Last week we had a chance to visit The Mackenzie Room—a stylish but understated restaurant tucked in beside Oppenheimer park in Vancouver’s Railtown neighborhood. Outfitted with a salvaged wood bar, chalkboard menu, and chandeliers; this small restaurant is the elegantly rustic vision of Andrew Jameson and his Chef partner Sean Reeves.
Having worked in Restaurants since I was 15 I have certainly seen a lot of successes and failures in this industry. I can't say that it was a long term plan, but somehow, I have come out the other end of working for others with a drive to create a product that I can identify with and call my own. I'm not sure that it was a "light bulb" moment, but more of a hunger for creation.
You and your partner Sean cut your teeth in the Toronto restaurant business before opening up shop in Vancouver. How do the two industries compare?
It is very hard to compare the two. When I first arrived home in Vancouver from Toronto I found myself constantly comparing the two, and after two years back in Vancouver I have found myself making the comparisons less and less. They are two very different animals, and behave in different ways completely. The restaurant market in Toronto is always changing and evolving and people there want to be the first to dine or visit a new spot, but often only for one or two visits and it's on the the next one. The Vancouver market is more loyalty based, and when people here find a new place they like, they return again and again. There is an honesty about that that I love.
How do you strike a balance between a casual atmosphere and fine dining?
I think it comes down to the people running the room. Sean, Katie and I have worked hard to surround ourselves with people who have a real passion for product and service, who know what it means to serve in a fine dining atmosphere, but who can take a step back and use those skills in less ridged manner. We take what we do very seriously, but we don't take ourselves too seriously. It creates a really great atmosphere, at then end of the day, we are striving to create an experience for our guests that we would like to have ourselves when we dine out.
There has been a lot of up-and-coming business growth in Railtown. What does The Mackenzie Room bring to the neighborhood?
I think we bring a lot to an already exciting neighborhood. Railtown's diversity continues to grow as the downtown core expands east and I think we complement it with a product that didn't exist in the neighborhood before our arrival. Guests have been responding well to the fact that we take reservations. Our "I Want it All" menu has been very well received also and it doesn't hurt that we have a full cocktail bar going with a great selection from Vancouver's growing Craft Beer market and spotlight on BC's diverse wine production.
Running a restaurant definitely makes you into a local personality. How would you describe your personal style?
Fashion is an important aspect of our product believe it or not. Our staff are encouraged to wear their own styles with an over arching "Dress like you are on a first date" theme. Our fashion choices help set the tone of the space and it gives the guest an idea about the experience that we offer. Footwear for me is the apex of these choices. I am always looking a people's choice in shoes because I think it says a lot about who you are in a subtle way; it is actually a great way to know if you need to bring over the regular wine list, or the reserve. As such, it is important to me that I am staying ahead of the curve when it comes to shoe fashion. I just picked up this pair of Manuel Duponts and I have found myself wearing them a ton. They work well to bridge the gap of rustic form and elegant style, which fits in well with our room.
Can we snag the recipe for that great looking cocktail?
This is the Hey Girl. An employee of ours, Chuck Howard, is a huge Ryan Gosling fan—in honor of him we put this cocktail on the list.
Combine and stir well. Pour into chilled glass with no ice. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Enjoy a Hey Girl at home; or stop by The Mackenzie Room for the real thing accompanied by some belly-warming West Coast eats. Sip slowly while you take it all in.