With the renovations of the Garrick's head no longer reflecting a British-style interior, I was stoked to see the Guild open up. They have made the best use of the original wood interior, and a lick of white paint has transformed the formerly gloomy Chandler's space into a classy, polished interior.
The Guild opened up in May with very little fanfare, in fact they only recently have begun to let anything more than word of mouth fill their tables. The project is being financed by the same people (person?) who supported Zambri's new location and Big Wheel, and I have to admit when I heard about the location and the idea for lots of local beer I was a bit discouraged it would become another downtown tourist trap. When I saw the name of the chef it twigged a recollection - Sam Benedetto was the chef at the Sooke Harbour House. I saw Mr. Benedetto as he made his way through the restaurant on their first busy Friday night and was impressed - he stopped a brand new staff member to praise her for her hard work and encourage her through a tough shift. Given the reputation of restaurants to be harsh working environments this gave me hope that there is hope for that to not be the status quo! This seems to be reflected in the staff experience I describe below.
While not traditionally English, their entire drinks list is almost all local brews (with the exception of a few Euro imports), and they are proud to have plenty on tap and even more on their list of bottles. This Westcoast twist is makes the local-lover in me very happy! The menu is very English in character, with the classic savoury pie, but also more difficult to find classics like scotch eggs, welsh rarebit and curry sauce. However, in line with the Westcoast twist the curry grave is made with coconut milk instead of cream, making it friendly for those with dairy allergies... one of many ways in which their tag line "a traditional english pub, but it's not!" ring true.
We found the lunch menu to be fantastic value, but the dinner menu a little closer in line with their downtown "high street" counterparts for a few of the items. The owner has a comment on the menu about the "Guild" part representing people working together, and using local food producers as much as possible. One thing that I would have liked to have seen was a bit of sourcing information, if that is part of his plan... but that can get out of hand pretty quickly and their menu is quite succinct.
Note: we visited twice... a lazy afternoon, and then their first busy Friday night. I feel like things weren't quite up to speed for the Friday food execution wise, so I hesitate to criticize based on things that were probably just teething pains. Going to wait a bit to post about the dinner menu!
May 25, 2013
I started things off by pulling a few beers that I hadn't yet tried into a flight to get them off my list. I wish I'd taken a photo of the menu, as their tap list isn't online yet. If I recall correctly they were from Longwood in Nanaimo, Howe Sound on the mainland and Parallel 49. The flight was a nice option - good price point, lots of selection and a great opportunity to taste without committing to a whole pint.
Glass of Bacon
We had to laugh that you could order a glass of bacon, but it is on the menu both for lunch and dinner, and it arrives exactly as it sounds: bacon slices in a glass! For the five dollar price point, it's worth it for the chuckle alone. I wholeheartedly support this continuation of the bacon trend!
Fries and curry sauce
One thing I do crave often is a dipping my fries is curry sauce. When I briefly lived in the UK this quickly became my sauce of choice, and is at an option from classy pubs to McDonalds. This was a nice twist in that the curry sauce was coconut based. It was quite mild, but apparently they may do a spicy option in future. Fries were nice and crispy (one of the things that was suffering a little at our evening visit).
Grape, blue cheese and walnut salad
My partner-in-food-and-life ordered this salad, and was quite impressed with the combination. It seemed fairly reasonably priced at $8 for the lunch menu. The grapes were a nice addition to the salad, bringing a bit of sweetness that went well with the stilton.
May 25, 2013
Was quite blown away by the service that we received - staff seemed to have been picked for their friendliness and willingness to put customers at ease. This is so important, especially when somewhere is new! Our server this day spent lots of time answering our questions about the menu, showing us the iPad ordering system and chatting about the former location and plans for the new one. For three days open things were running like clockwork out of the kitchen, showing a fantastic attention to detail that was quite impressive.