Monday, June 3, 2013

What not to get at Lion's Pub

Lions Pub on UrbanspoonVegetarian? Don't order any food here.

Just last Friday I was down at Lion's Pub with some Friday night pub-goers. It was a social thing. But I spotted a couple of interesting things on the menu and figured I'd have dinner there.

On Friday nights -- even as early as 5pm -- you can expect the place to be pretty packed. Our get-together was scheduled for 5.30pm and it was swarming with the Convention Centre crowd. And when it's packed like that, it gets hard to flag down a waitress. Really hard. They are not deliberately ignoring you, though: There's no head-down / eyes averted technique going on here. They are just busy. And if you are sitting at a table against the wall, try not to be trapped inside (or get someone on the outer edge catch a waitress for you).

It's an English style pub, apparently, and the one person who ordered their fish and chips was very impressed by the two well-battered pieces he got. I was more curious about the weirder things on the menu: Spicy Nuts and their "Craft Made" veggie burger.

TCC Spicy Nuts ($6) Special blend made in-house daily
  • For $6 I got a heaping bowl of crushed cashew nuts. Not a whole nut or half nut to be seen.
  • These turned out NOT spicy at all. There was some sort of occasionally slightly sweet coating and a faint taste of curry. Most of the time the nuts tasted like just cashew nuts. Everyone at our table tried it. Not spicy. Someone even complained that they were too soft.
  • TCC means (presumably) Terminal City Club. The waitress said the nuts were "made upstairs" and for that reason she was not able to return it to the kitchen to ask them to spice it up more. In the end, she offered to take them back. I hesitated -- I almost never send back food -- but since I did first offer to accept them if the kitchen could throw some more spice on them, I let it go this time. It didn't show up on the bill at all and I hope she didn't get charged for them at the end of the day.
  • The waitress said that the kitchen had just changed the recipe, so if you order it, your experience could be very different from mine. I recommend you ask the waitress about it first, and if she doesn't know what the kitchen upstairs has done to the Spicy Nuts recently, maybe ask to get a tiny sample. $6 is steep to pay for boring nuts. A half pound of  whole cashews at a downtown outlet like Ayoubs is only around $5. For $6 at the Lion's Pub you get crushed (bottom-of-the-bag leftover nut bits?) cashews cooked in a way that doesn't enhance their flavour.
Veggie Burger ($16) House made black bean & lentil burger with hummus & sauteed mushroom; served on a freshly baked sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion, cheddar cheese, chef's signature sauce, & pickle spear
  • Normally if the restaurant is suddenly super-busy I might let kitchen mistakes go. But Lion's Pub has been at it's location for a while and is used to weekend crowds. There's little excuse for not properly staffing when you know the ebb and flow of clients. On top of this, the Terminal City Club has two restaurants (not including the Lions Pub), a wine bar, and they do catering. There is really no excuse for not pumping out quality food no matter the time of day. This said, your order of a veggie burger may be better prepared during off-peak periods.
  • The description of the burger sounded pretty decent, but what came to the table was nothing like what I expected. First, the bun: It looked like a small whole wheat bun. Didn't look baked in-house at all. Since it wasn't even warm, it was nowhere "freshly baked" either. Not a huge dealbreaker, though.
  • The "burger" was pretty big compared to the bun. It was a sort of sprawling splat of beans, seared to a crispy black. No real shape to it at all, so I suspected that they scoop it out and smash it flat. Tasted like lentils, and maybe a slight dusting of curry. It was bland and crumbly. Big portion of burger, but rather tasteless.
  • No sign of hummus. No sign of "signature sauce". There was some sort of yellow sauce in there but not much and sucked up by the bun. Couldn't isolate the taste of it. Maybe it was just butter. Hard to say.
  • I don't remember any cheddar. And there was no sign of mushrooms. I distinctly remember asking for mushrooms to make sure I got some. However, I was stuck in the wall end of the long table and had to shout my order at the server so she could hear me over the din of the packed room; so maybe she thought I wanted to hold the mushrooms.
  • Came with a side of hot fries. At least the fries were fresh and decently golden-brown and crispy.
  • $16 for a bland burger is a painful price to pay. A gourmet burger at Romer's Burger Bar in Yaletown only weighs in at $10-$13 (but no side of fries), so this burger (and quite possibly all their $16 "Craft Made" burgers) is way overpriced.
  • No, I didn't send it back. It was hard enough getting the waitress's attention just to order the burger, and later to get the bill.
Closer to 7pm, they turned on the music. The place was quieting down a bit, but still noisy from the loud conversations of people trying to be heard by their companions across the table. Then they turn on the music. Swell. Why do pubs do that?

Service was calm, patient, and polite despite how busy the pub was, and that was good. No forgotten orders or orders brought to the wrong table (not our table, anyway).

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