We count down the 12 Days to Christmas, why not the 17 Days to St. Patrick’s Day? If there’s one holiday that should be a season of cheer, it’s this one, we say. Here’s Edition 14 of the Vacay.ca St. Patrick’s Day in Canada Countdown — where we name 17 of the best Irish bars in the land!
Day 14: Irish Times Pub, Victoria
Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Find yourself anywhere near the red-brick and cobblestone intersection of Government Street and Bastion Square on any evening and you’ll know you’re close to Ireland.
If there’s one thing Irish Times Pub does better than a lot of other bars in the country, it’s music. The first thing you’ll become aware of even before you walk through the wooden, brass-handled front doors of this establishment is the riveting sound of a live band or skilled vocalist.
Opening onto both streets and home to 190 seats spread over two rollicking floors, Irish Times Pub and the surrounding area springs to life with live performances seven nights a week every single evening of the year except Christmas (Sunday-Wednesday, 7 pm; Thursday-Saturday, 8:30 pm).
If you’re in the area this week then you’re in for a treat — singer and instrumentalist Paul O’Brien will be performing. Born and raised Irish Catholic in England, he moved to Canada in 2004 at age 38 and fell in love with the country. He recorded two warmly received original songs: Sacred Lines (2006) and Plastic (2008).
Taking into account music alone, everyday feels like St. Patrick’s Day at the Irish Times. Add to the fact that their sister bar, Bard and Banker Scottish Pub, is on the same street less than a five-minute walk away, and Government Street is clearly the place to be in Victoria on March 17.
The patio is closed during the winter but will open if the weather permits — great news for die-hard patrons who aren’t afraid to drink outside in less-than-ideal conditions. Out on the patio you can tap your toes to all the catchy tunes while keeping yourself warm with an Irish Coffee ($6.50).
Feeling like something a bit more filling? Try the Brisket and Cabbage ($17) or the Original Irish Stew ($15) with braised lamb, Yukon Gold potatoes, crispy rosemary dumplings, onions and carrots. Other great selections by executive chef Jason Ducklow are the Shepherd’s Pie ($15) and the Fish and Chips ($18 for two pieces).
Wash all of it down with a wide array of suds, including several local Island brews like Phillips Longboat Double Chocolate Porter, Lighthouse Lager, and Vancouver Island Piper’s Pale Ale.
“I’ve worked here seven years, been here since day one,” said general manager Marika Veldink. “It’s cozy, we have four fireplaces, lots of dark wood, and a snug (O’Hagans), which traditionally in the Irish Pub was a confessional.”
Veldink went on to say guests reserve the snug all the time, which can hold around six comfortably and can be closed off for privacy. Which of course raises the question — do confessions actually take place in there?
“I don’t know if people actually do confessions,” said Veldink. “But I’m sure if we had a video camera we would see some pretty crazy things.”
St. Patrick’s Day plans: There will be live music from open to close – Paul O’Brien, Bobby Smith, and Black Angus. Also, the O’Brien’s School of Dance (no relation to musician Paul O’Brien) will be sending their talented Irish Dancers to the pub. A big party all day long.
Quote from an Irishman: “The beer and the craic. That’s what makes St. Patrick’s Day special. You don’t need anything else,” said Tommy, adding that he didn’t remember his last name.
You know it’s authentic Irish because: “Music, music, music! Free-flowing Guinness, and craic,” said Veldink.
Cost of a pint of Guinness: $7.85, Tuesdays $5.
Note: Photo courtesy of Irish Times Pub