Eats, Drinks, and Being Merry at the Blackbird

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Yes, it’s more of my “painterly” photos. Shut up. If you want better photos, give me a goddam camera; it’s not enough I get broken into and THREE cameras stolen, I gotta take crap about my phone photos. I bet YOUR phone has Nickleback on it.

ANYHOODLE…

So there I was at the Blackbird pub and oyster bar. Now, the Blackbird is not just any pub; it’s the one with all the stockbrokers in it, judging by the slim-cut Eurosuits in the seats. But I wasn’t in the banquettes: I was at the Whiskey Bar upstairs, which is where our old friend Jay Jones presides.

I’m generally the token gin drinker.

On this particular afternoon, however, I was feeling atypical. Well, I usually feel atypical because I am… me. But I was feeling atypical for me which I guess is by definition “normal” but still I felt like I was coming down with something and my larynx wasn’t working, so I did what I always do when I feel a bit run-down, which is order a beer.

Here is the beer.

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If memory serves, it was that glorious Dubbel known as Grimbergen, a dense, sweet Christmas pudding of a beer with lashings of caramel. From the comments (which contradict one another) over on Beeradvocate it seems like they may have a consistency problem, but I’ve never had a bad experience. Maybe that’s because I only drink it draft. First discovered it at the Shebeen, and have been ordering it in the depths of rainy Vancouver winters ever since. I love the stuff, but then I love fruitcake too, with which this would pair perfectly.

Another thing I do when I’m feeling under the weather is overdose on salt (my doctor and my kidneys would like a word with me, I’m sure). It’s just a craving I get when the flu starts rubbing up against me. So I ordered myself a Reuben sandwich, because fuckthedietamirite?

You bet I’m right. It’s feed a cold, feed a fever, and yes, I’ll have another one of these, thankyouverymuch.

And here is the Reuben:

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Which was one of the best Reubens I’ve ever had, and yes, I’ve been to Montreal. The only quarrel I had was that I only got a third of a pickle. Now, the pickle was the size of a baby’s arm, sure, but I’d still have liked a whole smaller pickle if I couldn’t have the whole larger one. I like to keep the juice inside the pickle till I bite it, and when someone’s already cut into it a lot of the fun of that first bite is gone. It’s like if somebody opened the peanut butter and left a fingerprint on top. No fun. The meat was excellent, the cheese was flavourful (cheese can be a weak point on these), and the sauerkraut was well-spiced and not soggy. The bread was just glorious.

Well, anyway, the Blackbird…you should probably know some things about it. For one, it’s huge. It’s double-nightclub-space in two floors where the old Keg used to be on Dunsmuir. And if they can actually make a success in this location they’ll be the first ones since the late 80’s and that’s a fact. But the crowds say they’re doing just fine with it.

The decor is ultra-modern with historical references, with curved, illuminated bars, dark, blocky seating, wide open vistas for people-watching, and the kind of space between tables that’s usually reserved for restaurants where nobody wants to be overheard. You couldn’t conduct an affair here, though; it would be all over YouTube before you finished your aperitif thanks to the sightlines. There are great details, like real William Morris wallpaper, sensuously textured walls in the Ladies’ Room (flashbacks to the fur wall in Get Him to the Greek), and delightful accents like a very intimidating bust of Queen Victoria, just because. There is a lot of money in the room, and that’s not even counting the clientele.

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Queen Victoria is amused.

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Sexay, sexay bathroom walls. Yes, I fondled.

The crowd is dressy, but after-work dressy in that they look like they always wear the Oswald Boateng suit to work (oh, this old thing?) and the Gucci silk, as opposed to the “I ran home and got dressed to impressed” crowd.

There are indeed television screens scattered about, but I disdained to look at them, as did all of the other guests I noticed. It’s very definitely Not-A-Sports-Bar. There are a variety of areas, some more old-fashioned looking than others, but all of them upscale, and all of them various plays of modernity against a background of Roaring Nineties oyster bar glorious Victorian excess.

So, basically, this is a high-end and very masculine bar with an awareness of its place in history.

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Whisky Bar view

Tucked up in the top right-hand corner like a pocket square in…a pocket, I guess…is the Whiskey Bar. This is where Jay Jones presides over a carefully selected coterie of Scotches, Ryes, White Whiskies, and other assorted W words. After I finished my beer, he introduced me to this:

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At, if memory serves, $12 an ounce, it’s one of the best whisky bargains I’ve seen in this town. It’s compared favorably with Talisker and Lagavulin, both considerably steeper in price. In flavour it has a fresh, grassy come-on, with plenty of smoke to finish, and a difficult to place note which reminds me of honey smoked ham. There is cantaloupe and grass in there as well. It’s lighter-bodied and pale, a much easier-to-approach whisky than most Islays. If you’ve always wondered about super-smoky Islay single malts, but tend to stick with smoother Highland brews, this is a good “starter Islay.” That’s not to say it isn’t high-quality, though. It is, it’s just accessible too, like Princess Diana playing with some kids at a tour of kindergarten.

Well, that concludes OUR tour of the Blackbird for now. Well, until June 1 anyway, for their Spot Prawn Boil, and payday, for their oysters!

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