This was a rugged looking bar, it felt industrial with red brick walls, painted slate grey drywall, wooden bar and table tops, leather stool and booth seats, and menu items listed on chalkboards. It was given some charm with elegant but dusty chandeliers, old timey lanterns that hung from the vaulted ceiling, live green plants that lived in wickered baskets, and a antique mirror central to the handsome bar of well stocked shelves. And then you had some good conversation starters with the random items visible around the room. Then random pair of Hulk fists that sat atop the bar, a sombrero that hung from a wooden post, the oil canvas painting of buffalos that decorated the walls; and ofcourse the few pig figures and statues casually lying about. The twanging of the country rock over head made everything feel casual and relaxed. This was despite seeing the cutest small mouse scattering in between the bar stools, that lining the bar that almost spanned the width of the place. I didn’t really bother me. It’s the city, it’s Gastown, there is food, they have to go somewhere. This is best explained by my guest today, a former chef who is very familiar with the food industry. “Gastown is really old and the buildings can’t help it. Kitchens can be clean as possible but if your neighbouring building isn’t maintained to code the issue of mice can’t be avoided. Health inspectors only check on places that serve food for standards of cleanliness, but if an office building next door is left to rot and mould, there’s no one there to regulate them.” I concur.
The bar was adequately stacked with bottles and glasses. I could imagine them being needed on a busy night. But at 4pm on a Tuesday they sat dried and stacked ready to be used. Every other table was occupied by pairs having quite conversation, a few in dressed down suits, others in casual sports apparel. There was a nice vibe for the uneventful evening I wanted. A great place to unwind at after work. Group seating comprised of lowered seats paired with knee leveled tables. And one had a mini table side fireplace to keep things toasty. Washrooms were downstairs in a shared building space. The keys were attached to a whisk, that hung on a hook. Eventually they opened the doors and the key was no longer needed. This I found out, impatiently waiting for said key to return to hook. At 6pm lights dimmed and tea lights in glass cups came out to top each table.
Walking in you can’t miss the smell of cooked ham and fried bacon that wafts out the door as you enter. It certainly lived up to the “pig” in their name. It’s smelt like they had a candle of pork fat burning, not that I am complaining, it certainly got me hungry and craving pork. A great way to get patrons to order more unintentionally.
The menu was smaller, to accommodate the smaller space I suspect. There were six choices for starters and things to be shared, and six of the mains and sandwiches. Everything was made from scratch using fresh and local ingredients, prepared with traditional cooking methods. So they take away the fryers and the gas, for you have an authentic home cooked experience. For appetizers things were as simple as a Caesar salad and hummus and pita; and got as complex as beef carpaccio and filo baked Brie. The entrees took the familiar to new heights in their creative adaptations. Meatloaf on risotto, duck confit in shepard’s pie, and truffled roast beef on a baguette. It was all hearty and all meatful. The bar stacks were bits that were meant to be shovelled into your mouth in between sips of beer. They were salty to encourage more drinking. A plate of bacon, pickled quail eggs, maple peanuts, marinated olives, toasted baguette with aged balsamic, and an arugula salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. All this and three side sauces to add on to anything. For drinks they covered beer and wines, to coffees and teas; and even health drinks in their own labelled cooler. I let my guest, a chef choose our dishes, as she knows best.
A pint of on the tap beer and a double Caesar.
“The old ripper”. Tennessee sour mash whiskey shaken hard with puréed white peach, creme de peaches, fresh lemon juice and bitters, strained, and on the rocks.
I literally heard my guest salivate talking about the bourbon cherry in her amazing drink. It was a great pairing with the peanuts. Almost like lemonade it cut into the spiciness of the nuts.
My guest asked for a custom cocktail. This came made with her request for the use of Buffalo chase bourbon. With it was mint, honey, and grapefruit juice. This was a refreshing sip.
“Spicy maple peanuts”. Each pick came in chunks. They stuck together thanks to the sticky maple adhesion covering each nut. The savoury smack of soy and chilli, made me wish for more maple syrup.
“Marrow & toast”, roasted marrow bones, garlic confit, sea salt, truffle oil, arugula, bacon crisps, and toast. This was a good portion, three bones deep with marrow. Looking back this dish was on a league of its own. The oily texture of the marrow paired well with crispy toasted baguette. And it’s rich flavour brought out the freshness of the arugula. The bacon and garlic on the side gave things another appreciated element when layered on top of each bite.
“Meatloaf risotto”. The meat loaf and risotto were made separately, but came together with the cohesion of the in house sauce. It didn’t look like much on an artistic scale, but definitely like something out of your aunts kitchen, delicious and made with care. The meat loaf was kind of bland, it needed its accompanying risotto and tomato-salsa like sauce to perk up its flavour. We also added in the leftover roasted garlic and pinches of sea salt from the marrow dish before, to perk things up some more. I enjoyed the creamy texture of the risotto, and the chewy crumble that became of the meat loaf in your mouth.
“Duck confit”. Shredded duck leg, dark cherry gravy, mashed potato, smoked cheddar grantinee”. Confit is duck cooked in its own fat, this causes the meat to be very tender. It had a more subtle duck taste than I originally expected. It is hot out of the oven so be careful not to burn your tongue. I used the salad to brighten up each bite of this otherwise rich and heavy dish. Though when compared to the marrow, both this and the risotto came up one dimensional.
Would I come back? – Yes. Given the right mood and the right night, with the right crowd yes. This would be an ideal laid back Wednesday plan. Parking isn’t great, but if you plan to drink you can just hop on the skytrain and make the rest if your way by foot. The walk through Gastown is always a lovely one, lamp posts and cobbled streets. An old world charm not found outside these streets.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. The staff were casual, yet attentive. We never had to go seek anyone out. I dropped two forks, and without a huff got two more. And there was an appreciative banter of exchange between us and our server. This is my guest’s go to, she enjoyed what she originally had so much after her first visit, that she wanted to return with me. She liked the food and the skilled work of the bar tender. Her only wish was that we had a bigger table to accommodate all our plates. Don’t deny your cravings.