The former Pony Express in Pemberton, now The Pony, has been transformed

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Casual and affordable bistro-style meals

Mia Stainsby

Caesar salad and beet salad with goat cheese and pecans at The Pony.


Where: 1392 Portage Road, Pemberton

Phone: 604-894-5700

Hours: Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner and for late night snacks

Overall: ***1/2

Food: ***1/2

Ambience: ***1/2

Service: ***1/2

Price: $$

Restaurant visits are conducted anonymously and interviews are done by phone.

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If you’re outdoorsy, I don’t need to tell you of the good hiking around Pemberton — even my last hike to Rohr Lake. Mosquito terrorists attacked and chomped on every exposed inch of me and my feet clomped like pile-drivers hopping boulders up an avalanche chute, but it was still good hiking.

And now, there’s good eating in Pemberton, too. For a very long time (15 years), The Pony Express was a dependable java stop but last April, Alexander Stoll and Neal Harrison took it over with more ambitious plans. They relaunched it as The Pony and offer early morning breakfast, lunch, a bistro style dinner and late night drinks and snacks. It opens at 6:30 a.m.and closes at 1 a.m.

Pemberton, a bedroom to Whistler, is like Canmore, the bedroom to Banff, each with laid-back flavours of their own. But the difference is, Pemberton is fast becoming a foodie town with a vibrant farming community; we were surprised to learn of the Pemberton Valley Vineyard (yes!) and soon, a vodka distillery called Pemberton Organic Vodka (double yes!).

At The Pony, Stoll hails from France and Harrison from England. Together they also run Fat Duck, a catering business and until they took over The Pony, ran a lunch service at Pemberton Valley Vineyard (now discontinued but you can book ahead for dinner at their bed and breakfast operation). Stoll has worked at Val d’Isere and Westin Resort in Whistler and Harrison has worked at the Westin as well as Langara Lodge up the B.C. coast.

When I clambered down the mountain from Rohr Lake, it was a toss-up between The Pony and Wildwood Bar and Grill for dinner. The latter feels like a Whistler transplant and, in fact, is, while The Pony is worn and funky. But the menu at The Pony looked far more intriguing to me.

I hadn’t been impressed with the impatient, irritated service at The Pony that morning when we asked staff about dinner so I had my doubts but the evening service proved to be much better. It’s a family-friendly restaurant with pizzas on the top of mind for kids and bistro-style dishes for adults. At a neighbouring table, parents were pointing out artichokes to their little son: “Will you choke on them?” he asked. I also noted something every parent should know about: a plastic placemat for baby with a built-in trough that hung off the table for the rubble to fall into.

Our server (with Quebecois accent) was informative and enthusiastic. Main ingredients are mostly locally sourced and a big deal is made of the famous Pemberton potatoes. The warm potato salad is one such offer. “Bacon! That’s my kind of potato salad,” said my hungry man. Like many dishes on the menu, it’s available in small or large size. A goat’s cheese and onion marmalade tartlette came with a side of local beet and arugula salad with walnut dressing. A baked Queen Charlotte halibut with a hazelnut herb crust ($26) was really fresh and napped in a mussel cream sauce. Risotto with peas and duck confit was a special for either $14 or $20. As the small size was more than filling, I would have been in a great deal of pain had I gone for the large.

I couldn’t resist a dessert called The Mess (ice cream, meringue, whipped cream, strawberry and rhubarb compote, layered in a glass) and found myself scouring the bottom for the last bits.

Dishes resonate with French bistro influences and that’s definitely the style of food here — casual and affordable and sticking to proven techniques. B.C. ingredients like Pemberton beef, Sloping Hills organic pork, Pemberton potatoes, Fraser Valley duck and local produce will be regularly featured on the menu. The day I called, the specials for the day included Pemberton top sirloin sandwich in pecan bread with demi glace dip (for lunch) and for dinner, Alberta bison with white navy beans, arugula and oven-dried tomatoes and an eight-ounce Pemberton beef rib-eye with cherry gastrique and Pemberton potatoes.

Foodies, you’ve missed the Outstanding in the Field farm dinner in Pemberton (July 18) but you can still make the Slow Food Cycle Sunday ( on August 16 should you want to check out the edible side of Pemberton.

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