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Victoria's Oswego Hotel stylish and satisfying
by Nick Ardizzone - SGN Staff Writer

With spring springing up at any moment, your thoughts may turn to exploring the great outdoors to the north. Victoria, BC is just a few hours away via the Victoria Clipper (www.clippervacations.com), making it the perfect choice for a weekend retreat. If you plan on following the recommendations put forth by the SGN's adrenaline-seeking travel writers in our Spring Travel Guide (Viva Victoria! Outdoor adventure in BC, 3/14/08), now's the time to plan your trip. Whether you're shopping or spending the day roughing it on bikes and kayaks, treat yourself with a few nights at the luxurious Oswego, Victoria's newest suite hotel - and be sure to stay for dinner.

Oswego Hotel

The Oswego's location could hardly be more convenient; a five-minute walk from the Victoria Clipper terminal, an easy trip even while dragging luggage. Downtown Victoria and the Inner Harbor are a 10-minute walk away, and Chinatown would take 15 minutes.

The Oswego offers a winning mix of contemporary tech design with the warmth of stonework and organics. A pair of hi-def flatscreen TVs grace the living room and bedroom. High-speed internet is on tap. The rooms are comfortably and cleanly decorated, with wood, leather and earth tones offsetting the stainless steel and chrome of the full kitchen - an elaborate and much-appreciated perk. Everything is provided for - not just pots and pans, but ladles, tongs, chef knives, even a potato masher. The full kitchen compliments the Oswego's grocery delivery service, and the dishwasher makes sure cleanup won't be a hassle. The rooftop balconies grant a lovely view of the city at night, and the enormous windows let in the sun during the day, letting you know when to head down for breakfast. The newspaper is delivered every morning, along with fresh-ground coffee to use in your French press. The slate-floor bathroom has a deep soaking tub, Acca Kappa spa products, and a bath menu with a selection of relaxing or invigorating herbal blends provided by Victoria's Sapphire Day Spa.

In addition to the O Bistro restaurant and bar, the Oswego has a fitness center, offices, and a boardroom. Special spa packages are offered through the hotel for various downtown Victoria salons, which include such perks as shopping trips and hour-long Abhyanga massages, a technique based on the application of warm oils and rumored to refresh the spirit.

To celebrate the blossoming cherry trees and warm weather, the Oswego is currently offering a "Spring Fling" package, which includes an upgradeable room, dining credit, free parking, late check-out, and other perks.

The Oswego's restaurant, the O Bistro, is an attractive, upscale dinner destination. After a glass of splendid Sandhill Viognier, my companion and I ordered from the varied menu, which boasts local organic ingredients prepared by O Bistro's accredited master chef.

The taglierini with tender seared scallops was a success, though the saffron cream sauce was a little effete and detracted from the fresh, flavorful pasta. Next came the crab cake with vodka caper sauce, which was, simply put, the best I have ever tasted. Golden and crispy, bursting with piping-hot Dungeness, it was everything a crab cake strives to be. It was the ideal; had Plato taken a bite, he would have fallen to his knees, weeping. No florid praise could be heaped upon the O Bistro's crab cake that it does not deserve, no overused cliché is too ridiculous; it was an edge-of-your-seat thrillride of flavor, a decadent, sumptuous morsel of indescribable delight. There was a party in my mouth, and everyone was invited.

When the last crumbs of crab cake had been devoured from the plate, the main courses arrived. The smoked sablefish, drizzled with orange sake sauce, arrived on a bed of mashed green peas. The bacony sweetness of the fish combined with the sugary sauce resulted in the unmistakable flavor of honey-glazed ham - a bit unsettling, but pleasant enough paired with the fresh peas. The chicken scaloppini with marsala sauce was a more satisfying entrée, with its incongruous lump of cheesy bread pudding proving a subtle, unexpected favorite. We lingered over the plate, driving forkfuls of the stuff through the remaining pools of rich sauce. For dessert, the crème brulee was nicely done, but was upstaged by the smooth cheesecake with berry compote, pleasingly topped with an ostentatious sugar frond. Don't head back to your room before trying one (or five) of the O Bistro's signature muddled drinks or fusion cocktails. The jasmine tea vanilla martini comes highly recommended; this graceful drink is complex, smoky and refreshing. It's an excellent way to end an evening - though it has nothing on the crab cakes.

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