Review by Ann Thurlow
Yes, you might be saying (if you read the article about Terre Rouge), but what happened to John Pritchard? He went to Upstreet Brewery, that’s what. And now, along with your craft beer, you get tapas to whet your appetite for more beer or, in my case, even more delicious food.
Traditionally, tapas are offered in bars in Spain to encourage customers to order more drinks. They are always savoury, often satisfyingly salty. It’s old hat in Spain, but a new, hot idea in Canada.
And, as usual, when faced with a new idea, Pritchard does not disappoint. His flavours are rich and inventive and are much more than you’d ever expect from the humble ingredients. Don’t believe me? Order a pickled egg. That sad denizen of old fashioned bars turns into something magical in Pritchard’s hands: a lightly pickled eggs, with what he calls Seoul-town mayonnaise and a little Maldon salt, which adds an addictive crunch. There are two eggs in every order—I could go all Cool Hand Luke and eat a dozen of them.
In theory, these tapas are for sharing. It’s easier to do with the crispy squid rings, where there are lots of them, than it is with the beer-poached potatoes with bacon and blue cheese. These little bites are just too delicious to pass around. And I managed to snag one ham and cheese croquettes from my friend’s plate but got the “oh, you think so?” look when I tried for another.
There are dips: cod brandade, which is whipped cod, cream and olive oil, served with red pepper and bread or melty goat cheese with tomato sauce. These are perfect with beer; the maltiness enhances the already great flavours.
There are currently twenty-one items on the menu and it’s not hard to imagine making a meal of them. There’s a smoked haddock stew with kimchi (which I have not tried) and sandwiches. My friends had a Cubano and a Reuben and said both were delicious.
For the less adventurous, there are familiar things: hummus, house-cured charcuterie (big plate of meat), mussels and the ubiquitous grilled cheese.
Here’s how it works: you pick up a menu on the table, you order your food and your beer at the bar. A little while later, someone will bring your food. It’s not a restaurant, per se, so don’t go expecting restaurant service. And it’s a bar—so don’t go expecting an intimate tete a tete, either.
The best thing is to take a bunch of friends, order a lot, and be prepared to be impressed, yet again, by John Pritchard and the evolving delight that is Upstreet.
Upstreet Craft Brewing is at 41 Allen St. Charlottetown. Tapas are available Tuesday to Saturday, 4 to 10 pm.