Monday, November 28, 2011

Ferris' Oyster Bar: Upstairs

Address: 536 B Yates St.
Phone: (250) 382-2344
Price: $15-25 for a main
Notes: Fancier than the downstairs menu with a great drinks menu and comfy seating. Perfect for a private party! My favourite brunch

I have to admit, Ferris' upstairs and downstairs hold several special places in my heart. Downstairs was the site of my first proper date with my now partner-in-food-and-life. Upstairs is where we got married! The staff all know us far too well (more evidence of our eating out way too much) and treat us well, although I haven't really noticed that we get better service, just more personal. However, my point is this review is not unbiased! :)

The Upstairs of Ferris' is quite different than downstairs. While down is the original restaurant, with more of a pub-like feel, Upstairs is a bit classier, with fewer selections but a bigger drinks menu. It's amazing what they can do with just a hot plate and an oven!

I gush every time over the decor. The stairs are steep - so it's sadly completely inaccessible but once you arrive at the top of the stairs you find a long, thin room with high, beamed ceilings. The floors are real wood and the walls are brick, both distressed with the marks of time. The art on the walls is ever-changing but often features hockey-themed Canadian art, 3-D art in and on old guitars and ukeleles and currently it's lovely paintings of trees. The lighting is low and diffuse and you can choose to either sit at a table or one of the sets of couches that seat up to 6.

Don't let the name put you off - although the oysters are amazing here there's way  more to their menu. Lots of options for all kinds of eaters, with a frequently changing menu to keep your taste buds tantalized every time.  I often opt to go Upstairs for drinks with friends because the have some amazing cocktails, a reasonably priced wine selection and nice appies.

If you're having a private function for 50 people or less, chat with Dave. We surprised our friends and family and had a birthday-engagement party-wedding on a Sunday night in the off season and it cost well under $2000 all told. That included dinner for 12 with drinks, as well as appies, brownie and champagne for 50 plus a tip with no extra cost for room rental or staff. The staff worked really hard to make it the a great night, and the succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

November 13, 2011
We phone up from downstairs to reserve some seats at the bar, as for some reason they were slower than slow downstairs but busy upstairs. It was quite nice, as we could order things on the fly and from watching the deliciousness being prepared behind the bar. I feel a bit bad - by the end of the night there was more than a bit of alcohol consumed. Hopefully we weren't Those annoying tipsy customers...

October 15, 2011
Superb service, as always. It's one of those places I will always feel at home, and we've got too much history here not to be welcomed back by at least one of the staff members. My p.i.f.a.l. just about made me burst into tears saying "it will be a sad day when this place closes someday..." although quickly added "but that's a long way away. Obviously."

March 24, 2011
Tonight was pretty much the opposite of last time - packed to the max! Still amazingly friendly service, but the server is someone we knew from our old workplace so that doesn't really count.

January 10, 2011
It was really hard not to have perfect service when you're the only people in the whole place and the staff out number you! Several people in the industry have mentioned that this January is an especially slow one. Most blame the wicked, evil Harmonized Sales Tax. Either way - by the end of our meal it had picked up a little bit.

It helped that the server was the same server that was at our wedding, and she spoiled us just a little bit I think. With such a small place (max 50 seats) I guess it's hard not to know your regulars. I always wonder a little bit as a "regular" at several places if we get the friendly treatment because my partner-in-food-and-life could charm the socks off of just about anyone or if we just gravitate to places with friendly staff. A bit of both, perhaps.

November 13, 2011
We started with the brownie (previously reviewed) of course. It was kind of like a reverse meal...

Saigon Presse via

This was my cocktail for the evening. It had citrus juice muddled with cilantro and a ginger liquer (if I recall correctly). Quite tasty although a hair on the sweet side. 

Bacon Wrapped Smoked Oysters via

Ummmm - there was an hour or so wine and catching up with my guest who we hadn't seen in person in nearly five years. Please excuse me if this part is a wee bit fuzzy. But I have had these oysters before - the whole thing tastes like bacon wrapped in bacon. It's pretty epically delicious! Love the night time presentation although really, it's all about the smokiness...

Smoked Tuna via

Not as fuzzy! Clearly I paced myself better by this point. So amazing! I would have this again in a heartbeat. Cold-smoked albacore tuna, really nice citrus flavours with a crunch from the almonds. This was one of the "whoa, that looks amazing, can we order one of those?" moments. Totally worth it!

October 15, 2011
This is absolutely hands down my most favourite brunch in town. It's only on Saturdays, and it is quite a bit different than a 'traditional' brunch. The dishes are quirky, with quirky names to match (love the Flight of the Conchords reference!).

The Steve Zissou Sandwich via

My p.i.f.a.l. has been craving this sandwich for Months. Truthfully it has probably been more than a year since we brunched here... (this is the downside to this blog, all our favourite places have been neglected in the endeavour to find new ones!). It is truly an epic sandwich - a baguette with a citrus mayo topped with cold-smoked tuna, smoked salmon, shrimp and bacon. The side salad is also delicious. Simple with Ferris's famous lemony vinaigrette.

The Spaniard (III) via

This is the third version of this dish, and although I find myself occasionally missing the previous incarnations (I prefer potatoes to bread as a breakfast carb) it is pretty awesomely delicious! Beans, chorizo and smoked pork with hollandaise and two poached eggs. Everything works together really well, and is a good example of how non-traditional the breakfasts are here.

March 24, 2011
Switched things up a little bit - I opted for the roast chicken. When I've had it before, it's been delicious but tonight it wasn't really what I was craving. Not sure what was different, sometimes chicken has a funny taste to me but I've never been able to pin down why.

My PIFAL had the moroccan dish which is relatively new to the menu and it got a two thumbs up review! Perfect blend of spices on the couscous, excellent meat and a fabulous spicy sauce on the side. I'll have to try it another day!

January 10, 2011
We started with one of all the baked oysters. I'm not super into oysters, but do love their house-smoked, bacon wrapped pieces of Deliciousness. We opted for some of these as well as a set of 6 varied baked options. My favourite was the classic Rockefeller, but the crab one was tasty as well.

As I mentioned above, the wine selection is quite reasonable - we got a middle of the road bottle at $40 but I think the most expensive isn't much more than 50 and apparently the $22 bottle is pretty good although we were on a splurge night since it was our anniversary. We opted for the "Road 13" Honest John Red which was a bit sweet but held up nicely to both of our meals.

For the main course my partner-in-food-and-life had the Bouillabaisse. It is more tomatoey here than often found in most restaurants but that the quality of the cooking and the amount of seafood you get makes it totally worthwhile. "Perfect prawns" were the word of the night, although I didn't try them. They did look plump and cooked to perfection!

I opted for the braised, slow cooked short rib on truffled mashed potatoes.  I had a sample of this at a Phillips & Ferris' beer dinner a few months ago and it was so delicious I vowed to order a full dish at the next opportunity. It's pretty much a staple from what I can tell, and apparently their most popular dish. It's cooked so nicely you don't even need to have a knife to cut it and so savoury and rich it just melts in your mouth.

For dessert we had, of course, the brownie. Available upstairs and down this is the best brownie I've ever had in my life! So, so good. Usually served warm with a little bit of crunch on the outside and soft  in the middle. Paired with whipped cream it's just delightful! Apparently the secret is BUTTER but it's 300% worth it. My p.i.l.a.f. always says "it makes you feel like you've never had a brownie in your life, and will never have one as good ever again!"

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