The Penny Farthing Pub

2228 Oak Bay Ave.  (250) 370-9008  

Review Update

By Hew Padmore, April 17,2006

A pub should be able to make a sandwich.  In fact anything described as a restaurant should be able to make a sandwich.  Nevertheless,  I am often disappointed.

A sandwich should have good bread or bun.  Not stale.  Not burnt.  The filling should not be in a state of age induced by  degradation.  The filling should also be tasty and the amount adequate as to be experienced in every bite.  That’s about it.

Most places fall short on the bread, but the Penny Farthing does much better than average.  I have only endured one stale ciabatta bun, out of at least ten sandwiches.  The sourdough type baguette they use for their beef dip is nice too.  Soft yet chewy, enough to hold up in the au jus.  The filling quantity is usually adequate, but occasionally skimpy. I can tolerate a few bread bites if they’re not chokingly dry.

My most recent experience was different than usual.

The service started out a bit rocky.  No menus; we asked the waitress for menus when we placed the drink order - drinks arrive without menus; bartender brings the menus, waitress arrives to take order ten seconds later.  My wife, Krista, ordered a bowl of soup and a ploughman’s board and I ordered the beef baguette. Considering nothing we ordered required actual cooking, I wasn’t impressed with the 30+ minutes it took for the food to arrive.  Our waitress commented on how busy the kitchen was, but there was no evidence of that.  As far as I could see, only four other plates came out within an hour of ours.  It is possible the kitchen was short staffed, or had been slammed earlier , or some cooks were on a smoke break...

Anyway, we were happy when the food came.  I bolted back almost half my sandwich before I realized one of the two fillings was absent. The signature aspect of this sandwich is “melted onions.” There was beef on the sandwich, but no onions.  The baguette is good, but the onions are the reason I’ve ordered this dish more than once.  I informed our waitress.  She wasn't very apologetic, but after a few awkward moments she offered to go get me a side of the onions.  She promptly delivered the onions and I set about reassembling my sandwich.  That’s when I noticed the onions were cold.  I don’t mean tepid or room temperature, I mean icy fridge cold.  Even the little dish was getting cold from the onions.  I don’t care if they want to cook those onions six hours before, but a hot sandwich needs at least room temperature ingredients.  I prefer hot. And frigid, jelly-like, caramelized onions are especially unpalatable.

But I had a plan!  I would immerse and warm the onions in my now tepid au jus.

That’s when I noticed the “chef’s surprise”, special for me.  A blackened chunk of grill scraping and chunk of old French fry underneath.

I didn’t feel the kitchen handled the situation well.  Considering they left out half the ingredients in the sandwich and they took ten times too long to make it. Something akin to compensation would have been more appropriate than what came across as, “fuck you, next time you complain you’ll get worse”.

I was too tired to complain any more that night.

My wife likes the Farthing despite their shortcomings, so I’m sure we’ll be back.

I hope I don’t need anything fixed by the kitchen.

Reviewed: November 3, 2005

The Penny Farthing Pub is very close to my house and I go there often. Surprisingly, I have never written a review about it. Patty and I have a policy of "don't shit where you sleep" on a couple of our most regular restaurants, but the "Farthing" isn't one of them.

So why is it then? My only explanation is that I have such generic experiences at the Farthing that I never have anything clever to say (gawd forbid I don't have anything clever to say!).

I suppose however, that a generic experience isn't a bad thing in a local pub. The service, albeit painfully slow at time is always extremely friendly and familiar. The ambiance is pleasant, comfortable and exactly what you would look for in a 'pub.' The food is excellent for pub food in Victoria, my mussels tonight were lovely, plump and seemingly very fresh; but all the food is disturbingly expensive ($13 for a half pound of mussels and bread). The beer and whiskey selection is very good and the wine is passable, but again the price of pints ($6-7) can frighten you into an early grave.

I get irritated because I think the Farthing has been cunningly designed to trick me into liking it and accepting the prices. So clever of them - to design a convenience. The same way I get manipulated into buying gas at the closest, not the best value gas station is the same way I get manipulated into eating and drinking at the Farthing. There is nothing wrong with convenience, but it does kind of piss me off at the end of the night and I get the bill and realise how much I'm paying for my complacency.

So, next time you're in Oak Bay go to the Penny Farthing, it's a nice pub, but it's kinda like buying your groceries at 7-11.

 Reviewed: November 3, 2005