I’m a bit of a history buff, especially where buildings, food and art intersect. That thought crossed my mind when I looked out of our window from Victoria’s Hotel Grand Pacific to see the stunningly refurbished and restored Steamship Terminal.
The majestic, Francis Rattenbury designed structure dates from 1924, when it was built to serve as a hub for Canadian Pacific Steamship’s coastal connections from Victoria to Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco and far flung ports in Asia. From grand Empress class liners to smaller coastal steamers, CP Steamships were the jumbo jets of their day, carrying huge numbers of passengers, often in unmatched luxury, across vast expanses of ocean, linking the great centres of commerce.
I didn’t manage yet to visit the upstairs Robert Bateman Centre (it was closed when we were there) but will soon. However, I did find time for a pint and a quick bite downstairs at The Steamship Grill & Taphouse, which promises to be a happening spot.
The interior has been sensitively restored, right down to the seating, which mirrors the curved, slatted benches of the era. (Well, the new ones may be just a tad more comfortable!)
By this summer there’ll also be an expansive harbourside patio and, possibly, a pub below.
According to the Times Colonist, “Extra Mile Hospitality Group owns the Steamship Grill and Taphouse. Extra Mile is led by experienced B.C. restaurateurs who have had hands in Romer’s Burger Bar restaurants in Greater Vancouver and have been involved with Milestones and the Keg.” (Essentially, in the background is Spectra Foods.)
The wide ranging menu is locally focused and sourced, wherever possible, and there’s a strong seafood focus, with lots of Dungeness crab and the like, in addition to the more usual salmon dishes.
My Monterey Bay calamari was excellent, with a respectable tartar sauce, while my friend also enjoyed her gluten free quinoa crabcakes. In the glass: Hoyne’s Dark Matter, a medium bodied dark ale with just the right amount of hop and roasted malt, not too sweet.
Sitting here, it’s not hard to imagine throngs of passengers waiting to board Canadian Pacific Steamship’s celebrated liners for destinations such as Yokohama, Kobe, Moji, Nagasaki. Shanghai, Hong Kong and Manila.
My guess is they have a winner on their hands. I love the ambiance and the historical connection. And, even though we had only a couple of plates, the rest of the menu looks good. Hopefully, in time there’ll be more than six beers on tap—something that would seem to be de rigeuer to be a true “tap house” in a brew savvy town such as Victoria.
Oh, and we lest we forget: the ToGoNuts are warm and deliciously irresistible!