It works – mostly
So there we were, early on a rainy weekend morning, too lazy to make our own breakfast. This was our chance to finally try out Ironworks Café and Creperie. This well-publicized shop had opened up in the late Fall and had already received a lot of positive reviews for their Ladysmith, Chemainus, and Duncan locations. As former big fans of Café Crepe in Vancouver, we were excited to give our own new crepe shop a try.
You can find Ironworks right on the corner of Bastion and Commercial (across from RBC). The shop surprised us a little bit in that it isn’t set up for warmth and coziness like you might expect from a café. Instead, it’s set up like a quick-serve restaurant, with a few small tables and a pick up counter. The front door was open and it was actually somewhat chilly inside. The decor was pleasant, with some great local art on the walls, but the bright lighting and the colour choices made it feel almost like a surgical suite inside — not like somewhere you’d like to warm up with a cup of joe in. On this day we were intending to eat in so we made ourselves semi-comfortable at a tiny table with a couple of tiny chairs.
There’s a great selection of crepes to choose from here. There are standards like Nutella banana and lemon-sugar crepes, right up to fancy dessert crepes and (our preference) the savoury crepes filled with meat and/or vegetables. You also have the option of a number of different crepe batters. Since we were here for breakfast we ordered a couple of coffees and a couple of savoury Belgian crepes. For him, the breakfast crepe, and for her, a more exotic vegetable crepe.
While we waited, we scoped out the coffee bar and menu, and were impressed. This is a proper café, with all manner of coffees and teas available, and the equipment to process them, and they clearly pride themselves on their beans. Unfortunately they got our coffee order (slightly) wrong. This was not a big deal, but was surprising for a place that seems to want to be a café first and a creperie second.
Our crepes came out in fair time. First up was the breakfast crepe. This had bacon, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, and swiss cheese in it. It was quite large and reasonably well-stuffed. The crepe was nice and hot so the cheese was gooey. The crepe itself was substantial, and tasted good. Interestingly, Ironworks calls its batter Belgian (as opposed to French) but we couldn’t taste a difference to the French crepes we’ve had before. The filling of the breakfast crepe we found to be a bit on the bland side, and would have preferred a cheese with a bit more punch, but many may find it just right for them as is. A good and reasonably filling breakfast overall.
Our other order was a vegetable crepe. This was stuffed with a creative mix of chickpeas, cauliflower, and spinach, with a spicy tomato sauce. Well, we should say “spicy” tomato sauce. “Tangy” is probably a better descriptor as there was no real heat to speak of. This crepe was served with a generous dollop of tzatziki on top. All together this meal was well-conceived and threw a lot of flavour at us. It was also filling without being too much. Veggie people will love it.
Service at Ironworks was excellent, including a quick welcome and a friendly send off when our meal was done. There was a real positive vibe in the restaurant like the staff all really wanted to be there. Our server was humming and dancing while she worked. That’s neat to see at 9 am on a weekend morning.
We paid $36 for our meal, including tax and a modest tip. We consider this to be ok value. Had the shop been a little more comfortable to hang out in, we might have felt more comfortable with the $13 per crepe price tag.
Just a note – you pay in advance, so unless you’ve brought cash, you’re pre-paying any tip you’d like to leave, which can feel a bit weird.
We can’t argue with the success Ironworks has had before coming to Nanaimo, but we found it to not quite live up to its lofty reputation. Don’t leave thinking Ironworks isn’t a good spot for a bite though. The service is excellent, and there is a lot of variety in the menu items to try. If they can tweak their formula for the value of what you get for your money, and perhaps make the restaurant a bit more comfortable to relax in, we think they will be a hit. While we can’t say Ironworks gets us super excited right now, we do know we’ll be back, at the very least to try the peaches and cream and seafood crepes!
Have you been? Let us know your thoughts below or give us a shout!