Above the countless indie coffee shops, craft cocktail bars, and tapas-inspired restaurants that line the streets of Gastown quietly sits one of Vancouver’s most exciting and intimate places to dine—that is, if you know what you’re looking for. Enter the high-ceilinged, large-windowed loft, fill a glass of B.C. wine, and tuck a seat into the large wooden table; this is Farm 2 Fork, an underground dinner party meets secret society where the address is only revealed upon booking. Anyone is welcome, though; no one needs an invitation to join this supper club. Just an appetite.
Created in 2011 by Nicolas Hipperson (former executive chef at long-beloved and now-defunct Raincity Grill and graduate of the culinary arts program at the Art Institute of Vancouver) and a friend who has since left the business to start a family, Farm 2 Fork’s seasonal menu focuses on the local and sustainable. Hipperson runs the service out of his gorgeous loft—complete with hanging lightbulbs and a shelf stuffed with books—and only serves small groups at a time, creating a friendly, warm atmosphere. Whether one comes with a companion or books a single seat, pleasant hellos quickly turn into fascinating conversations and bursts of laughter, a table full of fast friends.
Hipperson’s beautifully plated dishes ebb and flow with the seasons; he lets B.C.’s freshest bounty dictate what he creates, resulting in a tasting menu that bursts with unique flavour. “A lot of it is also based on dishes and flavour combinations that my grandmother used to make,” he says. “I learned how to cook from her.” Hipperson grew up in Regina and often watched his grandmother, of Scandinavian descent, pick ingredients from the garden. Today he works fast and light, grabbing ingredients from a large cupboard only fit for a chef and using tweezers to delicately place just the right amount of garnish. His inspired summer dishes include cured Pacific sardine topped with lightly cured grilled cucumber, pickles, and radish salad, a perfect introduction; a show-stopping miner’s lettuce veloute with glass-house strawberry and crème fraiche; heirloom tomatoes with tomato broth, tomato and olive oil sorbet, fresh homemade mozzarella, and jasmine flowers, the last of which Hipperson says is his favourite thing that grows in the courtyard below his apartment; butter poached oysters with pearl barley, wild mushrooms, and hollandaise; Saltspring lamb chop; and chocolate crémeux with wild raspberry sorbet and fresh fruit.
Farm 2 Fork also facilitates a rotating artist series in Hipperson’s apartment, giving local talent a place to exhibit, and potentially sell, their pieces. “It gives the artist another gallery space to show their work, and I think that’s really valuable,” explains Hipperson. Currently on display is Norah Borden, whose swirling paintings use layers of acrylic to create immense depth. The featured artist will at times join in for a Farm 2 Fork dinner, and Borden, in attendance one recent evening, looks over at Hipperson mid-meal and says, serious and with heart, “Nic, you have a gift”. No one argues that.