Vancouver's Donnelly Group says they've learned a lot from opening up shop in Toronto. The chain of pubs and bars, each with a different name but many with a similar menu and vibe, has been focusing on turning existing spaces in Vancouver — often in historic locations — into fresh venues for eating, drinking and gathering.
With Brass Fish Tavern, situated at the base of the Marine Building in downtown Vancouver (in the former Elephant and Castle location), Donnelly seems to have dialled things up a notch. The decor is sumptuous, the spaces divided and the menu different from what you get at their other more established venues.
Brass Fish offers three different zones — a lighter and more casual izakaya-style area up front, the elegant art-splashed main dining room and bar, and a mezzanine-level lounge. It's a beautiful and gently exotic space; they reworked the Elephant and Castle layout significantly, and have created a sort of "colonialists on holiday in India" vibe. You'll find it hard to miss the whale skeleton hanging overhead in the izakaya, while behind the bar is an impressively large photo of a nude male. Definitely lots to look at.
Open for lunch, dinner and — of course — drinks, Brass Fish happens to have a great captive audience. The Burrard and Hastings address is a draw for out-of-town visitors and office dwellers, the latter of which might be the most appreciative of touches like the smaller sizes available for some cocktails, like the house negroni, for example, for those sneaky work-day lunches. But Brass Fish also offers a happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m.
A few years ago Donnelly veered into more experimental territory when they partnered up with Vancouver farm-to-table chef and restaurateur Dave Gunawan to open Royal Dinette; while Gunawan and Donnelly have since parted ways, what has remained intact is the restaurant's approach to innovative and sustainable dining, as well as a forward-thinking cocktail bar — not a cookie cutter situation at all.
Similarly, with Brass Fish, Donelly brought on Vancouver's Clement Chan, formerly of Torafuku and the dormant Le Tigre truck, to put his stamp on pub fare. You'll find things like blistered shishito peppers, fried chicken, a burger and croquettes to nibble on, as well as sushi rolls. At the bar, there are plenty of cocktails, craft beers and wines.
Brass Fish Tavern is located at 385 Burrard St in Vancouver