Archive for October, 2008

CMHC predicts shallow real estate correction

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Derrick Penner
Sun

The correction in Greater Vancouver and British Columbia real estate markets should be shallow, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., provided the province maintains projections for weaker economic growth and doesn’t go into a full recession.

CMHC released its fall market forecasts Thursday, which predict lower housing sales to the end of 2008 and on through 2009, with price declines to the end of 2009 in the range of seven per cent provincially and nine per cent in Metro Vancouver.

“Certainly we’re in a period of very uncertain economic times,” Carol Frketich, CMHC’s B.C. regional economist, said in an interview.

However, the national housing agency’s assessment is that 2008 and 2009 will be merely slow-growth years, not no-growth or recession years.

CMHC’s forecast is that B.C.’s economy will still grow from 1.5 per cent to two per cent, which is down considerably from the 3.1 per cent of a year earlier.

As a result, Frketich estimates that 2008 will end with 75,000 housing resales, down 27 per cent from 2007. And 2009 will see another slight slide to 74,400 sales, with both years running below B.C.’s long-term average for sales.

Prices should fall nine per cent in 2009 to a provincial average of $418,200, Frketich said.

Robyn Adamache, CMHC’s senior analyst for Vancouver, said sales within the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver’s area will have fallen 32 per cent to 26,500 sales by the end of this year. However, she expects 2009 sales to edge up to 27,500 in 2009.

Vancouver prices, she added, should fall nine per cent to $535,000 compared with the 12-month average price in 2008.

“The main thing we will be watching is to see how our employment situation changes because of all that [economic] uncertainty out there,” Adamache added.

During CMHC’s annual housing-outlook conference, held Thursday at Vancouver‘s Hyatt Regency hotel, Frketich said population growth projections still point to long-term growth in the housing market once the pain of a correction is over.

Frketich said medium-term projections for demographic change, immigration and inter-provincial migration should see some 34,000 new households formed per year for the next five years, which will help boost the housing market.

Tsur Somerville, director of the centre for urban economics and real estate in the Sauder school of business at the University of B.C., said the trend of migration in North America has been a westward movement since Europeans first came to the continent.

“It’s hard to imagine that not continuing. … Having said that, that doesn’t mean if you buy a house now, that you are going to see that price again for four or five years, or maybe more.”

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

Softening prices will give first-time homebuyers a break

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Paul Luke
Province

Sliding house prices in B.C. are filing the sharp edge off the market for first-time homebuyers, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says.

B.C.’s average resale house price will rise 2.4 per cent to $449,450 in 2008 as strong growth early in the year offsets subsequent declines, CMHC regional economist Carol Frketich said yesterday.

But in 2009, the provincial average will fall seven per cent to $418,200, Frketich told CMHC’s housing outlook conference in Vancouver yesterday.

Softening prices will cool the competition for homes, giving buyers more time to reflect, Frketich said.

It will also give those taking their first plunge into home ownership a break.

“First-time homebuyers have been having a more difficult time getting into the market,” Frketich said.

“This price adjustment could release some of that pent-up demand for housing.”

A better-supplied resale market means fewer foundations will be poured this year and next, she said.

Total provincial housing starts will fall by 8.7 per cent this year and by another 18.4 per cent next, she said.

Mortgage rates should stay within 25 to 50 basis points of current levels in the last quarter of 2008, CMHC said.

Posted rates should fall slightly in the first half of 2009, reflecting an easing cost of credit to financial institutions.

But rising bond yields should nudge rates marginally higher in the second half of next year, CMHC said.

“For the last quarter of 2008 and in 2009, the one-year posted mortgage rate will be in the six- to 6.75-per-cent range, while three- and five-year posted mortgage rates are forecast to be in the 6.5- to 7.25-per-cent range,” CMHC said.

In a separate report, the Canadian Real Estate Association said the falling average sale price nationally reflects a decline in sales in the highest-priced markets, noting that prices are still rising in a majority of markets.

The association said the average sale price of an existing home fell 5.4 per cent in September to $289,916 from $306,347 a year earlier. But it noted prices are up in 65 per cent of the boards it represents.

“The recent price declines in the Canadian housing market reflect lower activity in some of Canada‘s priciest housing markets that had posted large price increases,” said CREA president Calvin Lindberg.

Vancouver, Canada‘s most expensive market, has had year-over-year sales declines in the 40-per-cent range, and many analysts suggest the results are skewing the national number.

© The Vancouver Province 2008

TV choices widen

Friday, October 31st, 2008

CRTC grants consumers some added freedom to pick and choose channels in packages

Paul Vieira
Province

CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein said the goal was to make sure the system is flexible. Wayne Cuddington file photo – Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA – The federal broadcast regulator has denied the request from over-the-air broadcasters to charge cable and satellite operators for their signals, while granting TV consumers some additional freedom to pick and choose what channels they want as part of a cable package.

Those were two main elements of a decision released yesterday from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. The ruling comes after three weeks of hearings held in April aimed at how to rewrite the rules governing the broadcasting, cable, satellite and specialty-TV sectors in preparation of the digital age that starts in 2011.

“From the outset we wanted to make sure the system was as flexible as it could be,” Konrad von Finckenstein, CRTC chairman, said of the commission’s work to develop this potentially groundbreaking ruling.

“We spent a lot time second-guessing ourselves, and trying to make sure we avoided unintended consequences. I hope we have done that but the proof will be in the pudding.”

The majority of changes that make up the decision won’t come into effect until September of 2011. However, one change takes effect Sept. 1, 2009 – that cable and satellite companies must pony up an additional $60 million, or 50 cents a subscriber, into a fund aimed at helping over-the-air broadcasters with local programming, such as local TV news. The CRTC said it does not expect this additional cost to be passed on to cable and satellite watchers.

The headline item during those three weeks of hearings was whether over-the-air, or analog, broadcasters would be able to charge a fee to cable and satellite companies to carry their signals. The broadcasters pushing hardest were CTVglobemedia and Canwest Global Communications.

However, in its decision, the CRTC said: “Although over-the-air broadcasters clearly feel strongly that they need the commission’s assistance in increasing their revenues, the commission does not have conclusive evidence in order to make a favourable determination on this matter.”

However, the CRTC did give broadcasters the right to negotiate with cable and satellite providers to determine compensation for distributing “distant signals,” which allows viewers to watch stations that originate in other provinces.

Meanwhile, in a slight win for TV watchers, the CRTC has provided some flexibility in how households are able to pick channels they want to watch.

The CRTC said it is eliminating “most” rules governing how cable and satellite companies package their channels for consumers. But this freedom is contingent on two conditions: At least a majority of channels, meaning 50 per cent plus one, are Canadian; and cable and satellite providers are willing to offer such a package.

In essence, then, the rules will likely give cable and satellite providers more flexibility in packaging channels for their customers.

Up until now, packaging rules specify that for every non-Canadian specialty service offered, there must be one Canadian specialty outlet thrown into the product mix. The ratio on pay-TV services is five non-Canadian to one Canadian.

© The Vancouver Province 2008

 

It’s in the details: Stolen identities on the rise

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Popularity of websites, online shopping make victims easy prey

Joey Thompson
Province

Alexandra Straub’s short, daffodil-blond hair, fair skin, fine features and staunch German surname are hardly the characteristics of an aboriginal.

Yet in the space of three days, a woman described as heavy-set with a native status card had wheedled six reputable retailers into opening accounts under Straub’s name.

Ben Moss Jewellers, Linens-N-Things, Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless, Home Depot and Wal-Mart handily extended the credit to the impersonator on the strength of an outdated address, Straub’s social insurance number and a fake, laminated status-Indian card.

“I thought it could never happen to me,” the chic 26-year-old victim of identity fraud said during a work break, having struggled for four months to remove the stain on her good name and credit rating.

“I’m still not sure how this girl got hold of my information. I’m also baffled as to why anyone would give credit to someone with a laminated photo ID. Are they that desperate for business?”

PhoneBusters, Canada’s sole clearing house for telemarketing and identity-theft complaints, says the criminal activity is “growing explosively,” due in part to the thousands of websites requiring registration, a profile or sign-in, as well as the proliferation of online shopping and social networking websites that angle for personal details.

Straub, export co-ordinator for a Vancouver shipping firm, recalls a trendy cafe where she worked years ago telling employees that a bundle of their T4 slips had gone missing in transit. She figures they may have fallen into the wrong hands.

Indeed, restaurants, bars and gas stations are ripe for rip-offs — anti-crime experts advise patrons to swipe their own credit card to prevent a shady clerk from accessing the information or swiping twice.

They also advise customers not to give out personal information by phone, electronic mail or voice machines and to carry as few ID documents around as possible.

Also, protect access to mail and check the accuracy of billing statements, even small purchases. And take Straub’s advice: burn or shred unwanted personal financial data.

A call from Home Depot’s fraud department confirming her new account was the first sign. Then Ben Moss checked to see if she was happy with her new $1,700 purchase.

By the time Straub put the phone down, she was on the hook for more than $3,500 in goods, including four BlackBerry Pearl smartphones.

She filed a report with Vancouver’s fraud squad, Richmond police and Surrey RCMP but theft under $10,000 is small potatoes to these bustling crime-cracking detachments. As far as she knows, no one followed up on her complaint.

But the real surprise was having to repeatedly protest her innocence to lenders and the credit bureaus, which say it could be years before her credit reputation is totally clear.

“It’s a huge pain: I was the one who had to clear my name when they were the ones screwing up.”

According to the U.S. federal trade commission, a victim can spend up to 600 hours and shell out more than $1,000 in long distance calls, notary fees, mail-outs and lost wages to repair the rating damage.

She’s since bought a shredder and has stopped applying for any points cards, or entering draws or promotions that ask for personal details.

© The Vancouver Province 2008

Rise above economic woes with the hover chair

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Peter Griffiths, Reuters
Sun

The Lounger, a chair that uses powerful magnets to float in the air, in an undated photo. The “Star Wars” inspired hover chair, a 125 mph electric motorbike and hi-fi speakers that cost as much as a small house are among the attractions at Britain’s biggest gadget show in London this weekend. REUTERS/Stuff magazine/ Handout

LONDON - A “Star Wars” inspired hover chair, a speedy electric motorbike and stereo speakers that cost as much as a small house are among the attractions at Britain‘s biggest gadget show in London this weekend.

Organizers of Stuff Live hope thousands of visitors will forget their financial worries for a few hours and dream instead about the latest high tech toys.

Scores of exhibitors will show off everything from a pocket-sized DJ mixing desk, a solar-powered mobile phone charger and a “robot guitar” that uses tiny motors to tune its own strings.

Among the more unusual items on show is the British-designed Lounger, a chair that uses powerful magnets to float in the air.

Inventor Keith Dixon, of Sussex-based Hoverit Ltd, said he was inspired as a child by the anti-gravity Landspeeder vehicles in the “Star Wars” films.

“The sensation you feel as you lie back and close your eyes is totally different — like floating on a cloud,” said a Stuff Live spokesman. Its 6,000 pound ($9,620) price tag may bring visitors back down to earth with a bump, however.

For those after something less sedate, U.S. company Vectrix has a prototype of a high performance motorbike powered by an electric motor.

The sporty aluminum bike has a top speed of 125 mph, a range of 44 miles and costs nearly 40,000 pounds.

That’s cheap compared to another star attraction: a pair of limited edition curvy metal loudspeakers worth 70,000 pounds.

The Muon speakers, made by Kent-based company KEF, are well over six feet tall and have a thick shell of aluminum to minimize vibrations from the four-way speaker system.

KEF describes them as “a truly contemporary art form appropriate for 21st century living.”

Computer maker Asus will show off a laptop covered in laminated strips of fast-growing bamboo rather than plastic in an attempt to make it more environmentally sustainable.

© Reuters 2008

Michael Bublé’s crab haunt

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Mia Stainsby
Sun

Co-owner Desmone Gregorie shows off some of the fish and chips at The Crab Shop in North Vancouver. Photograph by : Glenn Baglo

THE CRAB SHOP

2464 Dollarton Highway, North Vancouver. 604-929-1616.

- – -

Call me irresponsible, but if it’s good enough for Michael Bublé, it’s good enough for me. He’s a regular at The Crab Shop on Dollarton Highway in North Vancouver and pops in to buy crab for his grandfather.

The Crab Shop has been on my list of places to try forever. It’s been going for 17 years under the present owners (and longer if you count previous ones).

Bublé is just a great guy,” says Desmone Gregorie, who owns the shop/cafe with crab fisherman husband Marcel. “He tells us all about his career and he’s a normal person. He invited our manager to go play hockey.”

The shop, which is also a seafood cafe, moved to the present modern digs about a year ago. Before that, it was just down the road in a building so old, the film industry regularly rented it when they needed an old-timer scene and so old, that staff often saw ghosts. “One time, the tap turned on by itself. They saw ghostly people pass though,” says Gregorie. “I find it hard to believe but our manager and employees saw things.”

The new building is in the Kingswood Landing development and is all glass and tiles but the nearby woods makes me think I’m in Tofino.

I have to say the fish dishes are fresh. I’m not particularly a huge fan of fish and chips but polished off the halibut fish and chips, no problem, the fries included. The menu includes clam chowder (Boston), lobster bisque, halibut sausage (with a veal for added flavour), crabcakes, halibut cakes fried squid, fresh albacore melt on bagel and fish burgers.

Prices range from $5 to $9 and family packs of fish and chips (with six pieces of fish) costs $20 to $30, depending on the choice of fish.

One word of caution — be careful around the fish-shaped iron chair backs. They’re avenging salmon with pointy parts.

The Crab Shop is open daily for lunch and for a take-out dinner (closes at 6 p.m. every day except Friday, when it closes at 7 p.m.)

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

European cuisine gets touch of spice

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Impressive addition to culinary cosmology

Mia Stainsby
Sun

Chris Dignan (right) along with bar manager Nicole Maxwell at Red2 on Granville Street. Photograph by : Mark van Manen, Vancouver Sun

RED2 TAPAS LOUNGE

Overall ***1/2

Food ****

Ambience ***1/2

Service ***1/2

Price $$

1216 Granville St.,

604-408-6352. Open Monday to Saturday for dinner.

Restaurant visits are conducted anonymously and interviews are done by phone. Restaurants are rated out of five stars.

- – -

The Doukhobors in the West Kootenays make the best borscht. It’s not traditional beet soup, rather, it’s thick with tomatoes and thin-sliced cabbage and dill and there’s absolutely no fear of high-fat cream; the borscht is thickened with mashed potatoes and everything’s sauteed in butter before being added in. One small beet is thrown in, mainly to add colour. A crusty home-baked Doukhobor bread is the perfect sponge for soaking up every last bit.

A less waist-destroying tweak on borscht can be found at Red2 Tapas Lounge. It’s made with golden beets and is blended into a velvety Gerber texture. A porcelain spoon sits next to the bowl with a dollop of sour cream, ready to take a dive into the bowl.

Red2, you see, is a modern Eastern European restaurant. Menu-wise, that translates to social sharing plates of pyrogies; sausages with grainy mustard with spaetzle and red cabbage; housemade sauerkraut; house-cured fish; kasha fries; an amazing 80-plus vodka list and vodka flights; and cocktails have decidedly catchy with names like Sputnik, KGB and Chernobyl Clean-up. Red2′s look is modern, the sound, loungey and the room, well, it’s long and narrow, like a bowling alley.

The difference between Red2 and the mom-and-pops of Eastern European restaurants can be found in the kitchen. Chef Chris Dignan was the chef at Victoria‘s Cafe Brio, one of my favourite restaurants in that city. His sous chef here was his sous at Cafe Brio. Together, they’re really adding to the city’s culinary cosmology.

Our pyrogies ($11.50) were filled with duck confit, onions and a tang of red cabbage sauerkraut. The golden beet borscht ($6.25) was tasty but like other dishes I tried, there’s a vinegary note. Is it to give all our taste buds a hit? I’m not sure I liked it in the soup.

The melt-in-mouth shortrib beef stroganoff ($15.75) was served with noodles so wide they could sub as lasagne noodles. (Again, a touch of acid in the sauce.) We had brake failure when we started into a bowl of kasha fries with a red pepper dip. It was nutty and nice and soon the bowl was empty.

On another visit, we tried the house pickles, not the best food to have with wine and not particularly special.

Potato and smoked salmon roe pyrogy, however, was delicious; mussels with tomato sofritto and smoked paprika were excellent and Thurlinger sausage with grain mustard spaetzle and red cabbage sauerkraut was a great comfort dish. And to finish, we shared ricotta fritters with pan-roasted pear and which was served with a deliciously flavoured creme fraiche.

The restaurant was originally called Red Square but when threatened with legal action by a bakery/deli of the same name, they averted battle and went with a change. Their sign and logo, however, reads Red X Red. The upshot is, it’s not a user-friendly name.

The restaurant is in the Granville Grand Hotel which was renovated three years ago and is a good-value European style hotel. The G Sports Bar and Grill across the lobby is part of the mix.

The staff are attentive and friendly and leave their attitude at home, although one of the servers seemed inexperienced.

We went early for dinner one day and there were several tables of senior diners, likely hotel guests. One couple was celebrating their 60th anniversary (not the typical Granville Mall scenesters) and were fussed over by the young serving staff. Now that’s what I call cool, I thought.

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

 

Home-buying intentions steady

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Plans for renovations up slightly

Eric Beauchesne
Sun

OTTAWA – Home-buying intentions of Canadians have remained steady despite the financial-market turmoil and cooling of the housing market, according to results of a survey conducted earlier this month.

Overall intentions to purchase a home in the next two years remain steady at 22 per cent and have not changed since January 2008, Royal Bank of Canada said in releasing the results of a survey conducted by polling firm Ipsos Reid.

Meanwhile, a related annual survey conducted for RBC in August, prior to the eruption of the current financial crisis, found that 70 per cent of homeowners planned to renovate or make home improvements in the next two years, up slightly from 66 per cent last year.

“Despite recent economic events, we’ve noted that Canadians still believe a home is a good investment and many are continuing with their home-improvement plans,” said Catherine Adams, RBC’s vice-president of home equity financing.

Given the choice, 75 per cent of Canadian homeowners would opt for hammers and paint brushes, rather than packing tape and cardboard boxes, if their home needed major renovations.

While 55 per cent say they would definitely continue to renovate even if housing prices were to drop, that’s down from 66 per cent in 2007.

The survey also found that most of those planning renovations will spend less than $50,000 and indicate they plan to spend $10,801 on average, up about 10 per cent from $9,850 in 2007.

Looking back, the survey found that 63 per cent of homeowners have renovated in the past two years.

Seven-in-10 had a budget and just more than half stuck to it, the analysis said, adding that more are establishing a realistic renovation budget.

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

 

Property sales forecast to fall in 2008, bounce in 2009

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

B.C. association’s prediction more optimistic than credit union’s last week

Derrick Penner
Sun

British Columbia real estate sales will fall substantially by the end of this year, but will stage a modest recovery in 2009, according to the latest forecast of the B.C. Real Estate Association.

Sales recorded through the Multiple Listing Service should fall 28 per cent to 73,700 units across the province by the end of 2008, from 102,805 units in 2007, according to the forecast, released Wednesday.

That is more optimistic than the forecast released last week by Central 1 Credit Union, which predicted sales will continue to fall through 2009, and with steeper price declines, before recovering in 2010.

However, both forecasts agree that the point when the housing market turns higher from the downturn will depend on the world financial crisis subsiding, B.C. not slipping into recession and a return of at least a little bit of consumer confidence.

“I don’t know that the [B.C. Real Estate Association] forecast is optimistic,” Cameron Muir, BCREA’s chief economist, said in an interview.

Muir predicted sales levels in 2009, while higher than in 2008, will be similar to levels last experienced in 2001 and 2002, which were relatively low.

“It’s not like they’ll be bouncing back into this great market,” he said.

However, Muir said real estate sales in B.C. have fallen further than the underlying economy suggests they should.

While he expects B.C.’s economy to slow further in 2009, he also believes it is possible consumers will have recovered enough from their financial fears by the middle of next year to consider major purchases again.

By then, Muir said prices will have dropped enough to make housing more affordable to more potential buyers.

His forecast is for the provincial average home price to dip nine per cent in 2009 to $413,000 compared with 2008.

Muir forecasts that the average price for all 2008 will be three per cent higher than 2007, but that masks the fact that prices peaked in March and have been dropping since then.

“I would argue that the housing market has already been shocked,” he said. “Prices have declined 14 per cent [on a month-to-month basis] between March and September.”

At some point, Muir said he expects inventories of unsold homes to decline as people decide they don’t need to sell, and then sales should increase.

Helmut Pastrick, chief economist for Central 1 Credit Union, said while his forecast does not agree exactly with the BCREA’s, he does agree that B.C.’s economy won’t go into recession, and consumers will get a bit of their wind back at some point in 2009.

“We’re talking about degrees really, and magnitudes,” Pastrick said in an interview.

By magnitude, Pastrick forecasts that B.C.’s MLS sales will fall 30 per cent to 70,700 units by the end of 2008, and a further 17 per cent to 59,000 by the end of 2009.

On prices, Pastrick forecasts that prices will decline 13 per cent from 2008 to 2009 to reach $385,000, and a further five per cent to $366,000 in 2010.

However, forecasting market changes can be notoriously difficult, according to Tsur Somerville, director of the centre for urban economics and real estate at the Sauder School of Business at the University of B.C.

All that a series of forecasts with differing results can tell you, Somerville said, is the general direction of activity while outlining a range of views about what might happen.

“[Economists are] good at predicting what’s going to happen when we’re moving in one direct path,” Somerville said. “We’re really bad at predicting when markets are going to turn.”

For example, Somerville said that in January, when oil was headed to its peak price of $147 per barrel, few economists would have forecast that by October it would be $67 per barrel.

© The Vancouver Sun 2008

Faux French is just fine

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Affordable luxury paired with great food and wine list

Mark Laba
Province

The chef shows off one of the fresh creations and excellent wine choices at Les Faux Bourgeois Bistro. Good choices are duck confit or chicken pot-au-feu. Photograph by : Les Bazso, The Province

LES FAUX BOURGEOIS

Where: 663 15th St. East, Vancouver

Payment/reservations: Major credit cards, 604-873-9733

Drinks: Fully licensed

Hours: Tues.-Sat., 5:30 p.m.-midnight, closed Sun. and Mon.

- – -

I’ve always aspired to living beyond my means, even if I have to fake it with ten-buck Rolexes and $20 Gucci loafer knock-offs. Really, you can fake most everything except maybe performing brain surgery.

In the current economic meltdown, it seems some folks have shared this same idea, although many bought the real thing and, of course, then had to have the house and car and polo pony to match the bling. Others are just innocent bystanders watching their savings vanish like the polar icecaps in an Al Gore documentary. But with the de-valued dollar, I’m figuring maybe that wad of Canadian Tire money I’ve been saving might finally be worth something. From faux-money to faux fur to faux-finishing, the faux middle class is taking a beating. Not since the French lugged out the guillotine during the Revolution have so many been in over their heads and lost it in the process.

So it was refreshing to see this new joint recently opened on the Eastside that proclaimed with no sense of shame that faux bourgeois was the new social class and rich folk be damned. Great French food at affordable prices, an excellent wine list that’s equally attainable, all in a setting that oozes French bistro with an eastside retro-appeal like my Pierre Cardin fitted shirts circa 1980.

Old gooseneck lamps run along the top of the wall, pointed upward for subdued spot lighting, recroom wood panelling takes on a Gallic sensibility, black and white tiled flooring and a long mirror over the banquette seating creates a Parisian doppleganger effect.

Most importantly, this joint is warm and welcoming. Our waiter had a thick French accent, so Peaches and I instantly made a pact not to try and pronounce anything from the menu.

Began with an amazing onion soup ($8) made with rich, meaty stock instead of the usual wimpy chicken or veggie broth I’ve encountered in other places. This turns the onion creation into a soup that’s hearty on the exterior but conceals layers of rich flavour beneath the sopping bread and stretchy Gruyere covering.

We stuck to an onion theme with the Tarte flambée Alsacienne ($12), a kind of French/Germanic version of pizza but with a very flaky pastry-like crust, topped with caramelized onion, a rug of crunchy belly-fat bacon and some creamy blobs of ricotta. A wonderful balance of the delicate and the lusty, kind of like France and Germany negotiating over their borders.

For mains, I had the truly inspiring lamb sirloin with caramelized cauliflower, green beans and blue cheese hidden between the slices of pinkish lamb fillets ($17), the whole shmeer wallowing in a jus that had the deep red colouring and bittersweet hint of cherry.

Peaches tried the grilled beef fillet ($19), the prime cut served with potatoes au gratin, some green beans and some beet-like species that was delicious. She wasn’t bowled over by the beef but wasn’t disappointed either. More tender was the direction she was leaning. Rave reviews for the ‘tater construction, though.

If you go, check the daily chalkboard specials for the Chef’s Selections but really you can’t go wrong with duck confit, ling cod in white wine or chicken pot-au-feu.

Classic bistro fare so tasty you’ll be faux-pawing your way through these pseudo-bourgeois offerings like an eastside Maurice Chevalier in a brand new Sally Ann suit.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Classic French fare to please even the snootiest closet bourgeoisie.

RATINGS: Food: A-; Service: A; Atmosphere: A

© The Vancouver Province 2008