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Despite taxes, there are still food bargains

Anyone who thinks that restaurant sales won't be affected by the new harmonized sales tax is wrong. Increases in rent, food costs and labour will be passed on to the customer.

Anyone who thinks that restaurant sales won't be affected by the new harmonized sales tax is wrong. Increases in rent, food costs and labour will be passed on to the customer. However, there are still some budget-friendly deals and today I am pleased to share some of my favourites.

You'll find the best deal in town at the Office Restaurant and Lounge, where three courses and a ticket for the Odeon will cost you $27 on Monday nights. Recent menus have featured starters such as five-spice pork spring rolls or seared scallop paired with spaghetti tossed with olives, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes, followed by grilled wild salmon and tiger prawns with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and charred asparagus, or a five-ounce New York strip steak with herbed potato pave and wild mushroom demi. Enjoy dessert before or after your movie. Reservations strongly encouraged. 250-590-5253, 759 Yates St.

On Sunday, head to the Penny Farthing Pub in Oak Bay for a three-course meal for less than $20. Begin with a palate-refreshing salad or soup before you tuck into prime rib with the works. Desserts may be chocolate pot de creme or mixed fruit crumble, served with freshly whipped cream. On Wednesdays, $9.99 will get you pizza and a pint -- an option also available at sister pubs the Bard and Banker and the Irish Times, both in the heart of downtown on Government Street. The Penny Farthing is at 2228 Oak Bay Ave.,


Two of Victoria's French restaurants offer four-course menus paired with select wines ranging between $82 and $89, perfect for a special occasion. Whet your appetite with soup du jour at Restaurant Matisse, followed by mesclun salad. Follow with supreme of free range chicken simmered with chestnut, bacon and cream, or Arctic char and prawns. Owner John Phillips will personally match the perfect tipple not only to these three courses, but your dessert, too. 512 Yates,


Across town, Chez Michel offers rustic pâté or garlic-stuffed clams to begin, followed by soup or salad. Choose filet of beef with pepper sauce or medallions of venison with wild mushrooms before profiteroles or crème brûlée. 1871 Oak Bay Ave., 250-598-2015. Please note Chez Michel is closed for the owner's annual holiday, but will reopen in July.

Planning a trip to the park or the beach? Pig (749 View St., 250-381-4677, or 304 - 1913 Sooke Rd. in the Colwood Corners Plaza, 250-590-8034) offers the best white bread sandwiches in town, featuring smoked chicken, pulled pork or BBQ brisket for $5; add beans, coleslaw or cornbread for $1.50.

The Colwood location boasts moist fried chicken with your choice of side dish for $10, and if you visit on Saturday, snag some of the freshly made donuts and walk off the calories

at nearby Fort Rodd Hill.

Another great take-

out option, Hernande'z, offers five tacos for $5, stuffed with a variety

of fillings including chicken, pork, tender black beans and salsa, chopped onions, sour cream and cilantro. Beef is a little more, at three tacos for $5. 735 Yates St. 250-884-5313.

Taxes aside, let's hope people will want to visit you here in cloudy Victoria.

Visitors and locals alike will enjoy the buffet in the Fairmont Empress's Bengal Lounge, offering select chicken, lamb and vege-

tarian curries, wheat-free bhajias, traditional breads and condiments, along with lentil soup, salad and rice pudding in elegant surroundings for less than $30.

Spectacular afternoon tea at the Hotel Grand Pacific includes miniature scones with clotted cream, lemon curd; herbed ricotta on peppery brioche; tomato and goat cheese tart; wild salmon lox cured with green tea; vol-au-vent brimming with wild mushrooms and duck confit; brochette of poached salmon with horseradish sauce; egg salad and pinwheel sandwiches with smoked albacore tuna; and more. Sweets feature vanilla Madeleines, almond biscotti, chocolate pot de creme, lime and grapefruit bars, and Thomas Haas truffles and gelées.

Teas are regarded as carefully here as wine, with both traditional options and unique blends such as white Earl Grey, perfumed with rose, jasmine, vanilla and cold-pressed Bergamot oil; and my favourite, fragrant Jasmine Pearl (dragon tears), young leaves hand-rolled into tiny parcels, which unfold to yield unbelievably fragrant tea. The cost for this feast? A mere $38.

Please remember that though the price of your meal might go up, the wages of the people working where you eat have probably not. The minimum wage in this province hasn't gone up in nearly a decade and is only a shameful $1 more than it was 15 years ago. Servers (and other staff) rely on gratuities to survive.

If you have poor food

or service and you can't be bothered to tell the manager, please ask yourself if it was bad enough to warrant leaving a lousy tip.