For most of my life, I associated the term pub food with greasy burgers, soggy nachos and deep-fried mozzarella sticks. Until – that is – I came to Vancouver.
The city’s gastropubs have reinvented pub fare, pushing the envelope with fresh ingredients and creative dishes. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that there are few cities in the world where you can pony up to the bar for a great pint of Guinness, plus a piece of pan-roasted organic salmon or a plate of wild mushroom ravioli.
From Main Street to Yaletown, Granville Street to Kitsilano, Vancouver is sprinkled with pubs serving stellar contemporary fare. I’m interesting in hearing your top picks. If you’ve got a favourite gastropub – where what’s in the kitchen is just as good as what’s on tap – please weigh in and leave a comment below.
I’ll start things off with one of my favourites, the Cinema Public House, right in the heart of downtown on Granville and Smithe Streets. Now, foodies will be quick to point out that Cinema is part of the big Donnelly chain – which has opened dozens of similarly themed pubs and clubs around the city. True enough. But you’ve got to hand it to Donnelly – They’ve really got the gastropub thing down to a science.
The first thing that strikes me about Cinema is the atmosphere. It’s got a dark, conspiratorial pub mood, but it also feels contemporary and alive. High ceilings, exposed brick walls and lots of dark wood lend a traditional ambiance. But that’s complemented by funky chandeliers, retro banquettes and chairs and pumping music that you’d never hear in your grandfather’s pub. It’s no surprise that after 10 p.m. Cinema transforms into much more of a club, with DJs and long lines of revelers waiting to get inside.
But the critical element of a gastropub is, of course, the food. Cinema’s menu isn’t exactly pushing the bounds of Vancouver cuisine, but the food is exceedingly fresh, with a select list of well thought-out dishes and pub standards. Starters range from sliders of organic grass-fed beef to local mussels steamed and served in a coconut curry broth. For mains, you can stick with classics like fish-and-chips (Oceanwise, sustainably caught) or do the West Coast thing with dishes like organic roasted salmon or free-range chicken tikka masala.
And I haven’t even mentioned the drinks. True to Vancouver form, there’s a nice selection of classic and updated cocktails, as well as some good draught and bottled beer.
Anybody else have a favourite gastropub around the city? Please share your suggestions.