The Crow and Gate Pub
2313 Yellow Point Road
Nanaimo District, BC
In 1972, the government of BC relaxed truly some truly Victorian liquor laws to allow neighbourhood pubs to operate for the first time in the province. The Crow and Gate made local history when it became the very first of such establishments. Jack Nash, Sussex native and the former owner, built this place as a labour of love — importing timber beams, furnishings, windows, memorabilia, and other objects to provide the raw material to build a truly authentic southern English pub. He provided a sort of template of how neighbourhood drinking holes could be built and run. Soon it became a local favourite.
Since then, however, the big factory breweries such as Molson’s and Labatt’s have managed to use their hegemony to infest just about every neighbourhood in the province with cookie cutter pubs serving their swill. Things are definitely getting better now in the urban areas with the recent ascent of modern microbreweries and “gastropubs”….but for the rest of the province, Big Brewery mediocrity still rules.
During my recent visit to the Crow and Gate, I saw a parallel universe where independent publicans are free to run their place without the strong arm of the beer oligarchy’s distribution channels. They serve imported bitters and other beers, and they make food from scratch. You will not find reheated frozen foods from such providers such as Sysco here. To wit: their Beef Dip Sandwich – which has a generous filling of tender beef freshly sliced from a primal cut of prime rib. Or their crabs cakes and oyster stews – made fresh from local seafood. Of course they also have the obligatory Steak & Kidney Pies, Scotch eggs and Melton Mowbrays.
The current owners , the Olson family, bought the place from Jack Nash about 15 years ago and have maintained it meticulously. The building is set on a picture perfect 10 acre property complete with a pond with a resident family of frolicking black swans. The backyard is a great place to sit in the sun during the summer with picnic tables and large parasols to help stave off sunburn. And the food? The food is what it is – not the self-conscious “destination restaurant” fare that it could have been (and thankfully wasn’t). It is honestly made food made with fresh ingredients and prepared with care. The Crow and Gate is worthy of a side trip if you are ever in the area. A word of warning: there is one vestige of BC’s Victorian era liquor laws you need to be aware of: minors are not allowed here at all (even outside).