough. Honestly you could have put a loaf of that next to me with their fresh butter and a bottle of wine and I would have been more than happy. But the meal that followed was one of the best I’d ever had – so I’m not complaining. And with local ingredients a focus, they made sure to extend that touch to the wines too, which were mostly from BC and came paired with the meal. The Rosé from Gold Hill Winery in the Okanagan Valley, paired with the beautifully presented pork belly (below), was a particular highlight of the meal.

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The dishes were presented on beautiful Steelite dinnerware, and every dish jumped right off the plate, with the cider brined pork chop – which had been cooked for 24 hours and melted off the bone – with apple and house made mustard, angled quite literally to do just that.

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The greens and vegetable served in their dishes came mostly from their own rooftop garden, some of which you can see in the salad below, the Nita Lake salad – with shaved asparagus, spiced walnuts and goat cheese, served with a honey citrus dressing.

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You’ll also see a vegetable share plate hidden behind the mac and cheese side dish below, this is the Pemberton summer salad which features summer squash and local greens in a herb vinaigrette.

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Also hidden behind the mac and cheese (distracting isn’t it…) you might spot the Kuterra Salmon, farmed sustainability by the ‘Namgis First Nation peoples of Vancouver Island – which isn’t far from the mainland here in British Columbia. Designed to be paired with the salads and sides above, the salmon itself, like the pork chop before it, it stunning in its simplicity, served here with vegetables and adorned with some local flora. They certainly know how to cook fish on the West Coast of Canada, but the chefs at Aura seem to know how to perfect it.

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And then, if you have the room, there’s the desserts – we couldn’t choose between the selection provided, so they kindly brought us out a taste of all three. The delicious and creative desserts, such as the raspberry cheesecake surrounded by a shortbread crumble, were accompanied by dollops of meringue, mint, berries and fruit.

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The beauty of this whole meal – not just the dessert – was that it was designed to be shared, which gave us the opportunity to enjoy a broad yet refined showcase of local cuisine. And what incredible, fresh and delicious cuisine that is. A meal here is worth the trip to Whistler alone. It might even be worth the trip to Canada. And it’s certainly worth the food coma you enjoy for the rest of the evening.

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Find out more about the Nita Lake Lodge and Aura Restaurant at their official website. The Restaurant will officially launch their 2016 Summer menu and patio this Friday night with a special $59 pp menu. You can head HERE for more details.

The writer dined as a guest of Nita Lake Lodge, with arrangements by Tourism Whistler. Pacific Coach Lines got the writer to Whistler, with a direct bus service from Vancouver International Airport. Air Canada flew us to Vancouver, with its direct service from Sydney, with the support of Destination Canada. While in Whistler we stayed at Legends Whistler, which is walking distance from Aura and Nita Lodge. All prices in Canadian dollars.