More than 70 years ago, a log boom washed up Berry Point and Gabriolans, in true islander style, decided the best thing to do with the bounty from the ocean was to build a pub. Since then the Surf Pub’s been through many incarnations and thanks to new managers, Josh Broadhead, Bianca Bocancea and Sarah Welsby, it’s once again open.
The fabulous view remains, but they’ve added their own touch indoors, freshening decor with handmade driftwood tables and creating a delicious new menu (and logo courtesy of Gabriola’s Feedlot Studios), featuring a different type of ocean bounty alongside traditional pub fare.
“We wanted a balance between pub food favourites and fine dining dishes, which we can change regularly to ensure the food is fresh and seasonal,” said Sarah. She’s quick to say that Josh, who trained at VIU’s Culinary Arts program, is the talent behind the menu, running a one-chef show in the kitchen, creating mouth-watering dishes like Cajun or truffle fries, seafood steamers, blue cheese burgers, falafel burgers, Fanny Bay oysters and fish and chips.
I wanted three appetizers and two mains but sanity prevailed and my dinner companion and I decided to share the Vietnamese ribs (seen below to the right) followed by a seafood steamer for me and wild salmon fish and chips for him.
The ribs were succulent, covered in a fresh, tangy sauce with hints of lime, tomatoes and an abundance of fresh cilantro. The seafood steamer arrived overflowing with shellfish, prawns and flaky pieces of halibut all simmered in a creamy sauce flavoured with cherry tomatoes, onions, chorizo and garlic. Two chunks of country white bread were perched on the side waiting to soak it all up. The wild coho salmon was lightly battered, accompanied by homemade coleslaw and fries cooked to crispy perfection.
One dish I wanted to try was the truffle and Parmesan fries and, as luck would have it, the couple at the next table was willing to share theirs, even though they confessed to being addicted. One bite in and I could see why. The fries were crisp and slightly salty from the cheese but also had a rich, melt-in-your-mouth flavour thanks to the truffle oil.
We washed it all down with a Vancouver Island brew, delighted to learn the batch of Island Hopper we were sipping, brewed at Nanaimo’s Longwood pub, had been made with Gabriola-grown hops.
How long will the Surf stay open? Sarah said that depends on islanders. They’re open Wednesdays to Mondays and are only planning to close at the end of September when she and Josh are getting married. “If Gabriolans want us to stay open during the winter, we’ll do our best to oblige.”
Did you know ...
... Josh’s mom makes an organic kamut flour carrot cake, available on select evenings.
... a record of ocean life spotted by pub patrons indicates porpoises, grey whales and orcas have made an appearance.