Disclosure: Mike and I were invited to Relish to check out the newly redone restaurant and bar to eat dinner with the owner. While that was scary in and of itself, in hopes that the food would indeed be good, the meal was provided gratis.
Early this week, Mike and I headed over to the newly revamped Relish Gastropub and Bar on Nelson Street to have a meal and check out the new digs. As we neared the entrance, we noticed that it was difficult to find navigate our way in somewhat, due to the renovations that are still in progress to most of the remainder of the building (by the owners of the property(. For the time being, there is plenty of signage out on the sidewalk itself, helping direct your way into the doors. The latest news is that the plywood and white sheeting should be removed by the end of the month, but as it’s a construction timeline, that’s still uncertain.
For the past five or so years, Relish was a large restaurant split into the main dining room area and then the lounge to the right. Since early February, just in time for the Olympics, they reopened on just the smaller lounge side after a series of renovations. The new look includes clean lines, a custom made DJ booth, and other substantial changes that open up the space a lot more than the previous spot. There are still a few very minor finishing touches to be made in terms of adorning the walls with some new artwork, but it’s well on its way to final completion.
The bar remains where it existed prior to all of the changes, with new lights overhead, a DJ booth to the right, and a display of the market bar offerings on ice to one side.
We settled in to eat and were introduced to the new, passionate Chef that was brought in to run the kitchen – Patchen Gallagher. I wish that I had taken some video as he was presenting our dishes, as you can really see his enthusiasm about food shine through and he really got me excited about what I was about to eat.
As I’m an oyster lover (and the other two at the table were not), I had the chance to try the two types available – the Effingham and Chef’s Creek BC varieties. These were served with a sherry vinaigrette, freshly grated horseradish, and some cocktail sauce with a couple lemon wedges. I was beginning to think that things would be a bit different than the regular pub food I was expecting once these came along.
A variety of Cures, Charcuterie and Cheese are also available by the ounce. We had a platter with a lot of options to try out, and my ultimate favourites were the Smoked Salt Spring Island Mussels and the Smoked Brome Lake Duck Breast that are done in house, via a long process that Patchen explained (for which I could never have enough patience to do on my own).
The Slambers, containing braised lamb cheeks within profiteroles of choux pastry were a great bite-sized treat. These were smothered with mint aioli and grainy dijon chevre, with a side of greens. While not the type of food that I would normally order if on my own, I did find the meat to be very tender and a fun small plate to be shared.
At this point, we moved on to the Fried Oysters. These were definitely one of my favourites of the whole evening, served with a house made tartar sauce and fresh lemon. The batter was perfectly coating the mollusks and I’m pretty sure I ate more of these than anyone else. I am going back soon just so I can have them again!
Next came along another preferred choice of the evening – the Duck Confit Salad. I normally like bread crumbs in a Caesar or similar type of salad, but make those crumbs out of crispy polenta, and I will fall in love for life.
At this point, we moved on to the more substantial Gnocchi Poutine. These were covered in a red wine demi reduction that takes about three days to prepare, and of course, squeaky cheese curds. I loved how the fresh made pasta was formed in small pieces, and were cooked just right. We managed to finish this all quite easily, and I’m surprised I didn’t see anyone licking the bottom of the serving dish.
Last of all, with barely any room to spare, the most ample plate came along to help completely finish us off. There was no chance to cram in any dessert after this (and this is me talking here). One of the weekly specials was a Meatloaf, that came with a side of Mushroom and Garlic Confit. The meat looked marbled, but it was actually layered with potato throughout, and came with a side of gravy. A great alternative to what I’ve always known for this traditional dish to be!
Relish seems like a great place to start out the night with cocktails and some food, or even to linger with a group of friends into the later hours of the evening, with some tunes in the background.
It’s open for lunch, dinner and late night drinks seven days a week (until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays).