Walking towards the Satellite Fish Company and the Pier Bistro Restaurant on the Sidney Pier. Don Denton photography

Savouring Sidney’s Restaurants and Markets

Dining out or shopping for the food fan in this Vancouver Island seaside town

  • Sep. 7, 2018 12:10 p.m.

Sidney by the Sea is a picture postcard come to life, but for foodies like me, it’s far more.

I discovered Sidney a decade ago, not long after moving to Vancouver Island, and as one of those individuals who takes food very seriously, I was amazed by the eclectic dining choices available in what is a relatively small community

Some of those choices, I found, were offered in the least likely looking restaurants. The Pier Bistro is a classic example.

It’s a small, wood-clad building that’s perched at the end of the pier at the end of Beacon Avenue. The structure and its location have a sort of touristy feel and I initially assumed it was just another tourist town fish and chip shop. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The restaurant uses locally sourced, fresh ingredients and its menu transcends the ordinary with offerings like an award-winning clam chowder and a version of crab cakes that caused me to instantly forget all other crab cakes I’d ever been served. The texture was perfect, the seasoning exotic and the flavours simultaneously subtle and extraordinary.

But it was the dinner entrées that really captured my imagination. There, in this rustic little building, balanced on piles at the end of a wharf, I tried the lemon butter basted halibut topped with an orange and dragonfruit gastrique. My partner had the grilled halibut topped with a chipotle aioli — and we were ecstatic. The food was pure artistry, as appealing to the eye as it was to the taste buds.

But the Bistro is not unique. I’ve found a host of restaurants in this tiny hamlet that have inspired me to come back time and time again.

The Sabhai Thai restaurant, for example, is operated by the Sirimalalak family, who prepare every dish from scratch using only fresh ingredients combined in accordance with traditional family recipes.

Maria’s Souvlaki Greek Restaurant is another surprise. Its quaint sidewalk seating is reminiscent of European cafés and the lamb souvlaki is consistently mouthwatering. It’s tender and tasty with a sauce that, while a bit messy, is worth every bit of the effort.

Bistro Suisse is yet another surprise. While Swiss cuisine might not have the world-wide recognition of some other ethnic foods, we tried the wine and cheese fondue and were blown away by the burst of flavour.

The same quality of food can be found in a host of other Sidney eating places, many serving stunning dishes in a wide range of ethnic styles and flavours.

But, like many foodies, as much as I enjoy dining out, there are times when I can only capture the flavours I crave by personally preparing a meal for myself or friends. When the urge to prepare something special wins out, Sidney is still the place to go. That’s because, beyond its stunning range of fabulous restaurant fare, Sidney offers lovers of good food an amazing array of ingredients for top-notch home cooking.

Ken Norbury shows off fresh crab and rock fish at his Satellite Fish Company shop. Don Denton photography.

The first stop has got to be a visit to Ken Norbury and the Satellite Fish Company.

Located on the same pier as the Pier Bistro, Ken’s store is a no-frills storefront, where he and his staff expertly clean and filet freshly caught fish right on the spot. I stood, amazed, as Ken wielded his razor-sharp knife like a surgeon, all the while discussing current events, the weather or the quality of the day’s catch with a collection of customers.

Need some freshly baked bread? Go to the Sidney Bakery. You’ll recognize it by the long lines of customers, all there for the latest and freshest baked creations. The lines can be long, but the baked goods are worth the wait.

Just outside town, there’s another unique source of cooking ingredients at Urban Bee Honey Farm. That’s where Lindsay and Jason Dault have perfected the production of artisan honey in ways the uninitiated might find startling.

In addition to offering a seemingly endless variety of yard-honey, the Daults have developed infused honeys that provide the true foodie with some exciting cooking options.

There’s a honey infused with the heat of locally grown habanero peppers, perfect for pairing with cheeses, ice cream or a simply amazing stir-fry. A whiskey-infused honey is on offer as well, prepared by aging the product in retired whiskey barrels. It’s amazing as a marinade, and a favourite of Lindsay’s male clients.

Speaking of marinades, there’s a smoked honey which we discovered adds a unique, delicate flavour to salmon or ribs.

Jason and Lindsay Dault use a smoker to calm their bees while checking hives on their Urban Bee Honey Farm property. Don Denton photography.

Leaving the Honey Farm and travelling down the road (dotted with signs offering fresh duck eggs, free-range chickens and pigs raised on whiskey mash) one finds the rustic little grocery Deep Cove Market.

The market is unlike anything you’ll find outside a large urban centre, and owner Rosemary Scott beams as she speaks about how she attends food shows around the country to bring specialty products to the Peninsula.

She carries an astounding collection of cheeses (many locally sourced), as well as exotic teas, natural fruit jellies and even creme brûlée almonds. Rosemary augments the specialty items with a fresh assortment of locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables and locally made sausages and other meat selections.

It’s a perfect spot to browse the wide selection of cookbooks or simply grab a great cup of coffee and chat with neighbours at one of the rough-hewn tables.

As it turns out, whether you’re the sort of foodie who is searching for a new dining-out experience or on a quest for unique ingredients for your own culinary experimentation, Sidney by the Sea is the place to go.

-Story by Tim Collins

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

British ColumbiaDiningeating outFoodmarketPearl MagazinerestaurantSeafoodSidneySidney, BCtravelVacationvancouverisland

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

EDITORIAL: Editor bids farewell

Editor Paige Mueller will be leaving The Free Press team at the end of July

Aislinn Dressler competes in 2020 Youth Innovation Showcase

Dressler was a finalist at the showcase, exhibiting her energy efficient fridge design

Stories decorate city pathways for new reading initiative

The Fernie Women’s Resource Centre began the initiative in support of the local early years community

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

Metal detector rings true for Cranbrook couple

A Cranbrook couple went looking for a missing ring after reading a plea on Facebook

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Plane crashes into Nelson supermarket parking lot

Pilot and passenger have minor injuries

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

Most Read