This is the story of what we did not eat in Victoria. We did not have fish and chips at Red Fish Blue Fish or enjoy a meal on the Smoke and Float. We also missed out on brunch at Relish. There was no dinner at Ulla or drinks at Veneto. It’s all ok, though, because we will. We made our first of what will be many visits to Victoria, B.C.. No matter that we got super lost this time and didn’t find any of the places we were looking for.
In all fairness, we found Red Fish Blue Fish without a problem. The trouble was we went hungry and apparently you need to brace yourself for an hour+ wait for some fish and chips that I’m sure are worth every minute of the wait. On our first day, we probably should have stayed. We were in for a 30 minute wait at the most after they opened (it was only 10:45 and they open at 11:00), but we were starving, practically on the verge of light-headedness, so we opted out. On day two, well, see for yourself. This was the line hardly after 11:00AM. We didn’t have Red Fish Blue Fish.
We’d just had an okay meal and happened to wander past this little gem… A food truck on the water! Since we’d only just eaten lunch, we did not eat at the Smoke & Float. We probably missed out.
We opted out of Ulla voluntarily because we were visiting Victoria for B’s birthday and he decided he’d rather have a pub birthday than a fancy birthday. So, next time there will be Ulla. We didn’t have breakfast at Relish because we had terribly inconsistent internet access and got very, very lost trying to find it. Next time, I’ll remember we’re going to Canada where data is expensive and plot our directions in advance.
So, what did we eat? We did not eat the best food of our lives, but we ate well and were happy. Our first meal in Victoria (after much wandering up and down various downtown streets) was at the Irish Times Pub in Bastion Square. It turns out to have been a wonderful decision not to have consulted online reviews before we traveled. Nearly every place we visited had average to terrible reviews, but we had a great time.
I was a little hesitant of Irish Times mostly because it was super empty. It was also early, though, so I put aside any unfounded biases and we headed in. I know it’s a stereotype and that stereotypes are often unfair, but my experience with Canadians has been that they’re friendlier than a lot of Americans and they have an way about them that’s something between American and European. The servers at Irish Times were no exception… super friendly, hospitable, and pleasant, we had a lovely visit.
Our server warned us that we were in for “heaps of food,” so we ordered cautiously and shared the fish and chips and the Irish Poutine. She was spot on. We had food to spare. It wasn’t spectacular or life changing, but we thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the hospitality. We enjoyed it so much, we had a three hour lunch… and a two hour nap to follow.
As soon as we arrived in Victoria, we realized how close it really is. Seeing how silly it was that we hadn’t visited sooner made us promise ourselves we’d come again soon and removed the pressure to do everything this time around. So, we had a lovely, long birthday lunch and a lovely, long birthday nap. By the time we were up and ready to head out once more, we were hungry again. We switched things up again and chose a Scottish pub instead of an Irish pub with Bard & Banker. The two are sister pubs.
We knew Bard & Banker had live music for the evening. We arrived about an hour before it was due to start and snagged a table a few feet from where the band would eventually set up. So, let me just say that I had relatively low expectations for Bard & Banker. It was a nice looking pub, but had the potential to be incredible touristy. We weren’t really worried about that, though. It could be as touristy as it wanted to be. B just wanted some bangers and mash and some live music for his birthday. It really wasn’t going to take much to make us happy.
We did have an excellent time. The drinks were good and the band was fun. The food was ok. B had bangers and mash. We shared some sweet potato fries. I had some oysters and the seafood sliders. The service was truly awful. Our server had to be flagged down (with great effort) and prompted to place an order and while she was coolly polite, she seemed almost surprised and inconvenienced when we ordered anything. She didn’t ruin the experience, though. Although we planned to start at Bard & Banker and move on to another pub, the music and the drinks were good enough that we spent our whole evening there.
Come morning, we had plans to have brunch at Relish. We had spotty wireless, at best, powering our map. And so we walked… and we walked… and we walked. The neighborhood got progressively less populated and started to feel a lot less safe. According to our map, we should have come up on it already, but there was nothing that even resembled a restaurant anywhere around. We gave up and headed back the way we came. We wandered around for another 30 minutes or so before realizing that we needed to choose someplace soon. There were lots of coffee shops and all the same pubs we’d passed the day before, but nothing that seemed really great or unique for brunch. We abandoned our brunch plan and did something we really hadn’t wanted to. We ate at Earl’s.
We don’t have anything against Earl’s. In fact, we like it. It’s just that we have them in Seattle and it’s a chain. At least it’s a Canadian chain. It turns out Earl’s was a pretty good call. I’d forgotten how nice everyone there is and the food, while not super unique or amazing, is still really good. B had a pizza with shrimp and pesto and I had the sushi salad.
B’s had this pizza every time we’ve been to Earl’s (minus the sundried tomatoes). It’s a little bit larger than this photo makes it look. He loves it. Then again, he loves anything that includes pesto and shrimp. I do admit, though, it is a pretty good pizza.
My sushi salad started out fantastic. It had a great flavor, the tuna was wonderful and it had all sorts of interesting additions. Once I dug a little deeper, though, I discovered the white rice hidden beneath the greens. I probably didn’t read closely enough. I’m sure the menu must have warned me about the rice. I like rice as much as the next person, but it just didn’t work with salad. I totally get the idea of of deconstructed sushi roll in a salad, but it would have worked a little better for me if they’d deviated from the concept just a little and left out the rice. Fortunately, it was mostly on the bottom and fairly easily avoidable.
One oddity about traveling to Victoria on the Clipper is that there aren’t many options for when you want to go home. We were left with a departure time that didn’t leave us enough time for dinner, but was too late to not eat before leaving unless we wanted to have the equivalent of an airline sandwich on the Clipper. After spending a few more hours walking through the city and down to the Fisherman’s Wharf and taking a water taxi back and shopping a little, we decided to stop for some appetizers and drinks before heading for the Clipper.
We’d walked by The Oyster a few times over our quick weekend since it’s next door to the Empress. I normally try not to eat seafood in a restaurant I know nothing about, but given that the seafood very well could have come from just across the street, we thought we’d give it a shot.
We were lucky enough to have unseasonably warm weather throughout our trip. By the time we sat down on the patio at The Oyster, our Seattle weather sensibilities found it to be downright hot. Oysters aren’t really my favorite hot weather food and B doesn’t eat them at all, so we opted instead for the Classic Crab Dip and some curried shrimp and flat bread (that isn’t on their online menu).
I promise there’s crab dip underneath all those chips.
This was definitely the most disappointing food we had our whole time in Victoria. It wasn’t bad. It was just super bland and the shrimp were on the overcooked side. In their defense, oysters are obviously their specialty. I’d probably give them another shot for just oysters and drinks. It’s a cute space and the service was good. Maybe we just didn’t order wisely.
Pretty much the worst part of the whole trip was the process of boarding the Clipper to get back to Seattle. It isn’t really that bad. You just sort of feel like cattle being herded through the process. If that’s the worst part, though, it’s really something we can handle again. We loved the city itself. We loved it enough that we’ll be back before long and we’ll have plenty of chances to check out the really great food we know Victoria has to offer. Besides, we have to come back to visit this adorable little guy we met at the Fisherman’s Wharf.