Relish Food and Coffee

left: The Relish Burger right: Cilantro, ginger and smoked paprika pork sausages on house made buns

Photo by Rebecca Wellman

I arrive a few minutes early to Relish and watch as Jamie Cummins methodically stuffs cilantro, ginger and smoked paprika pork sausage meat into hog casing. They’ll be poached and reclining on house-made buns tomorrow or will find their fat selves on the breakfast egg muffins, unless one opts for the house-made bacon instead. Mmm.

Relish opened in August for breakfast and lunch (7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday to Friday). Most everything is house-made: bread, focaccia, scones, bacon, granola, baked good, sausages, gnocchi. And then there is the coffee; Discovery Coffee bean creations on a double-headed Nuova Simonelli.

“I want Relish to be as good a coffee shop as a restaurant,” says Jamie Cummins, chef/owner.  “I make what I like to eat. If I like it, maybe someone else will too.” He smiles and looks away, self-conscious, earnest and sincere. His lack of affectation is evident in his cooking as well. “I like traditional pairings, not deconstruction cooking or fusion.” His chicken confit, served with bacon, leeks and new potatoes, is a deft example. “The flavours of the ingredients are clear. They go together well.” I can vouch for this. I have now enjoyed it twice. Fall off the bone, rich, salty—perfect cozy winter fare. A Northwest Culinary Academy graduate, Jamie has worked at Mo:Le, Sooke Harbour House, Paprika and Discovery Coffee.

Leaning against the wooden bar, Jamie contemplates his restaurant: the exposed brick wall, the high ceilings, his family’s pickling crocks in the small loft above the front door, the terracotta hues of the walls and square stained-glass window. The dish is part of a whole, he says. The room, the setting and the company you are keeping. These components culminate in a beautiful experience that finds its apogee in the meal. This, loosely translated, is Cummins’ food ethos. He finds breakfast and lunch a more relaxed, less calculating medium. Accessible. Affordable. Authentic.

Relish has also solved the matter of the heavy hitting lunch. Gnocchi and burgers aren’t generally what I would indulge in at lunch unless I have fashioned some sort of bed right under the table to snuggle into for the rest of the afternoon. But the gnocchi, today with Romano beans, Japanese turnip and arugula pesto (it was served with arugula, peas and Parmesan when I tried it last), surprised me. There was enough to satisfy, but it was modest, so I could finish without the big meal-end exhale, belt-loosen . I admit I have never bothered with gnocchi. I didn’t get it. I get it now. They are handmade silky soft pillows.

The Relish Burger is a wide but fairly thin patty which it is served upon the house-made focaccia which is also thin. I ordered mine with Brie, house-made bacon and of course, relish and finished it all. I was quite full, but again, not KO’d. Delicious.

And then there is the location. Relish has free parking, with lots of room for meetings, gatherings, moms with strollers and people-watching on Pandora. Blair Mart, an excellent Middle-eastern/Mediterranean grocery store, is next door, so make time to duck in there for a shop as well. And you can even do a bit of shopping at Relish. Cummins has preserved lemons, cherries and pickles for sale.

As we continue to talk, Cummins keeps returning to maintaining the integrity of what he wants to offer while also adapting to individual tastes of his guests. Because, he feels, they are guests, after all. Give the people what they want. “Work with people. It is not about me. Also, the staff are amazing. I could not do it without them. Please mention the staff.” So, all in all, welcome Jamie Cummins and Relish to Victoria’s burgeoning breakfast and lunch scene. Lucky us.

I like the word “relish.” It connotes at once both aromatic and emotional pleasure. Appropriate.



920 Pandora Ave., Victoria, BC | 250-590-8464


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