I was somewhat apprehensive as a self-confessed foodie to leave Ontario, especially Toronto, where good food and wine abound (no snickers please), and approach the Atlantic provinces where even chowhound.com is amazingly reticent on restaurant suggestions.
So it was a pleasant surprise to find good food wherever we've been, drinkable wine and some great new discoveries. Clearly things are changing.
In St John's we had:
- great halibut two different ways at Magnum & Stein http://www.magnumandsteins.ca/en/, a house South African sauvignon blanc that completely met the match, and a decadent dessert with chocolate and peanut butter
- lovely pilaf, scallops and Caesar salad, a salad I had almost given up on, at Portobello http://www.portobellosrestaurant.ca/ with a nice Chablis from Fevres, decent creme brulee and berry towers for dessert; the only real disappointment being the cods' tongues - a little too breaded
- Gypsy Tea Room http://gypsytearoom.ca/public/index.php Kobe beef sliders, sweet potato fries with a nice Spanish crianza preceded by a nice Caesar salad or beet, goat cheese salad and portobello and chanterelle soup. No dessert that time after all that food... but we'll go back - good cellar.
- Auntie Crae's http://auntiecraes.com/ has very nice baked goods - beer bread, a decent baguette, partridge berry cake; and lots of local specialties like bakeapple (aka cloudberry) jam, partridge berry (aka lingon berry) jam, Newfoundland Chocolate Co chocolates, etc. and a little cafe we didn't get into because it was Tuesday and full of music fans listening to local traditional musicians
- Belbin's Grocery http://www.belbins.com/ really good store with with Auntie Crae products plus local meats and vegetables and lots of imported essentials not locally available in NL. Local finds - pre-sale agneau (pre-salted lamb because it feeds on saltwater vegetation) as well as a range of prepared frozen foods which we didn't sample but were well spoken of.
In Holyrood, a small village about 45 minutes away from St John's we discovered:
- Mary Brown's http://www.marybrowns.com/ - an east coast KFC-type restaurant chain with better quality, lighter battered, juicier chicken
- The Pantry bakery and cafe with a decent basic eggs and bacon breakfast during the week with good bread and very good baking. The peanut butter cookies and blueberry squares are very popular at our house and the partridge berry scones were a trip discovery - though not consistently available this close to the next harvest
- a good basic fresh food grocer Dawes with fresh fish, frozen meat, a very passable black pudding and the basic fresh veg every kitchen needs
- Tea Garden http://teagarden.ca/ We went for lunch Sunday. What a great place. Built as a retirement home for a Norwegian sea captain, it's a lovely gracious building taking in every facet of the most beautiful scenery in Holyrood. The scenery made up for any lack of excitement in the food - it was very good quality simple home cooking with lovely china and table linens. The only things I'd complain of was the small wine list with lots of items unavailable but you couldn't argue with the prices and I suppose it is the end of the main season here. We had Caesar salads and fish cakes or pan fried cod with scunchions*. The fish cakes were made with freshly mashed potatoes and delicately spiced. The cod was very good; the scunchions were, too. The salads were good. The bread pudding was good; I think we could do better but it was 'home' made.
Dildo (yes, it really is called that) another 30 minutes northwest
- Dildo Dory Grill http://www.dildodorygrill.com/ We had a over-dressed Caesar salad but with real bacon and good quality greens and a seafood appetizer platter which was two-thirds locally sourced and prepared (no calamari available locally - they use it for bait.) Not a lot of wine to choose from but Pelee Island Gewurztraminer is not a bad match for seafood. We weren't sure how they would do on the cods' tongues after the Portobello experience so we didn't order them, even though they were, but aren't always, available. We were sorry after we saw how well they did the other items. Next time. Enjoyed the Figgy Duff though I'm sure we can find (or make) better.
Cavendish - a little past Dildo
- Browns restaurant, recommended in Where to Eat in Canada, had great bacon, eggs and partridge berry pancakes. Lunch looked good enough to come back for, so we did and had very nice cod bits and chips (fish and chips style) and partridge berry pie.- pastry not a big hit but those berries! Also a great view of Shag Rock.
*Scrunchions are delicious bits of fried salt pork fat reminiscent of French lardons