It has been a while since we tried a new brew pub in the city of Victoria – Our fair city has, perhaps, more than its share of good brew pubs; the likes of Canoe, Spinnakers (one of North Americas first brew pubs) and Swan’s comes to mind – all good in their own right – most of whom that have had food offerings that have varied wildly over the years – nowadays they are all pretty passable.
We popped into the Moon Under Water Pub on a very, very, very quiet Sunday afternoon – I think there were 3 parties of 3 folks each finishing up their late lunches and since we were coming in 2:20ish, we were guaranteed a buffet selection of seating options. One of the owner-partners came out to greet us with an overview of what was happening or not happening on their menu that day.
The Moon Under the Water pub is more like a traditional English public house than your typical table service joint downtown – My personal Island favorite, The Crow and Gate, south of Cedar, British Columbia (near Nanaimo) is like this; show up, walk up to the counter/bar, place your drink order and food order, maybe run a tab if you are inclined and take a number to your table. I am used to it – not everyone else would be… but it is fairly clear on the door and on the menu that this is the way that it is. All good.
One of the benefits for me of this concept is that you can talk to the beer keep or host directly about the specialties of the day or something about the beers without having to break the rhythm of the serving person who brings out your grub – although they could be the same person. I personally like the relaxed feeling of running a tab and/or paying for your food ahead of time and only having to worry about a gratuity after the meal is complete.
The Beer Needless to say, with Andrea and My sister Lisa along for this exploration, we were going to try all of the beer offerings (in a responsible fashion of course…) – harder to do when there is only 2 of you. We tried the Blond Ale, the Best Bitter, the IPA and the limited edition Brown Ale.
The Blond is a American style wheat beer with 10% wheat malt. Very crisp without being overarching in the citrus department. Sometimes the Ales can have too much grapefruit and come off a tad puckery (not a skilled beer reviewer folks – just relying on my senses from coffee tasting.)
The IPA was very, very drinkable – delicately balanced. Not to hoppy or aggressively in your face like a lot of other locally produced IPA’s.
I enjoyed the Best Bitter – crisp and balanced with a slightly lower alcohol/volume content than the IPA.
Finally, I shared the limited edition Brown Ale with the table. More complex sugars were present but like the other offerings, they tend towards the conservative end of the beer flavor spectrum for being “more drinkable and less quirky and strong flavors.”
I think as Moon Under the Water brewpub finds their legs, the beer will get more interesting and mature – but for now, I give them top marks. I would much rather drink a polite Bitter than wrestle with a raspberry espresso stout with an oil drum of attitude — especially on a first visit.
The Food – OK. Here is the thing about brew grub. One of my litmus tests for a kitchen is: If you have onion rings on the menu as a starter and they are reasonably priced (between 4 and 7$) and they come from CostCo, trust me folks, I am shooting you down! Joyfully, the bar keep advised me that their rings are hand cut, coated and dipped in house. They are at the higher end of the price point, yes – but so what. They were fabulous, fresh, crispy, hot and a tad oily – served with a paprika aioli.
So you know: An onion ring is perfect (this is the test part), when you break them in two and the coating and the onion breaks at the same time. And when you bite into the perfect onion ring, a piece of onion and breading (coating) comes off in your mouth. Unlike most other places in Victoria (contradict me all your want) where the onion rings come directly from CostCo, Walmart or Thrifty Foods. Selling commercially made previously frozen onion rings in a pub, any pub… is a sin.
The rings at the Moon Under Water Pub on Bay street were worthy of a return visit – if only for the onion rings and some more beer. Enough said.
Andrea and Lisa had “Moon” burgers several different ways with different sides. The burgers were considered “very good” and repeatable – each one came with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and cheddar cheese (as an add on). Lisa had the mixed salad (very nice and fresh) and Andrea had the fries, thin cut and likely made in-kitchen.
I had the Steak Mushroom Beer pie in puff pastry with the side mix salad.
For those most familiar with the traditional steak and mushroom pie (more mushrooms, less steak), this was the opposite; chunks of lean steak that you actually had to cut up with a knife – and overall, melt in your mouth.
The Pub – Moon Under Water is at 350B Bay Street just before the Bay Street bridge on the Victoria side. It’s in an industrial neighborhood where you would not expect to find a pub. Lots of free parking and overnight parking for those having a really good time. The interior, high ceilings and lots of art, is pleasant and welcoming. The pub has several “snugs” or alcoves for more private gatherings – and a games room. In the main room there are no TV’s that I could see (thank goodness!)
It is an unassuming space – does not bug me at all – and any reviewers that would find fault with this are not actually food reviewers, they are self acknowledged interior designers… obviously.
The staff are very, very friendly, informed and informative about the menu and the beer.
Going back? Definitely!
Colin Newell lives and works in Victoria B.C. Canada – edits a very old coffee website and writes for EAT Magazine.