Sometimes, the best kept secrets are hidden right in plain sight.
Take oysters, for instance: on the outside, they could easily be mistaken for an ear-shaped rock, while on the inside lays a precious, plump shellfish waiting to be slurped.
The same analogy could apply to hidden pearl (pun intended) Fanny Bay Oyster Bar & Shellfish Market, the province’s only tide-to-table restaurant. As the family-owned restaurant and shellfish market celebrates five successful years, many still remain unaware that the freshest shellfish around can be found within the confines of downtown Vancouver.
The journey, however, spans back 30 years when Fanny Bay Oysters — the largest shellfish producer in Canada — first began cultivating oysters along BC’s shores.
Ever since, they’ve remained committed to creating a future for BC’s coastal communities through sustainable farming and environmental stewardship.
Over the years, the shellfish farming company has gained international recognition for its quality and innovative farming techniques. Today, it’s an industry leader in sustainability and best practice farming methods.
“Oyster farmers live life by the movement of the tide,” says Malindi Taylor, a fifth-generation shellfish farmer.
When the tide is low, you’ll find shellfish farmers working on the beaches and harvesting crops. In the fall and winter months, when the tide is lowest at night, you’ll find them working away in the dark “guided by headlamps and the moonlight,” according to Taylor.
Every single one of their clams and oysters is harvested by hand and loaded into a boat once the tide returns, at which point the shellfish is brought to a local processing plant. Spring is the busiest season as between two to ten million (yes, you read that right) baby oysters are hatched.
Thanks to the cold, clear waters of BC’s coastline, the shellfish benefit from the naturally nutrient-rich areas which the company farms. Owned by the Taylor family, Fanny Bay Oysters is part of a legacy that spans five generations and over a century of shellfish farming in the Pacific Northwest.
“Over the years our focus has always been to help grow and improve the shellfish industry in British Columbia,” adds Taylor.
From ocean acidification to unexplained crop mortality, the family enterprise strives to help solve issues, participate in important research, and modernize practices in a way that will allow this tradition to continue. It’s this hard work that also ensures what you’re eating is the safest and freshest it can be.
“Shellfish farming is sustainable by nature,” Taylor shares with us. Shellfish have the ability to repair damaged or polluted environments due to the fact that they are filter feeders. Oysters, clams, and mussels actually feed off algae and get all of their nutrients from the surrounding waters.
“Because you need healthy waterways to harvest shellfish for human consumption, farmers are intrinsically tied to the communities they work in and around to promote clean water conservation,” says Taylor.
As such, the company goes to great lengths to educate employees and consumers alike on the importance of keeping our waters clean and maintaining a healthy environment for shellfish. In other words, if we take great care of our waters, they’ll reward us with the freshest and most delicious of its natural bounties.
The same applies to teaching people to enjoy oysters as they were intended to be. “It’s incredible how many places that serve oysters don’t know a thing about how they are grown or how to shuck them properly. We wanted to set the new standard for how Vancouver enjoys oysters: perfectly shucked and with their farming story intact,” says Taylor.
Their mentality is that people don’t just head to Fanny Bay Oyster Bar to enjoy a meal; they also go to learn about how oysters are grown and what makes each of them special and different.
There’s so much to discover, from sweet and tender Manila Clams to Totten Inlet Mussels, the beautiful shells and light-sweet flavours of Great Bear Scallops, and — of course — the signature Fanny Bay Oysters that are known for their mineral flavours and “full-slurp” effect.
From sea to slurp, Fanny Bay Oysters continues to bring innovative farming and perfectly shucked oysters to your plate at their dine-in restaurant. You can drop by this fall for their weekday lunch special on Classic Mussels and Fries for $19, or for your next romantic dinner date (oysters are an aphrodisiac, after all).
For an elevated home cooking experience, you can also opt for a seafood package — an easy to prepare feast complete with wine.
Address: 762 Cambie Street