Winter Dining at Merridale Cidery

Left: Bison Burger with confit potato wedges. Right: Charcuterie Platter with house made charcuterie and condiments. Photo: Derek Ford



Having only visited Merridale Cidery once during the sunlit summer, the dimly lit and very damp drive up the Malahat seemed more daunting than I remembered. However, as the car passed a becoming sign welcoming us to the cidery, past large buildings glowing with soft outdoor light, it became clear that the dining experience would be complemented by the quaint and intimate setting that owners Janet and Rick Docherty have created. The shorter than expected forty minute drive from Victoria was well worth it, as we came with one goal: to sample the new seasonal dinner menu. Since the picturesque grounds are ideal for wedding settings – with orchards, bistro/tasting room, and cider house – the dinner menu is unavailable during the season of vows. Limiting the timeframe when visitors can spend a winter weekend sampling chef Ian Blom’s local and changing menu makes this particular Saturday special, for in a few months the brides and grooms to-be will lay stake on the coveted space here at Merridale.


Although the wine list was plentiful with British Columbian vineyards such as Blue Mountain, Kettle Valley and our Island’s own Zanatta, you cannot come to a boutique cidery without sampling the traditional apple fermented drinks. The cider flight included Cidre Normandie, Scrumpy, Somerset, Traditional, Merri Berri, and Cyser. From the driest through to a sweet and rich blend, the six ciders successfully portrayed the variety Merridale offers. To accompany the ciders I recommend the Charcuterie Platter, full with house cured meats, local cheeses from Little Qualicum, marinated olives and an onion marmalade. While the platter excited different gustatory regions, the true winner was the marmalade. When enjoyed with the house prepared chicken liver paté, it was the ideal marriage of sweet and savoury. Priced at $16, the appetizer showcased a good overview of what Merridale’s Bistro does, while including only locally prepared and found items.

Red wine braised chuck flat with squash puree, beet ravioli and Brussels sprout leaves Photo: Derek Ford

Feeling relatively satisfied, I decided to forego my own main and share the pasta feature with my guest. The pasta the kitchen prepared was fresh and homemade, incorporating local eggs and cooked al dente, a quality often overlooked in restaurants. With shredded chicken confit, tender roasted whole garlic cloves and basil pesto, the dish was substantial without feeling too heavy. To accompany the main course we ordered a glass of wine, from the suggestion of our server and food and beverage manager, Jess. She suggested the Picollo Rosé from Venturi Schulze, which normally, being a committed red wine drinker myself, I would not normally choose. However, with Jess’ knowledge of the cidery and the menu, I decided to trust her expertise, and she was bang on. The Piccolo Rosé was specifically crafted for Merridale from the neighbouring vineyard, and with its light and not overly sweet character was a delectable fit for our dish.


Not owning a sweet tooth, the thought of ordering dessert wasn’t as tantalizing as it may be to some. However, a quick glance at the board hovering above the exposed kitchen made for a different point of view. Those sugar may not be my personal ingredient of choice, all things citrus seem to turn this savoury-prone diner into a sweet enthusiast. Kim Blom’s lemon-blackberry pot au crème was a choice way to finish off the meal. Paired with another suggestion from Jess, the Pomme Oh apple and brandy fortified wine balanced the naturally tart fruit character of the dessert while ending with a sweet accent.


Albeit small, the dining room, with high ceilings and thoughtful seating, maximizes space without crowding. The unfinished hardwood floors and stone fireplace give the room a unique country feel, and the tastefully served and presented dishes make dining at Merridale a very relaxed experience. The art chosen by artist and curator Pipi Tustian completes the feeling that this bistro, with its seasonal and Vancouver Island reared ingredients, is a gem that should be unearthed any month of the year.


Merridale Cidery Website:

— by: Morgan K. Sterns

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