The Fat Badger, Vancouver.

May 2015

We became aware of this place eating at wonderful Espana, where we were told that Fat Badger is a new venue of talented chef Neil Taylor. It’s in the old La Gavroche converted residence on Alberni Street, well-known and sentimentally dear to us for early dates and many happy returns for anniversaries.

Completely redone inside and out, it’s pitched as a British restaurant, fair enough. There’s a big single room with a bar, and four tables outside on a front patio, a bit chilly for us on this spring evening. It’s dark but too shiny and new to get anybody into a serious British pub frame of mind.  Tables started to fill up as we left from our early dinner at around 7 PM. It is noisy but that’s certainly not unique these days. Our young lady server was knowledgeable if businesslike, but warmed up when we got into detail about the wine and food.

The menu looks appetizing and seems to change from day to day. Lots of things are deep-fried which suits me although we were told it’s done in canola oil (I’d prefer beef tallow or lard if we’re trying for jolly old authenticity). Pub snacks, starters, mains, and “puddings” each run to 4 to 6 items.

We started with the scotch egg, a softboiled number with a thickish deep-fried seasoned breadcrumb coating, really delicious with a sour sauce, then deep-fried zucchini flowers stuffed with savoury potato, also tasty and perfectly cooked, and finally trotter croquettes. These were another set of deep-fried balls with crispy coating containing absolutely captivating ground pig’s foot, with mustard mayo. So far so good.

Our mains were deep-fried squid and a lamb sausage which was the special. The deep-fried squid was very good, but having had the starters we began to sense a very mildly disconcerting similarity of flavour and preparation in what was coming at us. The lamb sausages, several of them, long and thin, were set in a pretty substantial mountain of mashed potato. In my mind I had pictured chubbier bangers oozing delicious lamby fat redolent with mint, but these merguez-format guys were a little dry, and just not as flavourful as I’d hoped. I left 75% of the mashed potato behind.

A glorious 2005 rioja was the same wine we’ve had twice at Espana, a real bargain here at $45. Final damage was $135 all in for two including a 20% tip.

So. This is a very nice place to have dinner, and might mature into a nice neighbourhood favourite especially for winter comfort although it’s well out of the tourist corridor of Denman Street. But if you’ve eaten at Espana you come laden with expectation that could shrivel some very high-class eating experiences, and Fat Badger predictably doesn’t measure up. Not quite anyway.

We’d go back, but not in a great hurry. Food 8.4, service 7.8, ambience 6.9, value 7.6.

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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