Red Fish Blue Fish

by Yule Heibel on August 6, 2007

It’s a holiday today in British Columbia, and I managed to take full advantage of the fact (well, aside from doing the usual Monday laundry-loads , food-preps, dog-walks, and other normal family life stuff…). But around mid-day all five of us (that’s counting the dog) walked over to Red Fish Blue Fish to have lunch.

The food was really delicious (a scallop sandwich to die for, for example), and the only drawback was that the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority has forbidden Red Fish Blue Fish to set up any tables or chairs on the pier. So we parked ourselves on the pier’s edge, which wasn’t quite as comfy as sitting at a proper table. The irony is that “safety issues” are Harbour Authority’s excuse for not allowing table set-up — perhaps they feel the tables might be wobbly on the old pier? Whatever the reason, “safety issues” is a hilarious objection since perching on the edge of the pier is risky. You could topple over the edge and land 15 feet below on some gangway (if you’re lucky) or fall right into the harbour waters (if you’re outta luck), or you could get some serious splinters in your bum from the old wood (if you just want to be sublimely distressed). (Did I mention that the pier is old?)

Speaking of sublime, do take a look at the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority front page — they have an impressive banner photo (currently, anyway) that shows Ogden Point with two docked cruise ships, and part of downtown to the north, past the trees of James Bay, the residential neighbourhood between downtown and Ogdon Point.

I uploaded photos of Red Fish Blue Fish’s facility to my Facebook account, which you can view if you have an account. Their idea isn’t new, but it’s great nonetheless: the entire operation is housed in a converted shipping container, which the partners creatively remodeled into a charming piece of ex-industrial humdrum hunk-of-steel qua architectural trendiness. They planted the roof with drought-resistant plants (sedums and grasses — typically, our summers are extremely dry), which very fetchingly sets off the space-age style chimney and vent, and pierced the container with openings that serve both a useful function (air, ventilation) and make for a pretty cool “look,” too.

In addition, the restaurant is situated right below “Malahat Building,” also known as the Old Customs House, on a pier that could well deserve the “heritage” designation. While the Inner Harbour has silted up somewhat, it used to be a deep water harbour all the way up the rock edge at the foot of the Customs House. Embedded into the rock are three iron rings (one of which, under water whenever the tide is up, is mightily corroded while the others — above the tide line — are still in good shape). These were the rings that Sir James Douglas’s men attached to the rock to tie up their ship after they sailed to Vancouver Island in the 1840s — they’re effectively what remains of the decision by the initial European explorers — James Douglas, actually — to make this particular place the birthplace of what would become British Columbia.

In recent years, that particular spot became a favoured locale for drunks and junkies to congregate and watch the sun setting over the harbour behind the Sooke Hills. After they finished drinking and shooting up, they smashed their bottles on to the rocks and chucked their needles into the shrubs that cling to the edge. When Red Fish Blue Fish was building its facility, that activity continued every evening. Since they opened three days ago, however, those folks have moved on because the pier is now frequented in the evenings by other people coming to enjoy a meal.

Simon, one of the partners in the restaurant, hopes that the Harbour Authority will eventually build some stairs down to the water’s edge — as he pointed out, it’s the only place all along the city’s Inner Harbour where you can actually touch the water, play in it — and if they do, he and his people will pitch in to clean up the broken glass, clear the debris that accumulated over years of neglect, and let people know that right there, below the “heritage” pier, is Victoria’s equivalent of Plymouth Rock. Well ok, not a rock, exactly: three stout rings, one of which is massively corroded. Thanks to Simon and Red Fish Blue Fish, the corroded ring has been treated to retard or prevent further corrosion. It’s interesting that it took a business owner to make sure that this bit of history doesn’t keep slipping further into the sea…

Quick followup: I noticed that RFBF has a “press” page, which only links, however, to an already disappeared story in the local paper. Not to worry, however, as vibrant Victorians have been following this story on the Vibrant Victoria forum since last December. So, if you’re interested in how this has wound its way through city hall etc., read more on the forum…


Robert Randall August 11, 2007 at 11:04 pm

I don’t think there will be any stairway construction until the City has the results of its harbourfront walkway study in the Fall.

The area covered stretches from James Bay up to Rock Bay. Interestinly, one of the consultants is Lance Berelowitz, authour of Dream City: Vancouver and the Global Imagination.

yulelog August 12, 2007 at 11:37 am

Thanks for that info, Rob, and interesting sidenote on having Lance Berelowitz onboard for this.

(For some reason, your comment didn’t appear in my inbox and I didn’t see it till I checked into the admin section of my blog, where it was being held “in moderation.” Strange — it should have gone to my email right away. No worries, though: now that your comment is approved, you should be able to comment here without having further comments go into moderation again…)

yulelog August 12, 2007 at 11:38 am

PS: note that each time you comment/ register with a new email, however, your comment goes into moderation until approved. I do that to keep out the dreaded spammers.

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