Apparently the name Drake has a lot of good connotations out east. I'd only ever heard of the sub-prime rapper and Toronto Raptors super fan, but there's also an iconic hotel in TO as well. So my friends told me, and it's a brave name to put on a new place, being loaded with expectations.
Or they may just have liked the name 'Drake'. Or the owners like ducks. Or... who knows. There's not much information out there about any mission, vision or back story.
That's fine, there's no need to create a America's Got Talent back story about every new place. But for the first week of their soft opening, even finding opening times was tough. There's now info up on Twitter and Facebook. But it's pretty low key.
All you really need to know though is to go down and you'll probably find space for a drink and some food. The drink is pretty much a choice of twenty-five plus Northwest beers, on tap. A few ciders and wines, no hard liquor. No fancy tea or coffee. This is a place for beer lovers, with craft beer front and centre.
Drinks come in 16oz and 13oz glasses. The smaller glasses are for the stronger, bigger beers from places like Gigantic down in Oregon. I did ask them about the glass sizes, as the 13oz looked kinda small to me. It is the glass size, not the pour, and I can confirm via experiment it's just over 13 fluid ounces. And with the right beer, that's a fine amount to have. They are charging between $5 and $6 a beer, but this is not a place to be slamming as many Molson's as you can. Not if there exists such a place in Victoria now that Soprano's has closed.
I am a big fan of the Lagunitas NightTime Ale. A really dark beer, lots of pleasant hops and a nice dry, but malty taste. It sits well over a course of a conversation and a bite to eat. They also have beers in from the local breweries, Tofino, Vancouver, Deschutes and other big names from the brewing scene. There's plenty to sample and get stuck into a few different styles and varieties, and in calmer surroundings than the Garrick's. The Brunnette and I on our first visit really enjoyed trying some new breweries out, and different flavours from old favourites.
Service is British style. Sort of. You come in, and one of the servers on the door will let you know it's order at the bar, but they will bring out your food. You then find yourself a spot. Maybe at the bar, or the high tables in the back or in the more relaxed lounge section with deep over stuffed chairs. There's a old-time feel to the place with bare brick walls, varnished wood fittings and lettering styles. It's relaxed, but smart casual relaxed, not Big Bad John's sawdust relaxed.
You peruse a menu, then go up and give your order. You can run a tab under your name, or pay as you go. The bar staff will serve you there and then and you get to carry your glass of goodness back to your table yourself. Ah, it's just like being back home. Any spillage is your fault. Food is brought direct to the table. There can be a bit of a line for drinks at times, but I've seen nothing excessive. My Miss Manners question is, does one tip 15-20% still for bar service?
Food options are short, but cover the bases of appy/snack food. But not the normal culprits. There are awesome lentil sliders. The lovely Brunette of my Acquaintance ordered them, and made fantastic choice. Full of flavour and topped with a bit of mustard and cheese. The roasted cauliflower 'Buffalo Flowers' are a vegetarian take on chicken wings. Coated in hot sauce with a mild blue cheese dip, these are were my personal favourite. The sauce picks up the more vegetal flavour of the cauliflower and then adds some pep.
The chicken bunwich sub I had was less impressive. Chicken, with peppers and spicy mayo, cheese and a run under the grill. It's bits of chicken rather than deli meat, so there was nice chunks of meat in there, but it felt rather uninspired and a bit dull really. At $11, it's not good value to me. It's not big enough to be filling, but also not flavoured enough to complement the other things on the menu. The sliders go in the right direction. This, just didn't.
The one last oddity is the toilets. They are tiny. Like aeroplane tiny. So small, that the wash basin is outside the toilets in a little alcove that's in full view of the bar. The handicapped toilet on one side is much bigger, and if you want a bit of privacy to reapply your make up, go in there.
Over all, I cautiously like it. I'm not sold on the value for money yet, but I like the atmosphere. I like the range of beers, and the menu is worth exploring further. I don't mind the lack of table service, it allows you to drink and talk at your own pace. It feels like a good place to grab a drink a bite, rather than a full on long night out.