In late 2017, Sturgeon Hall owners submitted an application to city council to change the licensing designation of the 22-year-old establishment from "food primary" to "liquor primary" for the purpose of providing more flexibility in their operations.
“The main difference is with a liquor primary licence, we wouldn’t have to keep the kitchen running every single hour that we’re open,” owner, Louis Drummond said at the time.
Finding staff in tourism-focussed Kelowna to keep a "food primary" establishment running smoothly year round is obviously tough. The well-received little Italian restaurant, Bordello’s that was located upstairs from Sturgeon Hall, unfortunately had to close because they could not consistently staff themselves, particularly outside of the summer months.
"Basically, changing [Sturgeon Hall’s] licence from food to liquor primary is sort of precautionary. We don’t want to get caught in the same situation [Bordello's] of having to operate like a restaurant if we start to find it’s hard to get staff,” Drummond added.
With the city's approval of Sturgeon Hall's application in the new year, owners temporarily closed the restaurant in late April to undergo changes. First up was the slight renaming of the establishment.
Now known as Sturgeon Hall Pub (previously Sturgeon Hall Restaurant), it reopened late last week. They added some strong new members to lead the kitchen: local chef Luc Bissonnette, whose experience in the kitchens of such prestigious restaurants and hotels as the Prince De Galles Hotel in Paris, and the Bacchus Restaurant of the Wedgwood Hotel in Vancouver, and sous chef Andrea McClintock, formerly of Bouchon’s Bistro, had us pretty psyched to see what was up.
We visited the Pub this past Saturday during the beer festival, figuring it would be a little slower so we wouldn't catch them on their heels after the fest wrapped up. We didn't know what to expect with respect to the decor specifically, and regulars will likely breathe a sigh of relief to know that not much was changed – the rustic and classic turn of the century charm is still there, updated with some tasteful lighting and decorative features.
The cheerful paint-by-numbers art wall thankfully remains, but they've added a large mirror with their features hand-lettered upon it, giving it a Parisian brasserie or café vibe. I guess the latter was on their mind when they created the "petit magasin", a cute window where you can pick up morning teas, coffees and breakfast snacks, if you're too rushed for their sit-down breakfast (offered daily).
The New Menu
The Pub has a new lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch menu. We arrived during lunch service, and since we've always been a fan of their burger, we were curious to see how they've updated what was an already pretty great one (I was a fan of the Burton Cummings burg).
They've upped the burger price to $18, and it's now served with garlic herb butter, bacon, comté cheese, maple shallot jam, dijon, aioli, cornichon, lettuce, and tomato on a brioche bun. Aside from the tomato being a touch too mealy, we found the burger to be as good as always. The meat was flavourful, and comté cheese is a nice sharp compliment to stand up to all the garnish. Buns are always important, and the brioche had the suppleness we demand in a burger bun.
We also ordered the Cobb Wedge salad, a lighter version of the traditional American dish that featured butter lettuce, avocado buttermilk dressing, gruyère, tomatoes, radish, pork belly, and soft egg for $13. Aside from one thing we did not love – the soft poached egg was served cold – it was really refreshing, but still had the contrasting richness of the pork belly (lardons really) and the avo dressing (best green goddess we've had in a while).
The menu is definitely a departure from before, and the prices may not be what regulars are used to, but it does appear that they've added some tempting items influenced from both asian and french comfort cooking to show promise as a "gastro-pub" – especially if it stays true to its roots and doesn't alienate the locals with a swift tack away from what it already did quite well.
We'll definitely be back to try the Kimchi Grilled Cheese with gochujang béchamel, as well as their Steak Frites (priced very reasonably at $20). Their new brunch looks particularly delicious as well.
It’s Monday and we are open for our first full week ahead. The Petit Magasin is ready for your breakfast orders at 9am - noon. Your choice of Breakfast Scramble or Croque Madame. Fresh muffins and other baked goodies available to go with your fresh toast coffee. #mondayvibes #startyoufweek #breakfast #freshcoffee #croquemadame #scrambledeggs #scrambler #downtownkelowna
Their Croque Madame (featured below) on brioche with béchamel, gruyère, ham, swiss, sunny side egg for $12 is also served during lunch.
As far as their taps are concerned, they'll be rotating, so you'll get to try a number of different BC craft beers with each visit. This afternoon they were pouring the damn delicious Saison from Four Winds and the IPA from Revelstoke's Mt. Begbie, among others.
The revamped Sturgeon Hall Pub is open seven days a week from 9am till late.