Excuse the golf pun here for a sec, but if you're looking for something of a diamond in the rough the next time you're out for a meal in Pemberton, The Black Squirrel Restaurant may just be the ideal choice.
Nestled under the towering façade of Mount Currie, The Black Squirrel offers stunning views of the majestic peak and the nearby Green River — not to mention the sun-soaked fairways of The Meadows at Pemberton Golf Course.
But, with an affordable menu that bridges the gap between hearty comfort food and upscale pub fare — not to mention its namesake house ale — The Black Squirrel has grown to serve more than just the khaki-clad golfers looking to wind down after a round, but hungry locals, too. And that's just the way chef Edward Pascal likes it.
"It means a lot (to serve the community)," said the 33-year-old Mount Currie native. "We're Pemberton's best-kept secret."
Since The Meadows changed hands in 2013, there has been a real concerted effort to broaden the Black Squirrel menu in order to reflect diners' evolving tastes. Alongside the classic sandwiches, juicy Pemberton beef burgers, and stone oven-fired pizzas, you'll find flashes of the upscale and international to round out the menu.
Pascal's personal favourite is the halibut fish taco — "the perfect finger food" — but you'll also see other dishes that would be harder to find on a clubhouse menu; prawns tossed in a Sambuca cream sauce, for instance, or a seared duck breast in a maple grapefruit glaze.
It's a locally inspired menu that was devised in the most democratic of ways, explained Pascal. "Every year before we open, we sit down and we brainstorm with the entire staff," he said. "We've come up with some really nice ideas that way, like our herb-crusted pizza crust."
The staff can then put their ideas to the test, featuring the new dishes they've come up with in a weekly special to see how much traction it gains with guests.
"We started doing these weekly specials, and then whatever sold most, like the duck, the lamb or the Chilean ribs, those would be on one feature one week, and then a different feature the next week, and then basically we just pick the cream of the crop," said Pascal, adding that promoting the specials on social media has been a great way to build the restaurant's exposure online.
Pascal first discovered his passion for cooking as a teen who, like many at that age, was searching high and low for his calling in life.
"It was probably in my late teens, like 18 or 19. That's when I finally pulled up my socks and realized I had to do something," he said. "I just happened to see an ad in the newspaper for culinary arts school, and I thought, 'Why not?' The fire ignited from there."
He gained valuable catering experience at the Ramada Hotel in Prince George, and later worked busy holiday seasons at the Westin in Whistler. But it was an opening at the Black Squirrel three years ago that brought him back home, where he's been able to fulfill a longtime goal. "I've always thought of how everybody in the world is hungry, they're too busy, so I might as well be the guy to cook for them," Pascal said with a laugh. "A lot of people have just had a long day and don't want to cook, so that's what inspires me. I want to be the guy to cook for the people, and that's what led me into this field."
The Black Squirrel Restaurant & Pub is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. the remainder of the week. Its last day of operation for the season is Oct. 11.
For more information, visit www.pembertongolf.com/barandgrill.Halibut Cakes
Makes 6 servings
1lb poached halibut
½ cup fine bread crumbs
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 tsp parsley, chopped
1 each of roasted red pepper, carrot and onion (diced finely)
Mayo — enough to bind the ingredients together
1 large egg
Lea and Perrins and Tabasco sauce to taste
Combine together all of the ingredients and mix gently. Mould them into rounds and gently press in Panko crumbs. Lightly fry then in vegetable oil until golden brown, about six minutes per side. Serve and enjoy.