portside pub media event
Janice of Good Eat was kind enough to ask me to accompany her to the media launch of Portside, a brand-new pub steps away from Gastown’s Maple Tree Square. I’d heard the buzz around this new venture by Mark Brand of Boneta, Sharks & Hammers, and of course, the renowned Diamond, so of course I was interested to see if he’d bring the goods.
Portside occupies the former Post Modern nightclub space, and it’s easy to see its nightclub roots despite the fact that I never visited Post Modern while it was there. Apparently, Portside kept the three-level layout of the nightclub, and it shows in the presence of both an upper and a lower bar, as well as a dance floor/stage and a floorplan not really conducive to lots of seating.
Portside attempts to convey a nautical vibe. I wouldn’t call it a nautical “theme” — the bartenders aren’t dressed up as pirates or sailors; there aren’t any signal flags on the walls (that I saw). Rather, the sea-inspired design choices are showcased through the materials, some small props, and to some degree by the layout of the space, being somewhat reminiscent of a ship’s deck, with the double side staircases leading to a lower level. The exposed ceiling beams and abundance of wood give the impression of being belowdecks on an old sailing ship.
A little more of the nautical inspired design. Another thing I noticed — lots of Jameson here. There’s a Jameson-branded bathtub suspended from the ceiling with taps attached to it. Whisky taps? I didn’t get a chance to see, but that would be interesting.
The food at Portside, at least for the night, came from three street stall-like booths dispensing dim sum, sandwiches, and hot dogs. I didn’t see any sandwiches that night, but I did sample a few bites of their dim sum, and saw some hot dogs going around. They also have pork rinds, although I don’t know which of the three “themes” they’d fall under.
This is the first time I’ve tried Grimbergen. Janice recommended it to me, and although I’m not usually a fan of Belgian beers, this one was very good and not as heavy as some (Fin du Monde) that I found too heavy, almost cloying, for my tastes. There’s no doubt that this dubbel has the signature sweetness characteristic of the style, but it leans to dark fruit rather than banana. The colour is also really nice.
I decided to go back to a style that’s more my cup of
tea beer with the Deschutes Chainbreaker. A “white IPA”, it’s a hybrid between an IPA and a wheat beer. I can see this beer being very sessionable; it’s bitter without being shockingly so, and has an incredibly bright flavour. It was a great zippy, refreshing brew after downing the Grimbergen (in its massive 500mL+ goblet).
Now, I still have some questions about Portside. Is it a pub, or a nightclub? Are there going to be more tables during normal operating hours? Is there going to be live music on a regular basis? Are both bars going to be in use in off-peak hours? How about those food counters; are they going to be able to deal with volume and actual orders rather than roaming hors d’ouvres service? All these questions should be answered in short order, or with another visit. Here’s hoping Portside is as successful as Brand’s other establishments.