Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Snug Pub

Address: 1175 Oak Bay Ave. (In the lobby of the OBB Hotel)
Phone: (250) 598-4556
Website: Via the Oak Bay Beach Hotel
Price: $16-24 for a main
Notes: A symbolic recreation of the old snug with posh overtones


Snug Pub entry

Thew new incarnation of the Snug Pub in the Oak Bay Beach Hotel recently opened with much fanfare and press. The original Snug Pub closed before I began blogging, and Oak Bay isn't really my haunt, so I never visited, so I will be unable to properly compare the new atmosphere to the old atmosphere. However: the buzz across the internet when they got closer to opening up the new snug was pretty intense. Rumours were flying about how they were re-creating the old space exactly (which turned out to be untrue) along with much reminiscing about the old place. FeastTV has an awesome video talking about what has carried over from the old place, such s the beams and lighting, as well as some of the menu items.  I suspect that people who hold fond memories of the old place will be disappointed (for many of the same reasons the Fernwood Inn makes me sad, despite the fact that the George & Dragon was a hole). Since I can't properly compare, my hope is to give both people who have never visited and people who loved the Snug a good feel for the vibe of the new Snug. 

The Snug is found in the lobby of the newly opened Oak Bay Beach Hotel. We discovered that there is excellent free parking in the underground parking just before the grand entrance, with elevators that take you up to the main level and entrance to the pub. The entry way kind of feels like you're in the Royal BC Museum or something out of Disneyland, with a faux-olde-English fa├žade, complete with stained glass window and wrought iron gate. The interior feels much more modern, and I think this is where the old guard struggles a bit, as I gather the previous incarnation was quite small and snuggy feeling. I can understand that; for a pub called the 'Snug' the ceilings are pretty high and the space has a distinctly modern, open feeling. However, the luxurious dark wood, thick beams and roaring gas fireplace certainly make it feel more cozy and welcoming, especially at night time. 

The menu contains classic pub dishes with an upscale presentation. It's a tad on the tiny side, but hits all the classic English pub food points (minus the curry). The prices, although obviously not at the cheap end of the pub food scale, generally don't cross the line into the fine dining range. However, the overall pub definitely caters to an upscale clientele. In our business casual attire we felt slightly under-dressed compared to the other patrons on a Friday night, and we were easily the youngest diners in the room by 20 years. This makes sense considering many of their patrons are likely Oak Bay retirees for whom this is their 'neighbourhood pub', including guests and residents of the hotel (where a property will cost you $1,000,000; $379,000 for a vacation suite), and that their main competition is the Marina Restaurant. 

Overall, the experience at the Snug is quite nice. The 'packaging' is slick, they are clearly working hard to have top notch service and the atmosphere is classy and classic. I feel like given a few months to gel it will be an even better experience. When crowded it's a bit noisy, but if quieter it would be an excellent place for a celebratory but casual night out, or a good place to take a colleague for a schmoozy business meeting. 

Food:
January 4, 2013
They currently had a slightly smaller-than-normal menu 'for the holidays', but also had the option of a buffet service as an alternative option.


The English Breakfast Cocktail
The English Breakfast Cocktail
While fearing this was a distinctly novelty cocktail, I couldn't help but order it! I was intrigued by the description (gin infused with English Breakfast tea, shaken with an egg white, lemon juice and marmalade). The menu description said it was served in a martini glass, but when it arrived it was served in a tea cup with a slice of orange on the side. Adorable, and quite delicious tasting. It did not, however, pair very well with the deep-fried pickle appetizer we ordered, which was very unfortunate, as the first tastes were quite savoury! 

Grimbergen
Grimbergen
My partner-in-food-and-life opted for the Grimbergen, having never seen it on a menu list in Victoria it before. It was a lovely, dark and sweet Belgian-style beer and a bargain at $8 for a half-litre. My p.i.f.a.l. was a bit disappointed it wasn't clearer on the menu which of the beers came in a fancy metal stein, and which did not, although the glassware for the Grimbergen was pretty fancypants itself. 

Deep-fried Pickles
Deep-fried Pickles
These were the best deep-fried pickles that we have ever tried! They were perfetly sour and vinegary with a crisp bite. There was a light, cornmeal batter which worked very well as a pickle batter, as it had a good texture and was not too thick. There was also a small amount of mayo dipping sauce below them on the plate, although the amount seemed as much like a garnish as a dip; this is definitely the line between the upscale plating and typical pub fare. There were three wedges for $4, which was a fantastic price for a delicious appetizer or smalle plate during a drinking session. 

Dirty Chips
Dirty Chips
I had several hot tips to try the 'dirty chips' when I visited. This is a poutine-inspired dish, with crispy and well-seasoned waffle fries slathered with duck confit and delicious local cheese curds all baked under a grill until gooey before being topped with creme fraiche. The end result was 100% decadent and rich. Although a bit more expensive due to the duck confit, I could barely finish the plate. It would be an excellent dish to share with another poutine fan or two! 

Banger and Mash
Banger and Mash
This was my p.i.f.a.l's choice. The sausage was described as 'local' although which supplier was not listed and our server was so busy I didn't feel like bothering her to find out the source. It had classic English sausage flavour, and went well with the simple but tasty 'mash.' The price was lower than several of the other options, but it also ended up being quite a small portion. It was advertised as 'bangers' - but my p.i.f.a.l. pointed out that this definitely implies more than one sausage! An additional sausage or some side vegetables would have been welcome, even if it meant adding on a dollar or two more... 

Pavlova
Pavlova
Despite being stuffed, my p.i.f.a.l. talked me into sharing the pavlova for dessert. This summer, I was on quite a pavlova-making kick (3 in as many weeks) preparing to bring one for the Hangi. I was curious to see how this would be pulled off as a restaurant dessert, as it's pretty finicky. In the end, it was essentially a small meringue disc topped with strawberries, devonshire cream and compote - which made it much more beautiful looking but did take away from the lovely ooey-gooey messy-delicious I associate with the layering of a pavlova. The devonshire cream was a nice touch, as it was not too sweet of a topping. Definitely a refreshing change from the standard cheesecake/chocolate torte/apple crumble choices you find at so many restaurants!

Service:
January 4, 2013
I will have to stop back again to get a real feel for the service. The place was absolutely packed, and our sever and all of the staff were clearly swimming against the tide just to keep on top of the rush! Despite the madness, we were served promptly and carefully and never wanted for anything. When we asked if it was always so slammed, they said that it had been so far, which is good for them but obviously a bit stressful on staff! The one addition that I think might help, although perhaps they were simply short staffed that evening, was someone to bring around or refill water and assist the other serving staff with clearing. You could see that, despite being busy, the staff were all extremely competent and working hard to be as attentive as possible.

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