It may seem strange to call Cloud 9 a hidden gem. The restaurant – a giant, UFO-shaped disc – sits atop the Empire Landmark Hotel in downtown Vancouver. It’s 42 storeys up and visible from just about everywhere in the city.
But I’ve never met anyone who’s actually been inside.
Cloud 9 is, of course, no ordinary restaurant: It’s a (drumroll, please) revolving restaurant. As you eat, the entire dining room ever so slowly spins around. Back when the hotel first opened in 1973, this was no doubt the kind of futuristic thing – like Space Needles and TV dinners – that was all the rage. Vancouverites would have lined up to experience fine dining on a giant merry-go-round 400 feet above Robson Street.
With time, however, the novelty must have faded. Today, Cloud 9 remains popular among hotel guests and visiting out-of-towners. But for a whole generation of Vancouverites like me, it has been nearly completely forgotten.
All of which is a shame because it still has possibly the best view in all of Vancouver. I took the Empire Landmark elevator up to the 42nd floor on a recent weekend night and was amazed. The restaurant’s outer wall is made entirely of six-metre-tall windows opening to the kind of gorgeous city views that you rarely see – even on postcards.
Look in one direction and there’s the Lions Gate Bridge, framed by the North Shore mountains. Look in another direction and English Bay opens up, glittering with giant container ships anchored for the night. You can stare out to Coal Harbour and deep into Burrard Inlet or peer down into the cityscapes of Gastown and Yaletown or study the distant, glittering lights of Burnaby and Richmond. I think it’s probably safe to say that there’s nowhere else in Vancouver where you take in this much in one gaze.
And the restaurant isn’t bad either. I took a window seat in the lounge, which even after all these years still has a futuristic vibe – kind of a cross between the bridge of the Starship Enterprise and a nice hotel lobby. You’ll get hit with a bit of a premium on the drinks, but it’s a small price to pay for the views.
As I sipped away, the restaurant revolved at a leisurely pace of .04 kilometres per hour – barely fast enough to be noticed. But every so often, I’d look up to discover a brand new perspective on the city. Even trippier is the fact that while the dining area revolves, the central core of the restaurant remains in the same fixed position. So you may get up and discover that the washroom is in an entirely different place from where you left it (which can be hazardous after a few drinks).
All told, it takes about 80 minutes for the restaurant to complete one revolution. (For the trivia buffs: The entire revolving floor is powered by only two 1/2-horsepower motors, about the same size as the motors on a household washing machine). It also goes without saying that Cloud 9 still makes for a great date night: Prix fixe 3-course dinners start at $32.95.
Anyone else a fan of Cloud 9′s forgotten charms? Let us know below.
For more updates on Vancouver and beyond, follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.