Welcome to our Hidden Gem series’, where we showcase some of the best-kept culinary secrets Victoria has to offer. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, some of these locations might just have slipped under your radar. Today we’re shining a spotlight on a classic British-style tavern that shouldn’t go overlooked.
This particular locale can be tricky to spot for the average person passing by. Tucked away behind the local Pepper’s Foods, Smuggler’s Cove has become a haunt for many regulars in the Cadboro Bay area. This includes older patrons and students alike, with the University of Victoria right up the hill from where the tavern sits.
The first thing you’ll notice on arrival is that all seating is located on the second floor. The dining area can feel a little cramped at first glance, but once you are seated there is quite a bit of space between tables. Not to mention that the balcony seating area is quite spacious and has a great atmosphere for anyone planning to have their meal outside in the open air. Speaking of the great outdoors, this location also is in close proximity to one of Victoria’s many lovely beaches. This particular tavern is great for anyone planning on walking the beaches of Victoria and then grab a hearty meal at the end of the day.
MEALS YOU SHOULD TRY
Smugglers leans quite heavily into its British tavern aesthetic, and its culinary options reflect this impressive attention to detail. Be warned: these meals can be quite heavy at times. Come prepared to eat and you won’t be disappointed.
As staples go, two slices of bread with something between them couldn’t be simpler. Yet despite this Smugglers has an excellent variety to enjoy and will have you wanting more. While their chicken clubhouse and classic reuben are wonderful in their own right, it’s the tavern’s burger selection that steals the show. Their Cove burger is an excellent choice for anyone wanting that pristine ‘classic burger and fries’ experience. Or, if fries aren’t your thing, you can go with one of their nine other unique sides to go with the meal instead. The burger itself is made with sizzling grilled beef topped with lettuce, tomato, dill pickle, tomato, and thousand island mayonnaise. It’s a perfect combination that doesn’t need to be complicated to taste great.
A little too regular for your tastes? Why not try out the baked salmon burger? This wild salmon filet is baked to perfection with parmesan shaved on top with tomato, lettuce, red onion, and herb mayonnaise to finish off this delectable package. It’s a treat that needs to be tried at least once!
It wouldn’t be a British-style tavern without some good old-fashioned fish and chips, and Smugglers steps up to the plate and knocks it out of the park. Their fish and chips have the same mouth-watering look, aroma, and taste one would expect without overcomplicating the recipe. This batter-covered cod filet with tartar sauce and home-cut fries doesn’t disappoint. It’s simple yet elegant in its presentation and taste.
But that isn’t all they have on the seafood menu. If you’re looking for something a bit more unique, you might want to consider another fan favorite: the Smuggler’s Cove Mussels. These east coast mussels are the perfect appetizers for a large party, simmered lovingly in red curry, southwestern, chipotle cream, or white wine and garlic. It’s loved by the locals for a reason!
Since we’re on the subject of appetizers, it would be a shame not to mention some of the other excellent party starters available on the menu.
Whether you’re with a party or by yourself, you simply can’t go wrong with the Smuggler’s poutine. While not strictly British in style, this tavern has perfected the poutine formula in a way that will leave your mouth watering. Classic home-cut fries are smothered in Quebec cheese curds, beef gravy, and green onions. They even provide the option of adding Cajun chicken to the mix if you want that extra kick. Like most other things on the menu here, it’s quite a hefty meal in and of itself. Come prepared.
Want to give your stomach a bigger challenge? The Deluxe Nachos might be exactly what you’re looking for. This multi-layered behemoth can be a challenge for even small groups to finish off. Their fresh tortilla chips are absolutely covered in melted cheese, black olives, bell and banana peppers, onion, and tomatoes. You might want to also add spicy beef or cajun chicken to it as well if you’re feeling bold.
If you’re looking for a place that will leave your appetite satisfied and your taste buds dancing, you might want to give Smuggler’s Cove a try!