There’s something magical about ambling past a busy restaurant at night – the dark street a perfect contrast to the glowing, bustling atmosphere, and you, the unseen voyeur peering into a private world. TASTE MAG cordially invites you to join the festivities with our TOP SHELF features.
Heron Rock Bistro is a Victoria staple. And for TASTE MAG’s inaugural TOP SHELF, we couldn’t have picked a better establishment to spotlight. Tucked away in the heart of picturesque James Bay, this little bistro has been serving gorgeous food and pouring top quality drinks for almost a decade. We sat down with proprietor Andrew Moffatt for a chat.
TASTE MAG: I hear you’ve got some exciting things happening, tell me about them!
ANDREW MOFFATT: “Well, we’ve had quite a busy season so far! We’ve just completed a major renovation to the front of house and it looks awesome. Plus we added six more taps to the bar so we now have nine local craft beers to offer. It’s perfect timing because we’ve just introduced Happy Hour at the Heron Rock every night from 8pm-close – we’ve already been so busy! On top of all that, we’re celebrating our ten year anniversary of being in business in May!”
TM: What makes Heron Rock Bistro so unique?
AM: “We’re so proud to say that after ten years of being in business, we’re still serving quality breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Sure, we’ve changed the menu through the years as we’ve evolved, using amazing, locally sourced products – but to be able to say that after a decade, we’re still successfully doing the same thing as day one, is pretty unique.”
TM: Your Snapper and Bacon Po’ Boy sounds dangerous! If you had to choose, which menu item would be your favourite?
AM: “Good choice! The Snapper and Bacon Po'Boy is so popular! But to kick it up to the next level, you’ve gotta have a side of our homemade chokeslam hot sauce with it. If you were visiting Heron Rock for the first time I’d have to recommend the Croque Madame though. With a side of our house cut kennebec fries, it's a winner, a knife a forker, rich and always satisfying.”
TM: What charities do you support?
AM: “The organization that we've been working to promote and support the last five years is the Together Against Poverty Society of Victoria (T.A.P.S). It’s an organization that provides free face-to-face legal advocacy for people with income assistance, disability benefits and tenancy issues.”
TM: Why is T.A.P.S important to you?
“We’re true Victorians so to us, the most important thing is to make sure every person in this great city is represented. Victoria is a town that takes care of it's own and we want to keep it that way.”
TM: Tell us something not many people about you:
AM: “Most people already know that I'm not on Facebook and that I’m not big on the whole social media thing personally. Our Chef and co-owner, Ben Peterson, is our savvy social-media guy and is Heron Rock’s online presence. I know how important online engagement is to access a larger audience, but I’m a people person and know that my time is better spent engaging face to face with staff, guests, neighbours and suppliers. Good thing I have business partners!”
TM: How long have you been a part of the Victoria community?
AM: “I grew up in Winnepeg and moved to Abbostford to go to school. After three years there, I returned to my hometown. I had a brief go at Vancouver in my early twenties, but it wasn't for me. I came out to Victoria on a spring rugby tour in 2001 and it totally felt like home. I moved later that summer and never looked back!”
TM: You have the day off, what are your favourite things to do in Victoria?
AM: “I really enjoy trying new recipes so making my wife dinner at home is my standby. But to mix it up, we’ll head out for a night on the town. Victoria’s food scene is so vibrant, we always have a great time. That, and she has an amazing sense of humour so really, even eating fast food with her is pretty great. If she’s busy though, and I have the time, playing golf at Gorge Vale is a great way to spend the day.”
TM: Who is your foodie guru?
AM: “Not entirely sure what a foodie guru is exactly! But, Tommy Douglas (of Lola fame) in Seattle is someone I have and followed over the last six or seven years. Also, Thomas Keller (Bouchon and The French Laundry) in California, has been a huge influence to our Bistro. I was fortunate enough to experience Bouchon about five years ago and was absolutely blown away by the service. The food of course, was amazing, but the service was impeccable. I can easily say that it was the best I’ve ever experienced and I’ve since tried to implement the same kind of service at Heron Rock.”
TM: How does Victoria inspire your restaurant?
AM: “I’d have to say that Victoria's beer scene has been the biggest local inspiration for us at Heron Rock. Ben and I, along with our partners Steve and Gina Watson at the Crooked Goose in Saanich, recently introduced a Brewmaster's Dinner Series. It’s a really exciting opportunity to pair incredible, local, craft beer with delicious food and showcase how flexibly beer and food are paired. Because Heron Rock and Crooked Goose are neighbourhood bistros offering great food and craft beers on tap, this dinner series was a no-brainer for us. Maintaining our relationships with local craft brewers is a continued priority for our ownership team – I mean, it’s no secret that Victorian craft beer is becoming a real competitor on the North American stage – we want to make sure that we’re supporting and growing with it.”
TM: What do you love about being a part of Victoria dining?
AM: “I love that Victoria has so many quality restaurants where locals and visitors can dine. Good food is easy if you are using good quality ingredients, and where better than Victoria to find such an incredible variety of top quality, local products? Both Heron Rock and the Crooked Goose believe that quality food and drink are what our customers really visit us for, so keeping the quality up is our number one priority!”
TM: What has changed in the Victoria dining scene in the last 10 years?
AM: “I’d have to say that the biggest change I’ve noticed in Victoria is the growth of and appetite for culinary knowledge amongst consumers. People are so much more aware and want to know what the ingredients are and where they came from. It’s great because it forces us to think locally and sustainably for each menu item. People now want to know even more about how the dishes are prepared and they’re getting almost as excited as we are about really great food.”
TM: What do you picture the Victoria dining scene looking like in the next 10?
AM: “Great question. I suspect sustainability will figure even more prominently in our local food scene. And I think the systems are in place to make sure that happens. My biggest hope for the future though is a continued strong human element in our dining scene. I know I’m a self professed Luddite to a degree, but I hope I never find myself punching my own order in at a restaurant using some expensive smart phone that is going to need replacing when thebigger faster stronger X87 comes out. Mainly though, in ten years I can picture Heron Rock celebrating twenty years of great service. I’m living the dream and I don’t plan on waking up any time soon.”