Harbour House Hotel
The Harbour House hotel is also a “Restaurant and Organic Farm”. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and Chef Paul Stewart uses vegetables, fruit and herbs grown in the organic garden out back. We did not take a tour but Farm Tours are available. On day two of our Salt Spring Island visit (see day one’s dining blog) we started the day with breakfast at the hotel. The menu includes standard breakfast fare and Jeff chose the Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes and I the Garden Benedict. The caramelized onions, were great but the spinach could have been cooked a bit more as it was still crunchy. The hollandaise was good but not quite as good as my favourite (Cabin 12). The pancakes were a huge portion (could have been cut in half) but were very good and topped with an interesting orange flavoured butter. There seemed to be a good deal of serving staff but the service was not great.

Shipstones Pub and Oystercatcher Seafood Bar & Grill
We did not know what to call this place but apparently the downstairs large patio and small indoor bar area is called Shipstones and the upstairs dining room is the Oystercatcher. The menu for both is the same but we chose to sit first on the outdoor patio beside a gas lit fire pit and later in the small bar area because the live music was best seen and heard from here. The band of the night was Simone and the Soul Intentions. They were great dinner music and will be appearing on the weekends (Thurs to Sat) for the month of July.

Food and Service
The menu includes the standard pub fare but also a ‘fresh sheet’ of seafood features available for the day. Fresh and local is best so we stuck with all items from this sheet. We started with the Crab Cakes which were served on a bed of fried rice and with grilled brussel sprouts. The crab cakes had a good mixture of crab and shrimp packed with a loose consistency and were very good. The brussel sprouts were also surprisingly tasty – grilled to almost crisp on the outside, a bit caramelized but still tender in the middle. For mains we shared the Alaska King Crab and the Sablefish. The crab was another food highlight of the trip. It was a huge portion, cooked just right and pre-sliced for eating ease. The butter was seasoned with sea salt giving it a little extra zip. Yum! The Sablefish had a sake and maple syrup marinade and was grilled. While the flavours were good and the fish well cooked on the inside, the marinade was too thin to stick to the fish and the piece could have been seared better on the outside. I do have to admit that when it comes to Sablefish I am a bit spoiled as I eat it quite often and at some very good restaurants so it is hard to beat my favorites (La Rua, O’Doul’s). Both meals were served with the same brussel sprouts. The service was OK.

Wine lists and Port
We thought that the wine list at Shipstones/Oystercatcher and at the other restaurants we went to were quite strange. The Island and all of the restaurants we went to are big on local, fresh and sustainable products. All of the wine lists include selections from the local Salt Spring Winery but what is strange is that the rest of the offerings are not from BC. At Shipstones there was no other BC wine listed so we went with the 2007 Wolf Blass Cabernet Sauvignon which we have had before and enjoyed. Just something to consider Salt Spring… why not offer more BC wines in addition to your local one? There are a lot of good wines out there that will travel many less miles than from California or Australia. We also tried the Salt Spring Island Port. It was very fruity and light ad we would be more apt to call it a fruit wine than a port. Perhaps after a few years of aging. It did go well with the sundae we had for dessert.

Stay tuned for Day three – lunch at the Tree house.