Blink | Top 10 Restaurant in Calgary

An exquisite combination of food and wine make this Stephen Avenue restaurant one of Avenue Calgary’s top 10 restaurants of 2017.

Grilled pacific octopus with tobiko sour cream, compressed Asian pears and charred green-onion vinaigrette. Photograph by Jared Sych

FOOD | Internationally inspired regional cuisine.
VIBE | Great business lunch or serious date spot with discreet corners and subtle tones.
DECOR | Historic sandstone and brick, in a long, narrow room with subdued lighting.
DISH | Pain perdu with pumpkin ice cream, chai anglaise and pecans.
BONUS | Great wine pairings, plus Calgary history.

That tradition of riding a horse into a bar whenever Calgarians win some sporting event? It started at Blink. Of course it wasn’t called Blink in 1923 when Eddie King rode his horse into the restaurant to mark the launch of the Calgary Stampede. Back then it was the Club Caf.

The brick-and-sandstone structure has had many identities since then – saddlery, theatre and numerous restaurants – but has settled firmly on Stephen Avenue as Blink. One of Calgary’s best, Blink is a fine destination for a business lunch, a quiet – yes, you can hear your dining partner talk here – dinner for two or a quick bite and sip before the theatre.

With over two decades of restaurant experience, owner Leslie Echino, guides Blink almost effortlessly. (At least she makes it appear effortless.) The finely tuned kitchen, the immaculate wine list, the richly appointed room, the seamless service and a menu of internationally inspired, regionally sourced dishes all meld together into a remarkable dining event.

From togarashi-dusted popcorn and a snow-crab salad with brioche emulsion, Bartlett pear, endive, horseradish and apple, to pork shoulder with jowl bacon, cavolo nero (black kale), carrots, pear and almond, Blink’s dishes are creatively conceived and skillfully constructed. That includes the desserts, so often a culinary afterthought. They’re superb. And the food and wine pairings, led by Echino herself, are a treat as she scans her lengthy and exquisitely selected list.

Echino’s dedication to the wine-food love affair has taken her to many wineries and she has even delved into her own vinification. Last year, at Celler Pinol near Tarragona, Spain, she made a couple of wines in conjunction with winemaker Toni Coca I Fito. Both red and white wines are made mostly from organic grenache grapes (small amounts of macabeo and carignan are blended into the white and red respectively) and are labelled Conti-Mei after her grandmothers’ maiden names. The wines are available at Blink and at select wine shops around town. The time she spent at the winery helped Echino to better appreciate the effort and skill needed in the wine industry and to better understand the way that wines are constructed.

It’s that kind of commitment to detail that imbues Blink with quality. It’s a gracious restaurant, calm and assured without the tiniest speck of pretentiousness. The kind of place that you might even be able to ride your horse into.

111 8 Ave. S.W., 403-263-5330,

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