Every airy room at Victoria's tucked away Inn at Laurel Point makes the most of the ocean setting - Tim Pawsey photo

We were already pretty impressed with the Inn at Laurel Point, having checked in to a room with sweeping views of Victoria’s outer harbour against a stunning backdrop of Juan da Fuca Strait and the Olympic Mountain Range beyond.

Heading to the provincial capital (just across the strait from Vancouver) is always a pleasure—and we’ll have plenty upcoming on this year’s highly successful Taste: Victoria’s Festival of Food & Wine.  However, even though the Hired Belly has stayed in more than his share of good hotels around the world, we’re still pinching ourselves that we’d never before checked in here.

You could hardly call the Inn at Laurel Point a backwater—after all, it’s only a couple of minutes’ stroll to the British Columbia Legislature (and the MV Coho ferry, from Anacortes, WA., ties up steps away)—but this luxurious, waterfront retreat definitely caters to those seeking the quieter side of downtown Victoria.

Aside from the oversized, almost all marble-clad bathroom (with very accommodating soaker tub), ocean-side balcony, striking art and superbly comfortable king-size bed, we were impressed by some of the little touches at ILP, such as the goodnight sips of Silk Road Euphoria herbal tea.  And we truly appreciate that room service didn’t turn back on the air conditioning we’d carefully turned off: with a cooling ocean breeze like this, you rarely need air conditioning anyway—and full length sun shades do just as good a job … but we digress.

Sandhill Vineyards Pinot Gris and Syrah taste even better waterside - Tim Pawsey photo

Following a highly informative visit to neighbouring Finest at Sea, all sustainable seafood fishers and processors just down the road, we were primed for Sips and Seafood— featuring Finest at Sea seafood paired with BC wines—prepared by executive chef Brad Horen’s talented team at Aura, the Inn’s restaurant.

Grazing events such as this aren’t always easy to pull off, especially when all the serving stations are outside.  Then again, with such a breathtaking setting, there’s no problem getting everyone in the mood from the moment they walk in.

Starting with our Victoria Gin, pear and elderberry, basil garnished cocktail, we moved through the tastes on offer. A couple of highlights? One of BC’s definitive oyster wines, Quails Gate 2009 Chenin Blanc once again performed with fresh shucked Fanny Bay Sea Wings.

Matt Justin lends a deft hand at the risotto station, with BC Riesling in the mix - Tim Pawsey photo

Plus, we have to confess, it was Quails Gate’s layered and mouth filling ’09 Chasselas, Pinots Blanc and Gris blend (BCLS $15.99) that was in our glass as we chowed down more than one serving of a deliciously sweet and smoky, hand-peeled baby shrimp risotto with braised double smoked bacon and fresh green peas. (Although we did also borrow a sip of the chef’s ’07 Peller Estate Riesling, that was also going into the mix—just in the name of research … )

There was plenty more to please, including piquant Salt Spring Island ‘moules frites’ and aioli, a full-on Dungeness crab boil with garlic butter and fresh corn; grilled scallop and braised bison short rib brochettes (Sandhill 08 Syrah had just the right spicy touch here, BCLS $21.99)

By the time the sun had finally set and resident band Tom Watson and the Honeycrooners had wrapped their last Rat Pack salute, we’re pretty sure that everyone had had their fill of Philips pints, smoked tuna or salmon, flambeed fresh local berries in a pistachio rimmed sugar cone.

With its spectacular setting and delicious marine cuisine, Sips and Seafood could (should?) well become Taste’s ‘must have’ ticket. However, perhaps the most important aspect of this spectacular oceanside feast was that every morsel served was from a sustainable species.

More on Finest at Sea to come shortly.