Last night was my traditional 'Beers Before Christmas' where I go drink lots of beer with good friends in a bar. Finding a place for a dozen or so people is always hard around Christmas time, so this year I used OpenTable one month in advance to book a space at the Bard and Banker.
The Bard is Robert Service, the poet of the Yukon, who worked in the Canadian Bank of Commerce that once ran out of the same building the pub is in. It's a huge sprawling place, filled with little nooks, side rooms and alcoves. Which is good for smaller groups, but larger parties tend to get crammed into spaces that they all can't quite fit and mingle around in.
Still it worked for the dozen or so of us, and one very over worked server. I ordered a pint of Innis and Gunn, which is one of my favourite beers. It oaky with a sweet malty taste that's not sickly like a Scottish Extra Special bitter. It's dry sweetness that makes it perfect with food. This was the oak aged beer. There is one rum casked version, that you can put against wine for depth and complexity of flavour, and for enhancing a meal.
I ordered the spicy tropical pizza. This is a spiced up version of a Hawaiian pizza. Well cooked, well spiced, very enjoyable. Thin crust, cooked so the cheese was melting into the crisp pork meat. Went down a treat before the real business of drinking and socializing began.
Which is did in earnest, and I got to 'visit' with a lot of good friends, new and old. And this made the whole evening very enjoyable, and the multiple pints of Innis and Gunn well received, to keep the throat lubricated for talking, you know.
The server didn't visit us quite often enough, and everyone seemed to be left looking lost when they went to pay the bill. Receipts were left, but no sign of the server for 15 minutes or so when they wanted to get going. Bit of a miss, I reckon, but they were busy on the last weekend before Christmas.
The band started, playing unnecessary covers. I don't need to hear versions of badly done Neil Diamond songs. It's not a selling point to have loud music every night, to me. There's plenty of atmosphere in a place like this without it being forced, and conversation drowned out. It just makes people stop communicating in person and more likely to do the unsociable thing of playing with their cell phones. Or distracted by the TVs showing late night poker or hockey highlights.
That's were the Bard fails for me as a place to go regularly. It's not about interactive drinking, or social chatting. It's a loud, maze of a pub with too much forced about the experience and not enough allow to build naturally.