On my recent visit to Vancouver, I decided to check out the new Meat & Bread location which had recently opened up at the base of Oceanic Plaza on West Pender in the heart of Vancouver’s financial district. My reason for wanting to check out this new location was two-fold. First, I had learnt that there was a chocolate bar containing pork crackling created by beta 5 chocolates for Meat & Bread that is available at this location only. My second reason is because this location is a lot closer to my favourite food truck, Tacofino Cantina, which is usually parked at Burrard and Dunsmuir. Ever since I tried the porchetta sandwich for the first time at the original Meat & Bread location last fall, it has become my favourite sandwich in Vancouver and I feel the need to have one every time I’m in town. Equally, I love the fish tacos from the Tacofino Catina food truck as I can’t find fish tacos that are as good in Calgary. Since I had limited slots in my eating schedule while I was in town, I decided to tackle both the porchetta sandwich from Meat & Bread and a fish taco from the nearby Tacofino Cantina food truck all on the same day.
To my surprise, this Meat & Bread location is totally different from the original location in Gastown. The Gastown location has ample seating despite the long line ups. This new location on West Hastings only has one tall communal table with eight chairs. When the weather is nice, patrons can sit outside in the plaza area to eat their sandwiches. But if the weather is bad, there is really no place to sit down to eat. I could totally see that this location is mainly geared towards the nearby office crowd who would take the food back to their offices to eat. At the original location, by default the sandwiches are served on wooden cutting boards unless the patron asks for the sandwich to go in which case, it is wrapped in paper and put in a paper bag. Here at this location, by default the sandwiches, once prepared to order, are placed in a cute sandwich box intended for take out.
Fortunately, I arrived at 11:30 am before the lunch rush and managed to secure seats for both myself and my foodie friend Grayelf at the communal table. I was really surprised that the eight chairs at the communal table were all bolted to the floor. We were actually a tad annoyed by this as it was actually quite cumbersome for us to climb in and out of the tall chairs. As for the Porchetta Sandwich ($8), I was pleased that it tasted just like the one from the original Gastown location. The ciabatta bun was really fresh and soft. It had the perfect amount of chewiness to it. The porchetta itself was moist, tender, and flavourful. And of course, I loved the pieces of the crispy crackling interspersed throughout the sandwich.
Of course, for dessert, we got one Chocolate Bar ($3) to share. As I had mentioned earlier, this chocolate bar was created by beta 5 chocolates in partnership with Meat & Bread specifically for this new Meat & Bread location. The chocolate bar contained bourbon-cashew caramel on top of soft malted nougat and was coated in dark chocolate and finished with smoked salt and pork cracklings.
On paper, this chocolate bar sounded delicious and I really had high hopes for it. However, when we tasted it, we were a bit disappointed as we thought it tasted just ok. It really didn’t have any wow factor and we couldn’t taste any of the pork crackling. If I hadn’t read the ingredient list, I would never have known that there was pork crackling on the chocolate. Upon close inspection, we could see a couple of granules of pork crackling on top of the chocolate bar but there was certainly not nearly enough for our taste buds even to detect.
My bigger issue with this chocolate bar was actually the packaging. The chocolate bar was wrapped in cellophane that was held together by the printed transparent label on top. The label was so long and so well affixed on to the cellophane that I couldn’t pull it off. It actually took me several minutes to try to unwrap the bar as I did not have a pair scissors or a knife on hand. Meanwhile, I was trying to hard not to squish the chocolate bar during the process and was hoping that the chocolate wouldn’t start melting from the warmth of my hands as I was wrestling with it so much and for so long. Maybe it was just my bad luck but to me, the packaging on this chocolate bar was a fail as I’d never had so much trouble unwrapping a chocolate bar before.
One thing to note is that each Meat & Bread location features different sandwiches. The original Gastown (Cambie Street) location offers the porchetta, the meatball, and the grilled cheese along with a Daily Special whereas the Pender Street location offers the porchetta and the corned beef along with a Daily Special and a weekly changing Vegetarian Special. For me, because I would always go for the porchetta, I personally don’t see myself needing to go back to the Pender Street location in the future. I prefer the ambience and charm at the original Gastown location and also because they have ample seating. The lack of seating at the Pender Street location would be a bit of a problem for me, especially if the weather is bad since I would not able to sit outside to eat. Another thing to note is that this Pender Street location is only open on weekdays only unlike the Gastown location which is also open on Saturdays. I’m glad I had the opportunity to check out their new location on this visit but for me, it’s the Gastown location that I will keep going back to.
Meat & Bread
1033 West Pender St (@ Burrard)