Friday, May 18, 2012

Clive's Classic Lounge

Address: 740 Burdett Ave. (in the Chateau Victoria)
Phone: (250) 361-5684
Price: $5-20 for food, $5-$20 for a drink
Notes: The retro lounge where all the cool kids hang out - filled to the brim with rare bottles of liquor mixed into fancy, delicious drinks!

Note: Clive's has recently changed management, so any info might be out of date.

I thought I knew what to expect on entering Clive's Classic Lounge the first time I visited. I was pretty close to being correct although it was hard to tell from the description and pictures of the website what era of retro-tastic was being aimed for. Was it 80s? 90s? 50s/60s? 30s original Tiki? I'm still not entirely sure, to be honest. I'm going for retro-fusion. There is a bit of a fish theme, and the mirrors have seaweed and bubbles. The wood is all dark and manly, but the chandeliers are rainbow and sparkly. Some of the pillars are padded in white leather. The bar is lit-up blue. There is a collection of glassware that spans decades. I kind of love it. (I may have officially transcended yuppie into hipster...)

The drinks are definitely where it's at here - there is no doubt although the food is pretty amazing, too. The nearly 300 bottle (and growing) collection including an extensive collection of "ultra-premium" liquor most of which you have never probably heard of before. Don't worry too much, however, as most things are in the $10-15 range and are so unique and quirky that you end up spending half the drink talking about the interesting flavours of the drink. It's definitely about the pleasure of the practice of something different and new here and not just the senseless consumption of alcohol (or as I like to call it, "drunking"). I approve!

The best thing about this space, especially if you sit at the bar, is that the staff work really hard to make everyone feel welcome and valued and like they belong. It might feel like a place that could be snobby or exclusive from the outside, but as long as you are at least a little bit interested/knowledgable about what you are drinking you feel like part of team Clive's.

For those of you not aware they came thisclose to winning the best hotel bar in the world in 2011 at the Tale of the Cocktail event in New Orleans. They have earned their nomination for 2012, especially considering the sheer amount of really awesome events they hosted this year! Keep your fingers crossed between now and the event later this year...

Food & Drink:
May 17, 2012
We were here for the launch of the Spring/Summer menu 2012. This is the annual Tiki Party which we have only heard legends of over the year, as we didn't start coming to Clive's until a few weeks after that event. We started with a special punch, served out of watermelons. Very nice warm up to an evening that quickly turned epic as our table mates rotated in and out around us.

Old Time Prairie Berry Fizz
One of the new additions to the Barkeep's Creation menu! It featured the saskatoon berry liqueur and a house thyme soda. The thyme garnish was cut off a live plant, which was pretty hardcore. I couldn't quite pick out the thyme flavour as much as I thought I would be able to, but I was multi-tasking with intense conversation with the person sitting next to me, so I didn't give it as much attention as I should have done. It was tasty, though! Will definitely try it again.

Tears of Ra
My partner-in-food-and-life ordered this, and I may have snuck multiple sips while waiting for my next drink. It was pretty freakin' delicious! The main flavour was local mead from Tugwell Creek. At this point, the new menu isn't online so I can't remember what other ingredients, but I will try to remember to update with more detail in future.

Tar Pit
This was on the "An-Tiki" list last year, but I was never quite brave enough to try it. Now, I chortled with excitement at the idea of combining fernet & demerara rum (the only kind of rum I really like). It was very good, and in line with the more bitter drinks that I have come to enjoy lately.

Long Island Iced Tea
So this isn't something that we have ever ordered before, or seen ordered before. It's not on the menu, but I saw several go out over the course of the night. Some other Clive's regulars joined us (who in a weird twist of fate, work with my p.i.f.a.l. but we have somehow never crossed paths actually at Clive's before) and they ordered it. I have to say, it was an entertaining process - very spectacular production and adorable presentation. I had a sip, and I agree with their suggestion that if you are on a one-drink budget, this would be the one to order!

Cannibal's Campfire
This was our favourite drink from last year - so we were stoked to order it again. My p.i.f.a.l. noticed it moved from the "antiki" to the "classic tiki" side this year. The scotch is different, but the overall taste was delicious. We ordered several around our table over the course of the night, and I was really entertained to note how much more explicit our server got about which was the straw and which was the still burning chopstick as the night wore on. Smart man!

I also ordered a steak salad for dinner. I'm shocked I haven't posted about it here yet, as it's become my standby meal. However, I am lacking in a photo somehow, so I will save it for another time!

January/February 2012
Grilled cheese fingers
Finally found something else to rival my addiction to the sliders. These cheese fingers are perfect drinking food - ooey, gooey cheese, crunchy toast and tangy tomato dip. Highly recommended!

The glenrothes tasting
I think it was back in January (errrr... must have been, because it was when it was so snowy!) we attended an Amazing scotch seminar hosted by Ross Henry from the Glenrothes distillery in Scotland. Truthfully this was the first seminar as such I have attended but the feeling I got was that the bar was set high for me. Six incredible scotches, lots of great information about the brand and the production of the product as well as a stellar scotch cocktail and we were in heaven! I am geared up to attend more seminars in future.

Ginger Lynn
I was all impressed that in my recent switch to hosting my photos of flickr this Clive's picture has so many hits (in comparison). I was remarking on this to Shawn at the bar - but I have since realized that it's Probably less about Clive's and probably more because he 'accidentally' named this drink after a porn star. The chef was blamed. Either way, for a rum drink I quite liked it which was saying something...

Speaking of rum drinks I like... I sadly did not snag a photo of the drink that Jacob Briar made while he was guest bar tending that contained three types of rum (and no other ingredients but lime juice), including a titch of gunpower-infused rum. The edge of the glass was salted. Our next door neighbour at the bar described it as reminiscent of a salted caramel. Totally true. More investigation is needed in order to establish what made the difference in my liking factor!

Barrel Aged Blackthorn
Must remember to replicate this composition in future... this photo turned out most excellently! A fitting photo for a drink that I am very happy to have stumbled upon! Tanqueray Gin, Dubonnet Rouge & Kirsch aged for five weeks in a rye barrel. It wasn't too sweet and was an excellent last drink for the night, but I have a feeling it would have been just as good as a starting drink. Again - more experimentation needed!

November/December 2011
I think I am loving the new "winter menu" even more than I liked the summer one! This is probably because I am not a huge fan of rum, so the tiki drinks were not all on my 'to drink' list. There are several new fun drinks on the barkeep's creations page- my personal favourite of which (so far) has been the "Frans Van Mieris."

However to be truthful, the flips are what is keeping us coming back so often. We hae tried almost all of them so far, but our two favourites seem to be the childhood and the fernet. Side note: I swear Fernet Branca has an evil addictive quality... we picked up a bottle for home and I crave this stuff in a way that is downright unnerving!

October 5, 2011
We opted to come for a drink to mark the passing of Steve Jobs. He is pretty much responsible for inventing the computers that sparked my PIFAL and I to hang out and fall in love, so we felt he warranted our tradition of going out to somewhere nice when someone we care about passes away.

Negroni Flight via

I had yet to try a Negroni at Clive's but I know it is a drink well loved here. I decided to opt for the flight because for $11 to be able to mix and match and compare it was too logical to pass up!

So a Negroni is gin, bitter and vermouth. The three varied from strong, bold flavours through to subtler, lighter flavours. To be honest I couldn't choose between them. For sipping, I think I liked the minimo, but for a full drink I liked the maximo better. The classico was my least favourite. However, the barrel-aged, on special, knocked all three out of the park! Just totally mellowed out all the sharpness, plus the GVine gin is DVine (hur hur hur).

We also had a taster of the Fernadito which was on tap left over from Art of the Cocktail. It was perfect - and I am left wishing this was a regular occurrence.

September 11, 2011
Really great choices tonight!

Cannibal's Campfire via

I ordered this because my partner-in-food-and-life Always beats me to the punch ordering this and we have kind of a rule that we can't order the same thing in one night (variety being the spice of life and all that). It's an incredible drink - probably my favourite of all time. Yes, that chopstick is still on fire in the photograph. Oh my, but it is delicious and smokey and all sorts of nom. I will be sad to see it go, but am hoping there are more smokey drinks on the fall menu coming out soon...

Apparently this is a pretty classic drink - it's gin based so it's not big surprise that I adore it. The apricot in there also adds something nice, but the fresh-squeezed OJ really makes it sparkle, I think. Overall the effect is pretty magic - everything blends together and ends up feeling like you're drinking punch or juice instead of something pretty strongly alcoholic.

Beer for Punks

I've had this the last two or three times I've been here - it's pretty fabulous although to be honest I should have started rather than finished with it because after the sweetness of the Paradise my palate found the hoppiness of this beer a bit tart despite the fact that it's actually not super bitter on the IBU scale (at least not compared to some of the other hoppy beers in town!)

I freakin' love the label of this beer (pictured above). I feel like it suits the attitude of the head bartender pretty well although he's not super in your face about it (as in, it's not a mean or snotty/snobby thing). "It's really good actually really good, and if you don't appreciate it then it's your taste, not the drink." This sounds like a weird thing to say... I don't know how to articulate it. I think the best way to explain it is: there are objectively 'good' things, but people aren't objective, they are people with tastes and that's okay too. It's not arrogance, it's just the truth. Truth that comes with a shrug and an apologetic cheeky nod when you don't like rum (like me).

July 9, 2011
Tonight was an "experimental mixology" evening and it was London Gin No 3. I heart gin (a lot) so I was very excited to see this come up on my potential list of things to do!

I started and ended the night drinking a Bramble - a "neo-classic" cocktail although there was more than a little inter-bartender banter about the frequency with which the term is referenced at Clive's. I enjoyed this drink quite a bit - lemon juice and gin is a great combination no matter how you slice (and I suppose squeeze) it, but the addition of the "bleed" of blackberry over top is a magical thing!

I cheekily asked if I would lose any geek cred by ordering the rhubarb fizz but was informed that anything on the menu is a safe bet. It wasn't at all what I was expecting in either taste or design, so I can see now that there was no shame in my choice! Hurrah, huzzah. Truth though: there was shaming when my partner-in-food-and-life got threatened with bols yogurt for uttering the shocking phrase "I'm thinking about this liqueur, you probably don't have it... it's the one with egg?"

I do like the Clive's menu in that there is just so much on the menu that it takes a while to get to the point where you're stumped on what to order, as I usually have a hard time choosing. When I asked for recommendations I did make the mistake of declaring that I don't really like rum. I was presented with a very nice rum drink - and although it didn't win me over to the Rum Side of the force it was less face-twistingly rummy than most which is to say, it was pretty tasty. I think this is just a fundamental personal preference of sour or savoury over sweet for me, I think. That being said, I wasn't convinced I like bourbon but a sip of the off-menu bourbon drink my p.i.f.a.l. ordered rocked my world pretty intensely - so I appreciate the push to explore the full extent of the liquor cabinet and their magical and seemingly endless permutations before giving up on any one liqueur.

June 23, 2011
As I said above, our server was fantastic about helping my lady friends choose cocktails to match each unique taste. For the lady at the table who "enjoys chi-chis. a lot." he suggested the Painkiller (rum, fresh pineapple and OJ and coconut milk) and was very flattered that they even crushed the ice for her despite having a no chi-chi policy [my word, not theirs]. For the lady at the table with a dire case of sexy phlegm a Singapore Sling (Gin, house made cherry brandy, Cointreau Benedictine with fresh pineapple & lime juice with a splash of soda water) was well received along with an exclamation "Holy smokes! I think all the liquor in Singapore is in this one!" The final creation he directed my undecided companion to was the Roland Garros Cocktail (House infused Saffron Gin, Pimm’s, Giffard Peach, fresh lemon & orange juice with a kiss of sparkling wine) which I had a sip of and was immediately envious of.

I had opted for this bad boy:

I was just doing my research on what Fernet Branca was when the server arrived. Wikipedia described it as "herbal" which is a good description. The server (and Wikipedia, as I scrolled down further) describe it as "Jaegermeister without the sugariness" which I think is an apt description. It was Different! I like it, but it took a minute to grow on me. The first sip was pretty reminiscent of something medicinal for sure. I love trying new things - sounds like this drink is pretty popular in Argentina and a friend from San Francisco commented on my Facebook post about my drink by saying that it's pretty common to order Frenet and Ginger Beer together, take a sip of one and a sip of the other. Interesting! So much to learn!

June 5, 2011
"Brooklyn" - Sazerac 6 year, Maraska Maraschino, Dolin Dry Vermouth & Amer Pico

This was my partner-in-food-and-life's choice. This is pretty much a fancy manhattan. We have been on a mad, mad manhattan kick at home lately especially after the purchase of some House Made coffee bitters. Turns out, the creator of house made first started to make bitters for Clive's - go figure! The Sazerac ingredient provided a wealth of wikipedia learning. It was so much smoother than the manhattans we've been having at home, I quite enjoyed the few sips I had!

"Mayaheul Flame" - El Jimador Reposado, house made ginger & honey gastrique,
house serrano & green tea bitters & fresh 
grapefruit juice

This was a particularly unusual choice for me. In the end, I kind of regretted getting it first because something in it made my taste buds go to wacky places for the remainder of the evening. It was pretty awesome though! What sucked me in was the serrano - I do love spicy things but I haven't had too many spicy drinks (I don't do Clamato. full stop!) This drink had a lovely spicy undertone which made sense with the tequila. I liked the grapefruit as well - the sourness was quite lovely. Couldn't taste the other flavours too much, but like I said - wacky taste buds!

Agadashi Tofu

This was my partner-in-food-and-life's choice. I refrained from trying... as I have mentioned before, soy and I are not friends and I already made that mistake once this weekend. The review was that the type of tofu used was firmer than usual, but that overall it worked.


I almost don't want to review this because I think my wacky taste buds from my drink ruined this for me. I swear it tasted sweet! It was a bit of a different gravy - creamy chicken gravy, but it had decent fries and the Little Qualicum cheese curds get a two thumbs up from me for supporting local. Not sure the value was quite there for $9 regardless (although I know it was the local curds that upped the price point... conflicted!).

Kobe Beef Slider

Here's where the value is people! $3 sliders! Order individually. These. Are. Epic. The burger is great but the toppings are spot on. Little tiny onions, melty cheddar cheese. I missed all the other details in just enjoying it - will just have to go back. Drat.

"Cannibal's Campfire" - Mount Gay Rum, Islay whiskey, earl grey tea syrup with fresh grapefruit juice

Originally heard the title of this one as "Campbell's Campfire" but the actual title makes much more sense. I lost the rock-paper-scissors for driving again so was left out of the continued drinking. I was jealous of this tiki tumbler! Cute detail you can't see in the picture: the chop stick in the drink has been burnt on top.

This was from the "Antiki" section of the menu which was described as Tiki-inspired, but not quite straight Tiki because there's that one ingredient that makes you go "huh?" I freaking loved the few sips I had of this - first taste was the rum and although I usually hate rum it worked. Once I stopped drinking the smokey was there (it wasn't too smokey! Just vaguely campfire...). My next sips a few minutes later and I could taste the smoothness added by the Earl Grey syrup as well as the sharpness of the grapefruit.

May 17, 2012
This was the launch party of the new menu, so it was all hands on deck! Very well executed event from all the staff, but I'm not surprised.

Since we've become proper regulars I feel like we even get even better service than I initially experienced. I only start to get uncomfortable about this after about 3 drinks, when my ability to control the paranoia that I am compromising my ethics by accepting some spiced nuts 'on the house'. I don't want to give the impression that my partiality can be purchased with free nuts. [Insert winky face here.]

January/February 2012
Continuing our regular status with a bit less evenness - several visits in the first few weeks of January, but just barely made it back again for another three. I think between Christmas and our post-Christmas birthday/anniversary (whatwerewethinking?)/birthday extravaganza we were a bit burnt out of going out. We visited most recently when a guest bartender, Jacob Briar, was behind the bar mixing up some pretty wicked drinks with some classic kiwi charm.

November/December 2011
We have become regulars and are coming down to harass the head barkeep on regular occasion of late. We kind of figure he doesn't mind since a) he harasses us right back and b) he has put up with my pathological dorkiness like a pro. (Figuring out how to handle the fact that sometimes it's obvious I am a blogger has been awkward... especially as I already have a hard enough time believing people actually like me without the added layer of worrying that they are only pretending to like me because they are worried I will give them a bad blog post. Yes, I am broken but it's a very specific kind of broken...)

October 5, 2011
George was on the bar on a stunningly quiet night - he guessed everyone else was still recovering from Art of the Cocktail which we were sadly unable to attend. He had lots of good suggestions for choosing drinks, as always, and some good tastes of things he thought we should try or sample. I think this is the reason I am drawn to returning - the learning and the education makes every trip totally worth it.

September 11, 2011
I've been here a few times since I last blogged, but not done so because like all the places I visit regularly I don't always update lest it become the 'Clive's Classic' blog. To be honest, I wish I could go more often than I do... it's lovely here. It's on the list of reasons why I should buy a ticket to win the lottery so I can  visit more often. I always leave more informed about what I am drinking than I was before which is always a nice thing for me.

I was chatting to one of the other regulars/twitter people at the bar saying that this is one of the few places I go where they actually Know I am a food blogger. I'm pretty shy about it normally - partially because I feel weird about the ethics of people knowing, partially because I don't want to make a big deal of it because it's (obviously) not. Also, because I know that it will always be good because they have high standards and that means I know I'm never going to have to make a bad post.

Last time (when I neglected to blog) we were very well behaved and stopped at Pig on our walk home - the watermelon was delicious as were the wings. This time I may or may not have been the one to cave into the mass-market food production chain. Don't tell anyone. *shame* So clearly, it was a very good night again. They should just serve complimentary sliders with your bill to prevent this very scenario. Or I should just wise up and order a few to go...

July 9, 2011
So I kind of forgot going into drinking at Clive's tonight that these are not silly wussy drinks. We were sitting at the bar, so there is really no excuse because I could see the drinks being poured in front of me. In this way, I realized last night, drinking at a good restaurant is kind of like going for sushi - the person in front of you is directly responsible for the creation of your food (or in this case beverage). There's also the beautiful little rituals part to it that is so much the same as sushi. There is something very soothing about the ritual in both - create, clean tools, make the space zen for the next time.

I also was very happy to be sitting at the bar for the sharing of information about the process of creating the cocktails, the different components and the overall history of the drinks. I also learned that there are a number of "religious" wars in the art of the cocktail... which brand is better, free pour or measuring of drinks, size and style of ice cube (etc). I felt like I had my big watching eyes and my big listening ears on last night like a little kid!

I also think part of what draws me back is that Shaun works so hard to know everyone and know everyone by face and name and even drink. He also does a really great job of making everyone feel really comfortable. I'm an intensely socially awkward person at the best of times (let alone with a few drinks in me) so that fact that I feel comfortable to actually voice my opinion here makes feel me very happy. I think I am not alone in the feeling of comfort, insinuating ourselves into the conversations with others also sitting at the bar we wound up talking we some very cool conversations!

Anyhow, despite better intentions it did result in crossing the line between drinking & drunking at which point two things happened: I announced "cheque please" in a small voice (and Shaun was more than happy to oblige) and being left by my "partner"-in-"food"-and-"life"standing, arms crossed, outside the garbage can at Sketch Ave. and McScketch Rd. Yes, that was me doing my best Harpie impression: "THERE IS FUCKING LOCALLY MADE ANDOUILLE IN THE FRIDGE YOU DO NOT NEED A MCRIB." (I guess I can only tongue-in-cheek blame the awesomeness of Clive's for this. Insert winky face here!)

June 23, 2011
I was really excited for a semi-officially "girl's night" and got all excited at the prospect of sharing Clive's! If it wasn't clear already, sharing good places with others is really exciting for me hence you know blogging at a pace rapidly approaching prolificity.

Once seated and preparing to make my own drink selection it dawned on me that I didn't really know everyone who was coming very well, and my adventurous spirit (no pun intended) to try new and interesting drinks and learn about why they're cool and where the alcohol came etc. from might not be reflected in my choice of drinking companions. Peering at the menu, I was a little daunted at the task of helping them find something good off a menu so incredibly diverse and with so much uncharted territory...

George did an excellent job of navigating this dilemma! He started with a "well, what do you usually like to drink?" and neatly directed people to selections for the... I hesitate to say girlier... palate.

I think he was a bit baffled by us, bless 'im. We were pretty baffling. It must be hard to read us through the layers of dead-pan sarcasm, the flailing arms (managed to only Nearly spill my drink this time) and the intimidating collective wall of cleavage we create when squishing several ample-chested ladies into a booth. (Collective Wall of Cleavage would be a good band name)

June 5, 2011
I am withholding a little bit on describing the service, as the bartender was running the show alone after an epically busy weekend. It wasn't bad service by any stretch, I just got the feeling it was different than usual. He was very nice and chatted with every table as much as possible, but there was a definite swiftness to the service (although I still suspect hummingbird speeds are the norm regardless, if only to maximize sipping time).

I would sit at the bar here in future - I feel like I would learn a lot. Cocktails are a bit of a mystery to me and clearly they have been mastered here. I did feel a bit left out of the cocktail conversation, mostly because my partner-in-food-and-life has the upper hand in discussions about really fancy liquor. My general value in the conversation was probably not helped by the fact I flailed and spilled about half of my second drink (and it wasn't even alcoholic!) but this is pretty much par for the course for me. Still - looking forward to further conversations with the barkeeps even if I'm just the one taking notes. And trying not to spill things.