MacNeil adding quiet charcuterie bar this spring, new bistro opens this week
Mere days before Oak Bay Bistro was set to open, a chop saw was still set up on a work table in the dining room.
Three carpenters were working on finishing touches, building shelves in the renovated restaurant, the former Blethering Place on Oak Bay Avenue.
“Everything you touched needed to be redone,” co-owner Bart Reed said about the two-month long renovation.
Although oak panelling and carpeting from the previous restaurant was kept, there is a new two-part, 11.6-metre oak traditional and charcuterie bar – where small samplings of dishes will be offered – new hardwood flooring and wallpaper, new railings from the upper lounge area to the dining room, and a floor-to-ceiling glass front door. Although Reed doesn’t personally like them, there will be two 48-inch TVs in the upper high-table lounge.
“But they won’t be visible from the dining room,” he said.
Set to open Friday (March 25), the 125-seat restaurant is a place to come for breakfast “hungover and with tousled hair” or for a cleaned-up romantic dinner, Reed said.
The restaurant is one of two new eating establishments on Oak Bay Avenue. This week Oak Bay council gave Penny Farthing Pub owner Matt MacNeil the green light to open Vis à Vis, a 44-seat wine and charcuterie bar in the former liquor store space attached to his pub a few doors down in the Village.
The conversion of the space is expected to be complete in late May, around the time of the Penny Farthing’s 10th anniversary.
Liz Smith, president of the Oak Bay Business Improvement Association, says the new eateries will build on what the association started by hosting summer night markets: enticing people to come to Oak Bay Village in the evening.
“It’s getting the café culture going and making the Avenue a place to come to at night after work,” she said.
“It’s such a lovely, peaceful spot and it has been just deserted. This will bring vibrancy.”
The new restaurants will be welcome additions to the village, said Jill Croft of the Community Association of Oak Bay.
“It’s important to be able to walk or bike to the village. It’s the most crucial thing to not have to arrive by vehicle to the pulse of the neighbourhood.”