I finally ended up at the Bard and Banker after having meant to go there for ages. I was at a municipal election fundraiser at the pub last night which featured free booze and appies for the people attending.
The location at Fort and Government is not one that is at all convenient for me, this is one of the few parts of town I almost never go to. Consequently I have never been to the pub and rarely go to the Irish Times which is a block north on Government.
The fundraiser gave me a chance to try numerous appies prepared by the pub and a chance to really test drive how they do food.
They had small deep fried fish bits which were very good and I had trouble stopping eating them. They were nicely battered and then deep fried. The presentation was a bit clunky, they just piled them on a platter around a bowl with dip in the centre, but I can forgive that when the flavour is good.
They had cold cooked shrimp with a shrimp cocktail sauce - boring, bland and predictable, the shrimp was also over cooked and tough. Shrimp can be served in so many interesting ways and can taste out of this world, but when it is done so ala 1975 and even then badly it just makes me sad. I have not idea who came up with this idea or why they thought it made any sense. We have amazing local shrimp, but the ones they served looked like they were the types that come frozen and pre-cooked.
There were generic plates of veggies and dip, clearly nothing local and really just looked like the sort of party platter you could buy at an grocery store. These plates said to me there is zero attention to detail or to excellence in the food. Local food is such a big thing at the moment and not to use it for this local election fundraiser was clearly an error. The pub could have highlighted where the food came from.
There were small pizzas with a nice thin cracker like crust. They were not too bad, but not something that would make me want to back and eat more of it. It was also somewhat big and clunky as an appie, ideally they should be one bite that you can eat with your fingers while holding a drinking. Drooping pizza does not really meet the requirements.
There were also some small crab cakes with an aioli on it. This looked like the only appie on offer that took some skill and finesse. They were not bad, but they were not good. They were ultimately a bit bland. The aioli could have been Hellman's mayonnaise for all the flavour it had. The crab cakes themselves had a nice texture but nothing going on with the flavour, it was that I was missing some subtle flavours, they were simply bland.
It looked like the food had been over ordered for the event and plates of food were building up as people did not eat it fast enough. The staff should have been clearing them because there was a lot of food out that was no longer warm. The pizza and crab cakes really suffered when they got cold. It did no favours to the event or to the pub to have food that has lost its good qualities still available for people to try.
Thinking back to it now, I have to say that I am stunned that they would offer veggie plates like one I would expect to see at an elementary school pot luck. There was no attempt to even do something interesting in cutting up the veggies and even the pieces were not consistent in size. We have a region in the middle of the harvest and all that was on the plate were generic veggies from Sysco.
I am amazed that the shrimp was allowed to leave the kitchen if it was so over cooked as to rubbery. The rubber shrimp and the veggie plate says to me there is no passion in the kitchen and no attention to detail. The food reminded of that long term attitude in restaurants in this city that has only begun to change in the last few years, an attitude of "this is good enough not to be awful". I had hoped for more from the Bard and Banker because of the attention to the detail in the decor.
The look and feel of the interior of the pub is amazing, I really like the styling and the attention to detail. They have done better with the Bard and Banker than with the Irish Times. But at the end of the day if the energy goes into the looks and not into food there is something not right with the management. The difference the time and cost between generically bland food and good food is minimal, certainly at the price point the pub is charging for food there is no reason they should not be striving for excellence.
Based on the food, I am unlikely to ever choose to go to the pub as a place to eat, I am likely to go there for drinks if someone else suggests it but it is not going to be coming from me.