Venue: Relish GastroPub & Bar
Location: 888 Nelson St. (between Hornby & Howe)
It feels like there's very little that surprises this old girl nowadays, but the newly relaunched Relish turns out to be one of them. A friend and I have been hunting for "our" pub since we moved to Vancouver in 2005. You know what I mean when I say "our" pub, right? It's the kind of pub you head to after a long day of work, the kind of pub you can talk in over a couple of beers, the kind of pub you'll always head to when you're too tired to cook dinner for yourself.
We've been searching and have, for the most part, been stuck with the Doolins-style Irish offerings or trashy Dover Arms variety of watering holes. These places are good for what they are, but aren't the kind of place I'd want to be seen in regularly. The Five Point on Main St came close, but the food needed a little something more to make it a regular haunt.
Well, I'm happy to report that I think I've finally found "our" pub. Gone is the Earls-inspired menu and 160-seat capacity of Relish's prior incarnation. Here to stay is an intimate 85-seat venue with a surprisingly sharp menu created by Chef Patchen Gallagher. The first thing you'll notice walking into Relish is the attention paid to detail: the decor is as inviting as it is functional. It's rustic without being overly raw and cocktail bar adds a nice contemporary feel to the space. There's something to be said for mixing comfort with elegance:
The first thing that you'll notice about the menu is that there is nothing on it for over $15. And the first thing you'll notice after your meal arrives is that the portions are too big. Imagine. Actually getting value for your money in downtown Vancouver.
For those after more tradition pub fare, the Burger and Grilled Cheese will sort you out quite nicely. On the otherhand, you would be a fool to ignore the Duck Confit Salad and Smoked Trout Melt. I enjoyed these sort of modifications to a traditional pub menu and The Tourtiere is a must have when you decide to make your first visit.
And get this: Relish helped pop a cherry for me. They have buck-a-shuck oysters from 3- 6
pm during weekdays…and at the ripe old age of 29, I tried my first oyster and like everything else at Relish, it was surprisingly good.
When to go: Late-afternoon for a couple beers, which will naturally turn into one of the best dinners you'll have in the West End. This would also be a great spot for a first-date.
Noteworthy: Owner Jason Sohor wants LGBT patrons to come and make this pub part of the neighbourhood. He made a point of telling me that everyone is welcome in his establishment and that he's happy to be a part of the West End.