I saw an ad for the newly opened “Blacktail Florist” pop up on my Facebook newsfeed, so I guess social media advertising works… After a peruse through their website our group agreed to make this our destination for tonight’s birthday themed get together. The website spoke of their inspirations taken from the land, and of products and processes unique to the Pacific Northwest. However, it was a shame that the entire food menu that had originally lured us in was not available for ordering. We would later learn why.
I have passed by the building and walked along the street many times before, and on each occasion have missed the miniature mall that existed. I couldn’t even tell you want was here and filled the space before they opened. You wall up and through the mall’s entrance. A few steps covered by an awning. Past the well lit smoke shop, and past the homemade jewelry stall. A row of smaller businesses on your right that have long closed and have long pulled shut their sliding grills for the night. We continued deeper into the building like the sign for the restaurant suggested.
Around the corner the hostess booth stood right by the entrance way. There, a lovely woman playful sprung into action upon my arrival. I found her very accommodating as I made a spectacle of myself: taking a multitude of photos, capturing the decor from multiple angles. All the while she stood by giving me the room to do so. In fact not one staff member said boo as I went around snapping still after still. How refreshing. Through several conversations with the five different servers working tonight I could tell they we proud of their lovely space. And more importantly they gave help when needed, instead of passing the buck because we were not in their section.
It looked like a room out of a design book. Light and airy you are lulled into a state of comfort by it all. A casual cool in a very raw and naked setting. Things were built to feel natural with the heavy use of birch accented by dried wild flowers. The choice of the lighter wood kept the room highlighted in a soft glow. Despite this the room was kept at a romantic dim by table top candles, creative lamps over head, and a slow to set sun. Each table top pillar candle was burnt on a wooden dish. Its hue matched that of the table and the chairs surrounding it. The tray under it kept things from pooling in a waxy puddle. The lamps over head were bulbs attached to white poles, its lines jutting out in different angles ending in solid colours and shapes. Very modern, like it belong in a museum of modern art. Towards the back of the restaurant was a set of elevated tables. These were seats with a view. Each table overlooked the streets below. Here you had an unobstructed view of the cobbled stones of Gastown, and if you squint hard enough you could make out the the steam clock in the background blowing off steam to a photography prone crowd.
We were given a half booth table in the middle of the room with a peak into the kitchen, my preferred line of sight. Like everything else this was wood on wood, with all wood everything. Wooden benches seated with softer cushions under our bottoms, a polished wooden table under our elbows, facing a wall feature detailed in wood, beside the wood heavy bar seated with wooden high chairs.
The small bar displayed on two shelves, two rows of premium liquors. Behind it stood two bartenders mixing at the ready. They offered four distinct cocktails with the possibility to create something custom and more to your liking on the fly. The kitchen was to its kitty corner. You could see chefs pop through the window, here under heat lamps they passed on completed plates to servers.
The decorations entailed an animal hide stretched across a wall, water colour paintings of nature and landscapes in pastels, living greenery potted in boxes, and earth ware vases fitted with flowers dried in bundles. Underfoot the floor was best described deconstructed. Tiled and stone floors honeycombed in red and white to form a pattern with breaks in between to sustain the natural stone’s veneer. It well match the rugged beauty of the place.
Seeing staff trek up and down the stairs we asked what was below us. The basement use to be a tiki bar, but a spot down the street opened up that did tiki so well that they didn’t want to compete. So a renovation started and the recreation of the space began. By October of 2014 this will be a lounge tethered to the restaurant. They will be serving similar foods and similar drinks, dressed in a similar decor. Used as a space where you can transition from dinner to drinks or drinks before dinner all within the building.
The servers were dressed casual with uniform soft blue button ups, varying dark denim bottoms and sneakers, and an apron pocketed with stripes. Bartenders were even more casual: patterned button ups and jeans unique to themselves. The Chefs were dressed professional in the traditional white smocks, black pants, and navy striped a aprons. Everyone wore smiles on their faces and seemed happy to be there. As I mentioned earlier it didn’t matter which section they were zoned in everyone was at the ready to help. Our waters were constantly filled and we were checked in on often.
The three paged smaller menu for cocktails, food, and wines completely differed from what we read online. We came in knowing what we wanted from the website, but was forced to change our minds with what was now available before us. We voiced our disappointment and the frustration of not delivering on expectations. There was a new chef, he had a new team, and they were forced to create a new menu, all with no way to update the website. I was beyond disappointed. I wanted to try the salmon belly with pop rocks, the pork hocks served with a smoked cheddar mustard, the fried chicken with a homemade beet ketchup and a wild mushroom poutine, the poached eggs paired with cheese dumplings, and the smoked scallops served with calms and sunflower shoots. And for desert I wanted to try all three described as “flowers”, “smokey”, and “chocolate”. A rose Rose and elderflower ice served with charred sour cream and crushed berries. Condensed milk with sweet potato, burnt cedar cream, cranberry, and malted milk crumbs. And a goat’s milk rice pudding done in a cinnamon chocolate parfait with apricots, smoked salt, and a honeycomb. Although all of what we had today was delicious I felt the menu I fell for was more inventive and the plates seemed more unique, not to mention the prices were a lot less. Braised lamb shoulder for $16. Online the duck breast went for $16, today the one we had cost us $27. I felt like we were suckered in a fell for a case of false advertising.
“The Fawn”, gin, sparking wine, dubonnet, and blackberry. This was what was suggested when I requested for a pretty drink. Like their simplistic theme the drink too was simple. Good, but having had some pretty dressed up craft cocktails as of late I expected more. A sprig, a leaf, a petal, something to play of their name: “Blacktail Florist”.
“Sing me the blues”, gin, blueberry shrub, lillet, and soda. Very sweet, more pop that cocktail as seen by the choice of glassware and straw. Similar to the cocktail above, for $12 a glass I expected more.
“Ricotta and chive gundi” with wild mushrooms, braised field greens, and basil pistou. Gundhi was described as a flour based gnocchi instead of the traditional potato variety. It was just as soft, if not lighter in texture. Our vegetarian truly enjoyed her plate, she found her meal comforting, a warm and hearty mix with a good veggie to pasta ratio. Each component added a new taste to the already well flavoured cream sauce.
“Yarrow meadow duck breast” with garlic panisse, cabbage, and a blueberry aigre-doux. The duck was cooked perfectly, just the slightest bit of pink kept each thick cut juicy. The very garlicky panisse made for a good base, similar in texture and look to a hard tofu, but more filling. I partnered it with my duck like I would a rice or any grain. The cabbage was moist, it reminded me of sauerkraut in texture and pickling, but with less crunch. It added a nice refresh taste to keep the plate exciting. I hardly noticed the blueberry component, but my guest found that its tart and sour flavouring threw off the balance of the overall plate.
“Farmcrest farms chicken” with corn pudding, chanterelle mushroom, and heirloom carrots. Compared to the more flavourful duck above the chicken was only okay. Though the plate was certainly the best looking out of the three. The chicken was a nice breast piece, cooked through it remained moist and tender right to the centre. But it lacked seasoning, no spice made it pop, no herb crust gave it flavour. And the sides it was partnered with were just as muted. Though at $24 a portion you don’t waste a plate by not finishing it.
There was no physical dessert menu, our server recalled their offering from memory. “Deconstructed s’more” with whipped smooth dark chocolate mousse, dollops of burnt marshmallow puff, fresh raspberries, and a sprinkling of graham cracker crumb. The presentation went the extra mile with the bowl presented over two pieces of wood burnt black at either ends. You could still smell a bit of the smoke from the char as you indulged. The flavours completed one another, sweet on sweet. But the dish lacked a crunch component. The pudding-like chocolate and the cream-like marshmallow was spoon licking sticky, and it needed more. The dusting of crumbs offered nothing to help the smooth pudding, the foamy marshmallow, and the soft fruit. I know this was suppose to be deconstructed, but I would have liked some actual graham crackers, broken up into little pieces if needed.
“Peaches and cream” with vanilla yellow cake, white peaches from the Okanagan, creamy marscapone, and an apricot compote. The cake was a little dry with its edges a lot hard. Eating it with the cream and jelly helped to add in moisture. The thinly sliced pieces of firm peach gave the dessert a freshness. Though overall this wasn’t anything I couldn’t assemble at home and I felt not worth its steeper price tag.
We brought a cake for the birthday girl. At the door it was announced there would be a cake cutting fee. At $1.50 per slice cut I am glad we were only a party of four. This fee is more and more common as people dine out to celebrate births and a cake often accompanies them. Given that the cake is in place of any desserts you would have ordered and that it is their dishes and cutlery you are using a fee makes perfect sense. The service included presentation of the cake with candles. Then cutting and presenting slices to our party.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Had I not gotten my hopes up and had I not read what I did online, they would have received a more favourable review. Instead I left disappointed wondering what I could have had. To be able to try more of what I found more appealing for less. I left satisfied, but not blown away; I left having enjoyed my stay, but feeling it could have been more memorable. The decor blew me away and the staff were on point, it was the food that left me wanting more. Though I have heard from others that it is now leagues better under their new chef. Don’t deny your cravings.