Stage Wine Bar
1307 Gladstone Avenue( intersects Fernwood square)
Stage Wine Bar sits in the quaint and trendy Fernwood square, across the street from the Fernwood Inn, and amidst an art community. This is a great place to go if you’re attending a show at the Belfry, or a leisurely glass of wine just for the sake of it. I have been here a few times before with fellow food industry peoples, and I always left satisfied. LF suggested we go to Stage as she had never been before, I enthusiastically agreed.
The atmosphere inside Stage is buzzing with conversations that bounce in the small space and light flickers off the dark, brick-laden walls. I recall eating the Sooke trout my last visit, so I was pleasantly surprised to still see it on the menu. The concept at Stage is simple: tasty tapas-style portions with local and flavourful preparations. We started off with a glass of BC Pinot Gris( $9 a glass), and brewed on the menu. The wine list isn’t as extensive as you would expect for a wine bar, and not very cheap either. The wine selections are respectable though, and good quality. My friend opted for the Grilled haloumi salad with tomatoes and herbed vinaigrette($10). Our server told us that they made their sausages and bacon in house, so I went with their house-made Merguez lamb sausage with hummus and cumin harissa($11).
The grilled haloumi salad looked and tasted great. The portion of the haloumi cheese was larger than I expected, and the texture was somewhat like a softer feta. It’s made from a blend of cows and sheeps milk. The tomatoes were a red and green marbled heirloom tomato variety, plump and juicy. All this was atop some artisan lettuces and glazed with an herb vinaigrette.
The lamb merguez sausages were skinny, but they made up for their girth in flavour. Crisp on the outside, and not dry in the middle, they had a beautiful aroma and robust taste. The grilled bread had great crunch and emitted a fruity olive oil smell. The hummus was definitely made in house, and the harissa. If I was to be critical, well that’s what I do right… the hummus could use a citrus hit, maybe some lemon peel, which would also compliment the harissa. The hummus was a bit over-salted for my taste as well. I’ve eaten all different types of harissa before, and Stage’s version felt more like a red pepper puree, it didn’t have the heat or the garlic that I’m accustomed to having with a North African harissa. The texture of the harissa was nice, but I wanted more bang.
I ordered a cocktail, and LF ordered another glass of the same white we drank earlier. My cocktail was interesting, an ‘Angel 31′, with grapefruit, cinzano, gin, and lemon bitters( double for $9)
LF and I are bad influences on each other, but hey, if you’re eating out you should taste all aspects of a restaurant. We were feeling nibbly after our small plates, ( and this is a good place to feel nibbly), so we ordered the Langos dessert($6).
The langos nubbins were dusted with cinnamon sugar, crispy on the outside from being fried, and chewy and warm in the middle ( some type of potato bread). We could dip in creme fraiche or caramel sauce, OR both. The creme fraiche gave a sour and bright taste in the mouth, and the caramel sauce was pure decadence.
The space is fun for groups it seems, as there were a few around us. The noise can be a bit much, but I don’t mind it when the food is delicious. The service was decent, our server smiled and answered our questions respectfully. I like the open concept of the space, high ceilings and the kitchen space is only a stones-throw away. The bar is comfortable and I even noticed geysers of steam rising from behind it to clean some of the wine glasses. This is a unique little wine-nook, tucked away into a great part of Victoria!
Food: 4/5( kudos for making their own sausages)