I was in the Kootenays for a week. Visiting for work, but ensuring all my down time would be spent in play. As my first shift ended and I thought to celebrate with a couple of drinks. My coworkers recommended The Black Cauldron in Nelson for their creative cocktail. Not only could I not pass up such a spooky premise, but I stumbled upon it by chance and loved its tucked away, alley-facing entrance.
The decor delivered on the promise the name made, but more Wicca than witchcraft. Where nature melds with the macabre. Dried bouquets, antlers and bat wings mounted on display, and a gallery of mystical looking women practicing their craft.
Seating was across their dining area with green velvet upholstered chairs, and at the bar facing a handsome collection of bottles behind arches raised in display. I would be seated at the latter, in order to be able to take in all the mysticism of their cocktail crafting.
Here, their cocktail are called elixirs and each is listed with their healing attributes and an alluring blurb on what you can expect.
The Siren’s Call is a mix of Sheringham seaside wild kelp harvested gin, blue majik spirulina, green chartreuse, lime, absinthe, and egg white. I ordered it for its hue and was not disappointing, a lush and murky greyish seafoam . It was subtle on the alcoholic content and tasted like a regular, healthy pressed juice with a thicker mouthfeel.
The Enchan-tea was described as a soothing herbal nectar with earl grey vodka, brandy, honey, lavender, lemon, egg whites, goji berry, and black pepper. Naturally it was served in a teacup. Although deceiving as it drank nothing like a smoothing cup of tea.
The Aphrodisiac was pretty in purple thanks to a mix of butterfly pea flower infused gin, dry curacao, lime, egg white, and grapefruit soda. This was an easy sipper, set on the sweeter side.
Bad Juju was a “sense stimulating potion” of brandy & Benedictine, vanilla bean infused rye, Esquimalt sweet vermouth, and cherry bitters. Then finished with an herbal smoke bath within a cloche for the promised sensual experience.
To accompany all this drinking I nibbled from their vegan and plant-based heavy menu. I went with the The Shadow Queen burger for the name and the promise of a black burger bun. This is a towering stack centred around a crispy duck prosciutto infused house-made beef patty, stuffed with triple creamed brie. Topped with aged farmhouse cheddar, arugula aioli, jalapeno relish, maple mustard, fresh tomato, and fried pickled red onions on a bed of fresh arugula. All brought together between a toasted black charcoal bun and served with a side salad or seasonal soup.
This was a visually striking burger with the bold flavours to match. The patty was well seasoned, but a little on the drier and harder side. After the first bite in hand, I gave up and went knife and fork as it all broke apart. The relish helped to add contrast with its sweetness and the crispy onion offered a nice crisp to punctuate the otherwise mashed texture.
As for sides, I will always choose soup over salad, especially as I like it as a dip for my burgers or sandwich. Ideal for when they need a little moisture and/or I need a break in between bites. Today this would be their Beet and parsnip soup. A little too thick and chunky for a soup, it looked more like a dip or salsa, except with way less flavour. I did like the strands of parsnip strands that added some texture and tang to the lumpy mix. I guess given my intension, I got what I wanted.
Out of all the dishes I tried, the vegetarian Goat Cheese Tart was the best. Goat cheese, walnuts, caramelized apples, roasted butternut squash, and caramelized onions. Intended for sharing between 4-6 people, this was great fresh out of the oven, and just as good reheated the next day. A flakey, buttery puff pastry with a crumbly crust and firm toppings. It ate more like dessert with the sweetness from the candied walnuts and plummy fig jam.
Worth mentioning is that even the bathroom is given a spooky makeover, bathed in a blood red light.
I, conclusion, I enjoyed the drinks more than I did the food, so would recommend The Black Cauldron more as a first stop before dinner, or the last one you end your night on. A fun theme and a well-executed one, this is the one I would recommend to anyone visiting Nelson.
The Black Cauldron
620 Herridge Ln, Nelson, BC V1L 6A7, Canada