In the heart of East Vancouver, within the depths of edgy Gastown, lies this beautifully quaint and simplistic eatery - Nelson the Seagull. This spacious café was restored on a tight budget leaving many of the old elements from the Rainier Hotel Heritage building intact. High ceilings with mosaic tiles on the floor, antique mailbox drawers, old-school art, a vinyl record player and a black-and-white photo of Nelson Mandela as a boxer behind the counter allows for a rustic yet cosy vibe to the place. The seating arrangements are also charming - from lounging sofas to tables for the whole neighbourhood to sit, this place is a great local hang out to get work done or enjoy a bite to eat. Nelson the Seagull's focus is on Bread and Coffee (as it says on their window), and, boy, do they do it right!
Their minimalist menu proves that you really don't need anything extravagant to satisfy you're every foodie needs. Breakfast is served all day (thank god), with a choice of muesli, avocado on toast, grilled cheese or soft poached eggs on buttered sourdough toast with the option to add roasted beef, mushrooms, tomatoes or avocado. We were in breakfast heaven. The sourdough bread is cooked in-house at the back of the café in the open air kitchen, allowing the smell of warm cooked bread to engulf the entire space. If you manage to time your feast just right, it will be hard to not walk home with a loaf (or three) of Nelson's finest. Nelson also has a sweet lunch menu - daily soup or salad, and three sandwiches to choose from: Carnivore, Herbivore and Ploughmans. We didn't actually try any coffee at this place (which we definitely regret) but the homemade lemonade was delightfully refreshing.
The obscure name 'Nelson the Seagull' has a cool story behind it too. The two owners, Lee and Jonathan Snelgar, grew up in South Africa and wanted to tribute their café to Nelson Mandela's courage and morality during the apartheid. 'Nelson the Seagull' is a play on the popular song 'The Seagull's name was Nelson' made famous in South Africa by folk singers, Des and Dawn Lindberg, in the 1970s. The song unwittingly became an anthem for the anti-apartheid movement.
For more information, check out their website here.