Friday, October 2, 2009

Smith's Pub | 777 Courtney Street | 250.360.2544 |

Smith Burger
(add $1.50 for cheese)

The tag-line on the Smith's Pub website reads "Pub classics made in house with a foreign service twist". Translation: "We've got booths with a Union Jack weaved into the upholstery, and we serve fish and chips." The claim of "Great British Food" may be an oxymoron (this is a nation that considers mushy pees an essential side dish) but thankfully I was here for that pinnacle of American cuisine: the cheeseburger.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) Smith's doesn't offer any sort of crazy Brit-style topping options—like say black pudding—but they keep the British theme going by at least making cheddar the default cheese option. The Brit motif (at least burger-wise) seems to end with the cheddar though, as the burger is housed with a foccacia bun. Surprisingly the bun actually balances fairly well with the excellent grainy mustard mayo and the flame grilled patty.

The burger patty itself is of medium quality at best (judging by taste I would say it's no better than AA) but flame-grilling and good seasoning saves it from being a total disappointment. This could probably be a very well balanced, decent tasting burger, if the patty was slightly thinner and more house mayo was used. Also, not that there's anything wrong with Alberta beef (or whatever it is Smith's uses) but if they really are serious about committing to the whole "British Pub" thing—they should probably be using the same Hereford Beef that the Pink Bicycle uses (from Springford Farm in Nanoose Bay).

I've heard lots of people sing the praises of the Smith Burger, but it feels like a lot of style over substance to me.

VERDICT: Smith's at least remains authentic in the sense that it does little to dispel the myth that British people can't make a standout burger.


Trevor G. said...

I've never had their 'full-size' burgers, but their mini burgers on Fridays were tasty. The lamb minis with the tomato relish/chutney were very good. In regards to the foccaccia bun, I always wonder why places that serve burgers always try to put their patty on some fancy-ass bun. Why can't they just adopt a nice, squishy number that makes a hamburger feel like a hamburger, not some hoity-toity reach-for-the-sky ordeal?

Trevor G. said...

Also, have you ever had a burger on a pretzel bun? I had never heard of them until AHT, but I imagine they would be a great bun for a juicy burger. Oh, and the patty from Smith's looks pretty big. Is it typical pub style in terms of size?

dk said...

haven't tried a pretzel bun, and I've never encountered a place in Victoria that offers one

size of the Smith Burger is definitely standard pub size

charcuterie said...

I had burgers both in Simths and Pink Bicycle. And I believe that because pink bike is a burger joint they should have the best offering but they only go as far as having better fries and bun than Smith's. The patty is equally good or bad and smiths at least offers a better beer offer to wash it down!! You should go back and check pink bike again and let me know what you think. I'm still waiting for a opportunity to go to Laurel Point.

Paul Kilgour said...

Are you having a competition to see how many times you can critisise the Brits in one post? Coming from a nation whose national dishes are meat loaf, and Mac & cheese, that's pretty rich!

Trevor G. said...

@Paul Kilgour;
I think you're confusing a competition with an opinion (regarding the Brit thing). You can't really have a competition if only one person is involved. As for a canadian national dish, we don't really have a definitive one. Mac and cheese is eaten in many countries; as is meatloaf. If you had to choose though, maybe it would be butter tarts, tourtieres, or poutine? If only we could claim the hamburger as our national dish...

dk said...

I thought the mushy peas thing was mostly just a bit of gentle ribbing. Honestly though, Britain is pretty far down the list when it comes to culinary nations. Mostly with this review the criticism brit-food wise was trying to get at the fact that Smith's pretty much only offers Fish and Chips when it comes to trad brit-fare (no black pudding or toad-in-the-hole and, correct me if I'm wrong, no dessert menu with trifle!).

As for Canada, we definitely can't claim meatloaf. If you trace meatloaf back to its roots I'm sure you'll find Germany, and maybe even America before Canada gets a mention.

As for patty comparisons between Smiths/Pink Bike... yah Pink Bike is pretty inconsistent in terms of how they cook their patties, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say the actual beef is of significantly greater quality than what is being used at Smith's. Comparing the two might not be fare seeing as they are two very different places, but I was trying to get at the fact that if you want to carry on the sort-of upscale British thing, why not offer a British breed of beef that is being supplied by an island farm.

dk said...


Planman said...

The Smith's burger definitely used to be better...they kept messing with the bun, and I don't think I've tried this latest one. When they used a Kaiser, it was wicked!

The Dissenter said...

The Smith's burger used to be phenomenal when they first opened. I remember they had caramelized onions on it and a better bun. It was the best. Still, I think it's current incarnation is far better than many of the burger's the blog author has reviewed in a more positive light.

For instance, I made a special point to go to the Loghouse Pub for their burger afer reading this blog. After eating it I thought, sure the burger patty is big and the toppings are fresh but really, its just a mass of meat and veggies between two buns.... I could make this at home.

Personally, I prefer a gourmet burger that reflects a concerted effort to get the perfect flavour combination down just right by design - not just the usual mess of meat, tomato, bun. Is it not the sum of the parts in the end that counts the most? The proper combination of flavours (spice, seasoning, cook job)? To focus too much on one part is to miss the forest for the trees.

Sorry to disagree but sometimes less is more.

dk said...


I haven't been to Loghouse in nearly a year, and I know they have changed the menu a little since I was last year. I really hope they haven't regressed since my last trip (I suppose it is also possible that this review skewed positive because it was an early review as well).

I agree that success hinges on the proper balance of flavours and textures, and I don't think Smiths has that.

Do you have a favourite Victoria burger, or burger in general? Please don't say Fifth Street.

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Jason F said...

Hey guys

Go back and check out the burger at smiths - they made a couple of changes in the last two years and i think its the best in the city. Better bun, Slater's beef (grass fed free range etc etc) and caramelized onions. Most other burgers don't season the beef at all, smiths does and its great.