By George, it's good: restaurant review

Mix eastern sophistication with left coast vibe. Chill.

I have found the G spot in a surprising place: Vancouver. I can even give directions: head to George UltraLounge and Wine Bar on Hamilton Street, in Yaletown. George offers an impressive drink list, a luscious ambience bathed in soft light from a Dale Chihuly-style chandelier–and that glowing G spot, on a wall behind the bar. When someone in the plush VIP back room presses a button, the G glows different colours, indicating the elite need service. Stars who have dropped by include Charlize Theron and Halle Berry.

I tackle George's drinks menu with a Vancouverite friend, Hamish Rennie. We decide to try as many of the 75 cocktails and martinis on the menu as we can, and head straight to Nick Devine, bartender-in-chief.

When owners David Hannay, Patrick Mercer and Jay Garnett opened the bar in July 2005, their plan was to open an ultra lounge. An ultra lounge combines great food with creative, inventive cocktails. It's a concept that's popular in London, where Devine bartended for many years.

“What we wanted to bring back was the bartender as magician,” says Hannay. Since opening, Devine, 28, has wowed the thirsty crowd with his unique creations. “I was actually scared people wouldn't get [the ultra lounge concept],” says Devine, “because people [here] are so used to their crantinis and their Sour Puss apple martinis.”

The drinks menu ranges from pomegranate cosmopolitans to vanilla pisco sours blended with egg whites. With such adventurous items on offer, things could get out of hand, and apparently they have in the past. Devine recalls when the Vancouver Canucks came in for a private party. Roughhousing ensued: “I seem to remember getting a piece of ham thrown in my face,” he says.

Between cocktails, we eat mussels bathed in yellow curry, sliced banana, and toasted coconut. We sample the antipasto plate. The food comes from the restaurant upstairs, Brix, which Hannay and Mercer co-own. The dishes–a menu designated specially for George–are excellent, but the drinks are the main attraction. Behind the bar, Devine works with two bartenders at the island kitchen setup, which is complete with seasonal fruits, fresh herbs, and special mixing tools flown in from the U.K. He's mixing his ultimate creation, the Mumbai sling. “You do it all in the glass. You add the cilantro and the ginger syrup, muddle it up, then add the mango and gin, and some crushed ice. Mix it up and top with soda, and garnish it with a cilantro leaf.” Hamish savours a taste: “It's like I'm in India on the shores of Goa.” As for me, I'm already looking forward to my next trip to George; a chance to sample more drinks, and maybe, if I'm lucky, to use the G spot.