St. James’s Gate – Banff

Siddall and I spent a few days in Banff last week and it was one of those picture perfect Banff situations where fat, fluffy flakes of snow fell like some sort of Christmas card, and, considering it was midweek, it was delightfully quiet.

Needing to deal with some hangry before our later dinner reservation, we popped into one of my favourite Banff establishments, St. James’s Gate. This is one of the few Canadian pubs that has a legit old country feel, from the dark wood, to the low lights to the well sat-upon booths. The most non-Irish entity in the place was in fact, our server, who was Australian, but Banff.

We started with cocktails, obvs. St. James’s is more focused on beer (as any Irish pub should be), so the cocktail selection was smallish, but unique. I tried the Southern Iced Tea with Bulleit Bourbon, Peach Schnapps, Iced Tea and lemon garnish, and Siddall had the Pimm’s Cup (Pimms, 7-Up, orange, lemon, raspberry, cucumber and mint).

The Ice Tea was a bit on the sweet side, but went down like water. I did however, prefer Siddall’s Pimm’s Cup, so give that one a go if you aren’t necking with a Guinness.

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Considering we were heading to the Grizzly House that night (stay tuned for more on that one), I ate light and had the half order of Lil’ Yorkies. More like Lil’ Balls of Magic really. Maybe it’s because I’m a nut for Yorkshire Pudding, but these were amazeballs. Yorkshire was crisp, beef was tender, and the server also set down a jar of Keen’s Hot Mustard and damn boy was that a foodie match made in heaven.

Siddall had the Caesar Salad with grilled chicken. I helped her out with some of it and it really was a winner. The key to a good Caesar Salad (according to this lady), are bite sized hunks of lettuce, good parm to bacon ratio, lemon slice and a little more on the saucy side. St. James’s delivered.

Atmosphere: 4
Service: 4
Food: 4
Cocktails: 3

St. James's Gate Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fiddlers Green – Calgary

When the folks are in town we usually hit up Madison’s Restaurant and Bar (try the Buffalo Chicken Wrap), but last week we tried something new, the Fiddlers Green on Centre Street.

Fiddlers is a restaurant/bar split, we made our way to the pub, which was complete with fireplace and a mix of tables and kind of half-shell booths, pool table and VLTs. Instead of hockey, there was MMA on the telly, so if that’s your jam, this is a good place to watch.

Our server was friendly and prompt, checking in on us regularly but not annoyingly.

If you Google “Fiddlers Green”, you’ll see the tagline “Authentic Irish”, while there is a distinct pub feel, this isn’t so much reflected in the menu. There were pub classics like Shepherd’s Pie, Fish and Chips and Sticky Toffee Pudding, but after that less Irish and more North American with a good selection of burgers, pizza and appies.

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Dad went with the Shepherd’s Pie. Served piping hot, it also came with a side of fries, a nice addition to a dish that’s usually on its own. Mom tried the Blasta Chicken Bowl (fire-grilled chicken breast, sauteed veggies, Canadian cheese and basmati rice with sour cream and salsa). She wasn’t a huge fan of the chicken but dug the rest of the dish.

Siddall went with the fish tacos (yam fries on the side – there were a ton of sides so high five for that), and crushed them. I did the Crispy Cheddar Perogies. While they weren’t exactly crispy, they were still hella tasty and came with a Hipkin-sized portion of bacon which is never a bad idea. The only downfall was the sizeable puddle of grease that formed in the bottom of the dish.

Atmosphere: 3
Service: 4
Food: 2.5

Fiddlers Green Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Wainwright Hotel, Heritage Park – Calgary

Just over a year ago, Siddall and I were married in the endearing, historical confines of Heritage Park. The reception was held in the Wainwright Hotel and the catering was divine.

To revisit those memories for our first anniversary, we made our way back to the Wainwright for lunch. While the historic village is closed for the Winter Season, there are the odd times it opens, such as Once Upon A Christmas.

The hotel specializes in simple, tastes-like-home fare, and both the surroundings of the Wainwright itself, and the period-dressed servers take one back in time.

I had the Mediterranean Wrap with the soup du jour (beef vegetable), and Siddall had a CBLT (you can figure it out). The soup was hot and fresh, and the wrap was jam packed and balanced.

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We did a switcheroo so I also tried half of the CBLT. The bread (fresh from the Heritage Park bakery) was lovely. It’s hard to go wrong with a BLT, cheese or no, in my books as it’s a sentimental favourite of mine. I paired with a Big Rock Traditional, and Siddall went with the coffee (refills abound).

For dessert, cherry pie was my must have. The crust was spot-on but the filling a bit on the sweet side. Siddall went with the bread pudding, but it wasn’t her favourite thing she’s eaten.¬†Our server was polite and attentive without being overbearing.

All in all a lovely little lunch. If you’re looking for beefier, year-round fare, we definitely recommend the Selkirk Grille.

Atmosphere: 4.5
Service: 4.5
Food: 3.5

Wainwright Hotel at Heritage Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sushi Ginza – Calgary

Awhile back I ventured from our haven in the NW to dine with some of my southern peeps – K & J at Sushi Ginza in Willow Park.

Disclaimer: Sushi can be a fickle mistress and my heart will always belong to Shibuya, but it’s nice to see what else is out there for sushi lovers.

Sushi Ginza is located in the heart of the Willow Park shopping area. The restaurant is split into tables and booths and has the quiet, calm ambiance that accompanies most sushi joints.

We started with the assorted tempura and some gyoza. The tempura was hot and tender, and the gyoza was moist, with the wrappers cooked to perfection.

While I’m a big scallop fan, I’m not a big scallop sashimi fan, but I still order it every couple years to remind myself of the fact. That being said, Ginza’s scallop was hella fresh, I’m just not a fan of the nifty seaweed wrapper.

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For the sushi rolls themselves we went with:

Avocado Roll: Simple, fresh, clean. J’s personal favourite.
Spicy Tuna Roll: This was my least favourite of the bunch. Didn’t really dig the sauce, maybe because I’m indoctrinated by spicy mayo
Yam Roll: One of my personal favourites. Still hot, wrapping a bit loose
Dynamite Roll: A classic, hard to go wrong with this bad boy
Rainbow Roll: Avocado, salmon, shrimp, tuna and tobiko. Pretty to look at, tasty to eat

Worth noting, the staff/management at Ginza are amazing.

Atmosphere: 3.5
Food: 3
Service: 4

Sushi Ginza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

bridgette bar – Calgary

Ever walked into a restaurant and thought yourself, “I want to live here”?

I had this enlightening experience upon walking into bridgette bar the other night. Rustic hardwood, exposed brick, artful decor, farmer style sinks in the washrooms. It was love at first site.

I heard about bridgette on the CBC Eyeopener one morning during a John Gilchrist review, and knew we had to check it out for a date night. We made a reservation and were glad of it as there weren’t a lot of tables open when we arrived, and there was a short wait by the time we left.

We started, as per usual, with cocktails. Siddall tried a Shore Leave (white rum, merlot framboise, montenegro, raspberry, peppermint, lemon and soda, $13) and I went with a Honey Don’t (gin, yellow chartreuse, cucumber, lemon, honey syrup and bubbles, $14). The Honey Don’t was a definite win with the subtle cucumber and effervescent bubbles balancing the sweetness nicely. The Shore Leave was a bit on the sweet side, not a winner for us. What won the night though, was our follow-up, Sunfire (reposado tequila, coconut water, passion fruite, agave, lemon, hell-fire bitters, marash blend rim). This is the best cocktail I have had in a long time. I would say it takes second place to what they’re serving up at the Derrick.

We started with three oysters ($3/ea) served with a dill pickle granita. They were East Coast, served with the usual fresh horseradish and lemon, as well as the granita. The dill however was missing from the granita, and came off as a bit salty, taking away from the briny freshness.

Next up, the beet and watercress salad (blackberry beet vinaigrette, pistachio, ricotta salata, $12). This was my dish of the night. The salad was fresh, the beets tender, the vinaigrette damn tasty and the pistachio a welcome crunch.

The cucumber salad (whipped feta, smoked cashews and pink peppercorn, $10) was also very fresh, and the whipped feta a revelation, but it was quite small.

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For our main, we tried the wood roasted half duck (stone fruites, gai choy, savory granola, $40). Gilchist mentioned in his interview, the pronounced presence of smoke at bridgette, but we only noticed it faintly, and pleasantly. More so when passing the kitchen, but certainly didn’t find it overwhelming.

The duck was cooked perfectly, and very tender. The presentation was lovely, and the sweetness of the plums offset the salty, fatty. The granola was an intriguing addition.

For dessert, we, well mostly Siddall, had the banana cream pie (not a banana fan over here). The meringe was sweet, and soft, the carmel delish, and the pretzels a perfect salty balance. Huge thank you to my bud Adrian for covering our dessert!

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Atmosphere: 5
Service: 4
Food: 3

Bridgette Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bard & Banker – Victoria, BC

On our last day in Victoria we stopped by our favourite spot, the Bard & Banker on Government Street. The building was constructed in 1885 as the Bank of British Columbia – and served as a bank until 1988. The bard in the name is Robert Service, an English-born banker and poet who moved to Victoria in 1903.

The building had a short stint as a Christmas store before the Bard & Banker Public House opened its doors in June 2008. The pub has done amazing job maintaining the lavish interior of the original bank and has a beautiful bar.

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B&B also serves up amazing cocktails, but, feeling a little cropsick from the night before, went with a soda water. Siddall however, went with a berry mojito.

I ordered, you guessed it, a half dozen oysters, Chefs Creek – Baynes Sound and a bowl of the clam chowder. Siddall went with the Salt Spring Island Mussels (white wine, leeks, mustard cream and fresh tarragon, served with fries and fresh baguette).

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The oysters were delicious – briny and fresh and emphasized by the fresh horseradish, lemon and mignonette. I would rate them at second best of the trip after The Fish Shop on Fisherman’s Wharf but they were also the most reasonable at $15 for the half dozen.

Siddall easily dispatched of the mussels, the accompanying baguette was fresh and the fries delish.

Atmosphere: 5
Food: 4
Service: 4

Bard & Banker Public House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Red Fish, Blue Fish – Victoria, BC

Red Fish, Blue Fish is another spot recommended to us as a must-eat. Although a recommendation really wasn’t needed as the popularity of the recycled-sea-can restaurant is very clear to the naked eye as it was lined up down the dock.

It was a hella hot day, but Red Fish, Blue Fish graciously puts umbrellas and an extra menu up for its patrons in line. People notice stuff like that, and appreciate the gesture.

We ordered a bit of a mix to taste all the different fares offered by the wee restaurant that can: albacore tuna tacone (hand-roll style flour* tortilla taco with coleslaw, pea shoots, sauce, lemon-pickled onions, spicy spot prawn mayo, grilled medium rare); cup of chowder (chipotle coconut and sweet corn with Pacific white fish confit); crispy fried oysters and an order of chips.

PS The tacone’s can be made tostada style on a corn tortilla for the GF crowd out there. I didn’t double check if they use a separate fryer for the fries though.

Since it came out first, let’s start with the chowder.

Oh. My. God.

Firstly, the cup ($5) is a very generous cup. We aren’t talking tiny ceramic bowl like the restaurants have, this is a big ass cup. I’m not sure what the bowl looked like, but it would be a lotta chowder.

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Sheltered lines, busy fellas and nectar of the gods.

Secondly, this was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. And I eat a lot, a lot. The chipotle coconut gave the chowder a very Thai feel, but what it really felt like was nectar of the gods.

The fries ($3) were damn good, high five Kennebec potatoes!

The tacone ($7) was hella fresh, and also of a substantial size . The addition of the pea shots and pickled onions really complimented the tuna.

The oysters were my least favourite, but really that’s on me. I’m always fresh oysters all the time, and while I love anything fried, oysters just aren’t the same. That being said, the oysters were meaty and rich, and certainly not small, and the batter hot and fresh.

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Say hello to my little tacone, crispy fried oyster action.

Atmosphere: 4
Service: 4
Food: 4.5

Red Fish, Blue Fish Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato