San Remo

2709 Quadra St  tel: 250-384-5255

An old favourite from a time in Victoria's dining history when there were very few decent restaurants to choose from. It's definitely time for an update, but the food remains tasty and family friendly.

San Remo's used to be famous for only hiring boobilicious blond and female servers. While that has seemingly come to an end, the quality of service staff remains in the ditsy category. Our server was pretty and young, but she knew nothing about the food, wine or beer and was painfully forgetful. Even the men at the table, usually easily distracted by attractive young ladies, lost their patience after Patty asked what Greek beer they had - she answered, "we have Warsteiner and Isenbeck on tap, one of them must by Greek." Of course, neither is Greek. She later made a similar mistake when my brother Hew asked for a refill on his Warsteiner and she brought him an Isenbeck. For those of you who aren't familiar with these beer - they look completely different.   She was a nice person, but the level at which she was struggling, suggested she should go back to bussing for awhile.

We ordered the 'import' house red win. For $25 a litre, I thought it was pretty good. I asked what it was, but could only get that it was Boutari - one of the biggest wine makers and distributors in Greece, so not really helpful. The wine list itself, is surprisingly good for a family restaurant. A good selection and well paired - even some interesting vintage selections.

We started with saganaki ($9.95), calamari ($9.5) and a warm olive and artichoke appetizer ($9.95). Saganaki is warm goat cheese, flambéed tableside. I love table side service and I always love the indulgence of cheese and booze mixed together. The calamari, was well portioned and served in big chunks, making me think it could have been hand-cut. It was hot and crispy, which is rarely the case when you order it in a pub. The artichoke and olive dish was ok, but I wasn't thrilled. I thought the olives at least needed to be pitted, if they were going to served hot.

For our main Patty and Krista had the 'special' braised lamb shoulder($20.95), Hew had the lamb souvlaki ($15.50) and I had Prawns San Remo ($17.95). We all enjoyed our food, but we were unanimous in agreeing that the side dishes need work. They've been the same for the twenty years I've been eating there and it's time for at least a small change. Patty and Krista enjoyed their braised lamb, but were hard-pressed to eat even half the food on their plates. A large portion of meat, served with three lemony potatoes and overcooked broccoli and carrots. The both agreed that one potato and some grilled veg would have been preferable. Hew skipped the starch and veg in favour of the Greek salad. A good call, but they forgot to dress it...oops. His souvlaki otherwise was tasty and much more tender than the fast food variety. My Prawns San Remo were a winner. Prawns baked in a tomato, wine and onion sauce. I like this dish a lot, but I would have liked a couple more prawns (there were six and I think there should be eight in an main course). It was however, served with pilaf and overcooked broccoli. It was fine, but I would have been a lot happier with something grilled.

We were all happy with the food but overwhelmingly agreed that there was room for improvement. The large serving of starch and overcooked veg is way out of style, for good reason and is easy enough to change. I like the menu, but they could thin it out and omit some of the less 'Greek' selections, opening up some room for specials and less mainstream Greek dishes. Despite that, if I'm in the mood for a hearty comfort food in an unpretentious atmosphere, San Remo is a good pick.

Reviewed September 26. 06