I am often found at “White Pine Beach” during the hotter summer season. And when looking for lunch before or dinner after I find this little plaza in Port Moody offers in all. Today we were visiting the “St. James’s Well pub” for an early dinner.
Happy hour was in full swing. The patio out front was fully seated, and with the sun out, couples were taking full advantage of the unobstructed heat. Inside, many male patrons stood with a glass in hand, bodies huddled around the bar. They were loudly chuckling, casting their eyes on the broadcasted golf tournament above.
The interior looks and feel like an Irish pub, greens and browns, and everything else you would expect. I have never been to Ireland, but this is what I would imagine a pub in Ireland to look like. It was rustic like a well worn study. A solid stone fireplace towards the back, dark exposed wood all around, and worn-in wooden floor boards beneath. It all felt used and very much lived in. In contrast, the ceiling was painted in bold colours: a deep emerald green and a very berry maroon. The stain glass windows that also functioned as pub signs, added pops of colour, especially as it caught the sun and light streamed in.
In a cabinet there were steins, mugs, and frayed book tomes on display.
From the rafters hung brass and copper buckets, brown jugs, woven baskets, and rusted pots. On narrow shelves and across the walls there stood and hung various dusty knick knacks. Antique looking metal containers, an old timey telephone, a violin with its bow, and a banjo with all its strings. Photos of old drink ads and black and white stills finished off the scene. The only thing that seemed out of place were the pop songs playing overhead. It was a surprising mix that included Taylor Swift a few times. Surprising, considering the patrons in now were all older men by themselves. I feel the music was more for the younger waitresses dressed in their club attire. It was all very much a neighbourhood bar scene and atmosphere. Attractive women of various shapes and sizes, serving older men who knew them by their names and took the time to catch them up on their lives. Everyone knew everyone and here we were sitting in a corner waiting to be acknowledged.
We came 15 minutes to 6pm, and was hoping to catch their “h-appy” hour food menu. However the delay between being seated and finally getting service 15 minutes became 3. And by that time I was too sheepish to ask, nor did our serve mention it to us. The menu was your standard pub fare with plenty of Irish influences, we made sure to take advantage of that fact. We also figured that with the restaurant being closer to water, and with a fresh seafood store two doors down, their seafood entrees and appetizers must be good.
We started with the “Stuffed Yorkies”, $1.75 each, with a minimum order of two. These were their homemade Yorkshire puddings stuffed with hopcott’s roast beef, horseradish, and mayonnaise; served with a side of gravy. This is the traditional way to have them and the way we enjoyed them, but you can also try the Yorkies stuffed with shepard’s pie filling instead. I found the crispy and buttery pastry the best part. These nests were like tiny beef dips. They were filled with smooth sheets of tender beef, perfect for dipping into a communal bowl of homemade gravy. You could taste that the gravy was scratch made using beef drippings. We had plenty of gravy left over, so our server suggested we save it to use in conjunction with the rest of our meal, good idea.
“Guinness, crab and asparagus soup”. A creamy blend of Guinness stout, crab, potatoes, asparagus, and Parmesan cheese. Different than what I was expecting, though I don’t know what I was expecting. Glad I didn’t get the large sized bowl, but this cup-sized portion instead. The bland colour wasn’t very appetizing. The soup was more like a chowder, heavy, chunky, and creamy past the lumps. It definitely got better as you went, when you grew accustomed to its unique taste. A spoonful was the best when you got crab in the scoop. Whereas the asparagus was a little too chewy and very much wilted. A soup like this would be best paired with a hearty sandwich or a savoury meat pie.
The “Cheesy crab and chive dip” was my favourite. Baked fresh to order the menu warns it takes 15 minutes to make. It is worth the wait. Gluten free, it is a blend of cheeses, fresh local chives, and crab. You scoop it up using multicoloured tortilla chips. Though the dip was so thick that the chips buckled and broken under its gooey weight. I rathered scoop spoonfuls into my mouth anyways. This appetizer was very pub friendly, easy to eat, and best to share. Even when the dip cooled down it still had me licking my fingers clean.
The “Chicken pot pie” was ethically sourced from Abbotsford, it is slow cooked with fresh veggies and filled into a puff pastry with shredded chicken breast. We wished they listed the vegetables that would be included on the menu, and shame we didn’t think to ask, as my guest doesn’t like mushrooms, and therefore forced to eat around them. Though the pies were probably preassembled before dinner service. However, from the steam that bellowed out upon first cut, you could tell these pies were baked to order. This was a home style, hearty and creamy pie. It wasn’t too salty, the stewed veggies sat in a nice smooth gravy. You could tastes the real roasted chicken, and the thick sheet of fluffy golden brown pastry gave each bite a little crunch. The serving included a fresh green salad with edible flowers on the side. This was the first time I have seen or heard a pub using such pretty elements. Outside of the real flowers, it was your adverse salad that included various leafs of lettuce, red onions, tomatoes, and red peppers.
The “Un-paralleled fish and chips using only fresh Oceanside BC cod” advertised “Ultra crisp thin batter”, west coast slaw, and in house made tartar sauce. Sadly the batter wasn’t “ultra crisp” like the menu promised. Instead it was oily and we found it peeling of the fish. And because the piece of fish sat over the fries for too long, the fries too became soggy from too much oil. Nothing a more thorough blotting couldn’t remedy. The fish was as bland as it was unfortunately dry. We wanted it more flaky and moist. But sadly there was not enough dill or zig in the tartar sauce to save the dish. As a result of an unsatisfactory fish, we skipped on the fish burger we were going to get to go, the “Un-paralleled cod burger”, like the fish and chips above, but in burger form with fries on the side.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The food wasn’t perfect, but for pub food it was pretty darn good, and I expect it would be only better after several beers in. They kept the pub roots in their cuisine, but added extras for the clientele, given the nicer area. Additional seasonings, homemade touches, and flowers in side salads. I would have thought the prices would be higher given the neighbourhood, but they were standard and fair. Good price for lots of food. The setting was cozy, they would be a great stop on a rainy winters day. Imagine pie, beer, and soup by their fireplace. A great option to unwind at after work. Though not necessarily for those who live further away, it is quite the drive from my home in Burnaby. The travel time takes too long for more frequent visits, but with the skytrain transfer point being built nearby, I wouldn’t be surprise to see more traffic come through next summer. I hear they also have live band nights. But be warned, if you are making a trip down, stop by earlier in the evening. Because of their location and the residential area surrounding, they do close up earlier. Don’t deny your cravings.