Brix is one of those restaurants that creates lasting memories, and not only because of its dreamy cobblestone courtyard, with draping ivy, chandeliers and candles that ooze romance. The first time I was at the restaurant was for a work Christmas dinner 14 years ago, the type of event that Brix is well-known for hosting along with wedding suppers. Our small Vancouver startup had just been purchased and the owners, who usually gifted branded company fleece sweaters or logo-adorned mugs, handed us each an envelope and asked us to open them at the same time. Inside was a ticket to Las Vegas — we were all going to celebrate!
The next time I was at George, the cocktail lounge downstairs, was for the Mixlympics — a cocktail competition that pitted local mixologists against visiting barkeeps from around the world during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. It was my first exposure to a cocktail competition (I now judge one annually) and to local mixology legends, many of whom have gone on to run businesses of their own.
Ready to create new memories, Brix Restaurant & Wine Bar in Yaletown has renovated the George space and come together as the new dining concept, Brix & Mortar.
Accessible from both 1138 Homer St. and 1137 Hamilton St., Brix & Mortar occupies 5,200 square feet with 228 seats, including 80 seats across two outdoor patios. The vibrant room and patio once home to George has been redesigned to breathe new life into the space, creating a fine-dining room to suit any occasion or appetite.
John and I were invited in earlier this month to try Executive Chef Chris Bisaro’s new Canadian menu which has subtle French, Italian and Asian influences with locally sourced ingredients. We were tempted to order the 3 course Table d’Hote menu for $42 but we decided to pick some a la carte options for our first dinner there together.
Although the friendly and attentive restaurant manager Graham (who spent quality time with each guest, not just us media folk), informed us that they have 50 wines available by the glass, we opted for cocktails, recalling our last experience in the space when it was George and wanting to try Bar Manager Chris Mosey’s latest creations.
I chose the “Thyme Gentlemen Please” with scotch, plum wine, thyme, and dark chocolate bitters. It was the first of many new memories made that night. The second was the Lamb Bacon Salad.
Picture crisp radishes, pears, greens and endives deliciously drizzled with bourbon vinaigrette and topped with gouda and smokey, candied, tender lamb bacon spears. My jaw would have hit the table in awe if it wasn’t so busy trying to help me savour every bite.
For the main course, I chose the sablefish. I was craving fish, but in hindsight I would have gone with the crusted pork chop with purple cabbage that John had. However, the sablefish was divine, really. Served bone-in (thanks to our server for the heads up), the soft and supple white fish it melted on my tongue. The only issue I had with this dish was the kimchi. It did work, but there was just a lot of it and it really overpowered the sablefish on my plate, and palate.
A large group enjoyed formal dinner at the table behind us, and co-workers slid into booths beside us for after work refreshments. Everyone fit in and looked to be having a great time no matter their scenario or whether they ordered shared plates or multi-course meals.
Talking with owner Patrick Mercer, he said that this side of Brix & Mortar is meant to be more approachable but still have the quality you look for in a their iconic Yaletown restaurant. Yaletowners have grown up, going from 20-somethings at startups to 30 and 40-somethings owning their own businesses and raising families in the area.
Mortar is for them (and everyone else is welcome of course) so that they can have that nice, affordable dinner out and enjoy thoughtfully prepared bites and delicious cocktails in their classic neighbourhood. You can still absolutely book your wedding dinner or work holiday party at Brix but Mortar seems like a place I’ll visit more often – and that cocktail and lamb bacon salad alone are definitely calling me back.
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