Olive and Anchor, Horseshoe Bay.

Spring, 2013

When you suffer the small catastrophe of missing a ferry to Langdale or Nanaimo you’ve got time on your hands. And if it’s lunch or dinner time, the choices are few. Anyone who’s tried the formerly reliable Troll’s recently will know an alternative is required. Olive and Anchor used to be Ya-Ya’s Oyster Bar, and is I think under new management the past couple of years. I would say it’s your best choice, and not bad at all.

The room is faux-nautical-pub, the impression is clean and tidy. It’s an Asian family business and lovely Asian and white girls and a couple of boys provide quick sensible friendly service. There is a bar in case you’re just looking for a drink as proof against the B.C. Ferries car deck.

It’s a seafood festival, and everything I’ve tried is just lovely. No haute cuisine, but honest flavours not bothering too much with health and political correctness.  Our recent choices were Ebi Mayo and Fresh Mussels, both pretty light although there are plenty of variety burgers and good-sized dinners (“entrées”). We also tried the Bombay version of baked oysters.

Ebi Mayo is such a pleasure to approach I found myself wishing it was a full main dish. It’s pretty on the plate and alive with green beans and prawns done in a very light tempura, to dip in a just slightly sweet Japanese mayonnaise sauce. Major elements are crisp and full-flavoured, and the sauce curls itself deferentially around the other gentle flavours. There’s a contrasting sour-dressed cucumber in a little dish. A bargain at $10.

The mussels are gently steamed, small, and unexpectedly rich crowded over a cream sauce with one piece of crisp buttery french bread. I asked for more bread (I was charged) because I couldn’t resist soaking up all the sauce. Quite delicious and reasonable at $14.

They do a nice job of several baked oysters, and the Bombay one is rich with South Asian smell and taste. Their raw oysters on the half shell are tiny I think kumamotos with fresh horseradish and mignonette.

The original Troll’s had held the Horseshoe Bay fort for family dinners with straight-ahead competently-prepared fish and chips for a generation and a half, but in the last 10 years or so the food has collapsed into a soggy and indifferently-dished-out disappointment.  There is little other competition. O & A is now the best missed-ferry option by a mile. 8.1

September 2015

Returning to this delightful spot almost a dozen times in the interim, it just gets better. I turn off my hearing aid when it’s crowded (which is much of the time. Even in Horseshoe Bay if you build a better mousetrap the world beats a path to your door) because it is noisy, but the food is as good as pub food gets, and the services is cheerful and unaffected.

The anchor burger is not a bad candidate for best commercial burger (although of course it would fall second to the White Spot bacon and mushroom perfect-burger). Soft bun, not-overcooked seared beef, bacon, perfectly fresh lettuce. Ask for extra mayonnaise.

If you go to this place do not miss Ebi Mayo (see above). They will give you a double order as a main if you want, and believe me it will blow your romeo slippers off. Make the score 8.4.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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