Sunday, September 07, 2014
Seaside Fish and Chips on Vacation!
I usually try and focus on Vancouver restaurants and foodie finds, but a lot of Vancouverites (and visitors to Vancouver) do make it out to the Gulf Islands for small trips. Each of the islands has its own character, and it does feel like really getting away when you visit. Even when an island has only a few restaurant options, sometimes they can be surprisingly good. This fish and chips may have been the best I've ever had, and it was at The Cafe at Hope Bay on Pender Island (apologies for the photo quality - was too excited and ate some of it before the photo too). The chips and the fish batter were so light and crispy. The coleslaw was tasty and interesting, with a touch of cumin. I wanted to lick the little cup that the tartar sauce came in. And I got to enjoy a magnificent view of the water while eating it.
How do I know it was really that good, and not just a product of context (vacation happy)? Because I can contrast it with a terrible experience at The Oystercatcher on Salt Spring Island, a restaurant in Ganges right onthe water. I had oysters and chips, and the heavily breaded, squashed flat oysters did not taste fresh (even though they also serve oysters on the half shell), and hello, oysters are part of the name. Even if they were actually fresh, they just did not taste good. I couldn't finish the last one (that's how bad they were). The chips were limp and not crispy (though they had the right colour, so it wasn't about it being underdone as much as it was about technique. I doubt that they double fry). And the tartar sauce was bland mayonnaise (not even tasty mayonnaise). I thought maybe they had mixed up my order and put down mayonnaise instead of tartar sauce, but upon searching carefully, saw some tiny bits in it, and figured that was just what they did for tartar sauce. The tiny lump of coleslaw was also very bland, but at least edible. Zero for four! Or really, zero for five because they had already messed up with a service issue earlier. I had ordered their "Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts" starter, and had asked if they were deep fried. She confirmed and said it was really good. I've had both deep fried and love that. And the bitterness of the brussel sprouts would be great balanced by the sweetness of the cauliflower, plus you get the variety of the two veggies (much needed when ordering oysters and chips). Well, the dish came, and I had to flag down someone to show them that there was only brussel sprouts with no cauliflower. Both servers didn't know what was going on. No one mentioned to me that there would only be brussel sprouts (surely the kitchen would have noticed when they made it with only one and they could have passed it along at the very least as it was being presented to me, and much preferably before they made it for me without half of the TWO ingredients). No one really seemed to want to rectify this in any way, and I pretty much had to ask for discount, and then in the end she still only cut 20% and never apologized! I had left my phone at the B&B that morning and couldn't google the restaurant as I would normally have beforehand. I actually had plans to visit one of two others, and got tired and just went to this one as it was close, and looked like a nice place to sit (and am used to having such good experiences at all restaurants on the islands, I wasn't worried about it). Well, apparently, Salt Spring is now populated enough to have their own crappy restaurant with bad service.
Funny thing is that I had just had an oyster burger the day before on Pender Island at "The Stand" - a converted Winnebago that sits at the Pender Island Otter Bay Ferry Terminal, and it was fricken' delicious (again, apologies for the half-mauled food photo). The fries were awesome there too.
Now before it sounds like Pender Island has all the good food, and Salt Spring doesn't, there were amazing tastes at the Saturday market (including a blackberry blue cheese from Moonstruck Cheeses, yummy Salt Spring preserves, wonderful vinegars, etc.), and I absolutely loved going to visit Salt Spring Cheese Company site, and tasting all the goodies in their shop. And received amazing service from the lovely women there. I had the toffee goats' milk gelato (not very goat-y but delicious) and tried a variety of goat cheeses, olives, and spreads. Decided to buy their truffle, fresh herb and garlic, and the chili goat cheeses and a jar of Salt Spring spicy tomato jam. I also had really outstanding breakfasts at Armand Heights B&B!