The Merchant Tavern

At this point, I am sure everyone is familiar with the ever-impressive team behind Raymonds restaurant. Again this year, Raymonds was ranked the #1 restaurant in Canada. But, the unstoppable duo, Jeremy Charles and Jeremy Bonia, are not stopping there. Just this week, they opened a brand new restaurant located at 291 Water Street, The Merchant Tavern.

291 water street The Merchant Tavern downtown st. john's newfoundland jeremey charles bonia where to eat food blog review beer pasta seafood

291 water street The Merchant Tavern downtown st. john's newfoundland jeremey charles bonia where to eat food blog review beer pasta seafood 291 water street The Merchant Tavern downtown st. john's newfoundland jeremey charles bonia where to eat food blog review beer pasta seafood

I had been eagerly awaiting the opening of The Merchant Tavern ever since I first spotted the beautifully etched glass on their front windows. When I seen it finally posted on Facebook this past Tuesday that they were finally open to the public, I sprung from my desk and headed out to make their 5:30 opening.

When I reached the porch, it set in that I was finally going to get to try food from Jeremy Charles. In the past while, globally, we have developed a new type of celebrity: the celebrity chef. These aren’t Kardashian-type celebrities, but people who are truly talented, genuinely inventive and are creating authentic and important change in the world, through food. Jeremy Charles is one of these people and we are so incredibly lucky to have him as our own.

291 water street The Merchant Tavern downtown st. john's newfoundland jeremey charles bonia where to eat food blog review beer pasta seafood

When I walked up the stairs of The Merchant Tavern and spotted him buzzing around the open concept kitchen eyeing dishes and chatting with staff, I had my first celebrity-encounter moment. Thankfully, I kept it together and silently observed. It felt amazing, as a foodie and a customer, to know that even though The Merchant Tavern is admittedly a more laid-back and lower-priced restaurant, that he and Jeremy Bonia have the same dedication they have to Raymonds.

The interior of this new spot is jaw-dropping on its own. The ceilings are tall with long, modern light fixtures and oversized, bright windows. The room is centred around a large fully-stocked bar which seats around 40 people. Lining the walls are simple, modern tables with bar-height tables featured along the tall windows.

The Merchant Tavern 291 water street downtown st. john's newfoundland jeremy charles bonia local food where to eat seafood beer review

The Merchant Tavern 291 water street downtown st. john's newfoundland jeremy charles bonia local food where to eat seafood beer review

The Merchant Tavern 291 water street downtown st. john's newfoundland jeremy charles bonia local food where to eat seafood beer review The Merchant Tavern 291 water street downtown st. john's newfoundland jeremy charles bonia local food where to eat seafood beer review

This location was previously home to a bank, which leaves an interesting element for future use: the vault! Hidden away in the back of The Merchant Tavern is a private room fit for a king. With its large steel door your eye is drawn in, and is then met with a large leather booth and warm, cozy lighting.

The Merchant Tavern 291 water street downtown st. john's newfoundland jeremy charles bonia local food where to eat seafood beer review the vault private room The Merchant Tavern 291 water street downtown st. john's newfoundland jeremy charles bonia local food where to eat seafood beer review the vault private room

But, the star of the show is what lies in the back of the restaurant, the open concept kitchen. While you dine at The Merchant Tavern the entire kitchen is open for your viewing. Whether it’s the staff prepping cutlery for the next guests or Jeremy Charles himself cooking you up a dish, you can watch!

This, to me, is always a true-sign of a quality restaurant. There’s nothing to hide in a kitchen like this.

The Merchant Tavern 291 water street downtown st. john's newfoundland jeremy charles bonia local food where to eat seafood beer review

The Merchant Tavern 291 water street downtown st. john's newfoundland jeremy charles bonia local food where to eat seafood beer review kitchen

The Merchant Tavern 291 water street downtown st. john's newfoundland jeremy charles bonia local food where to eat seafood beer review kitchen

For our first visit, we took a seat at the bar – this also provided a great viewing platform for observing the kitchen. As per usual, we started with drinks.

The Merchant Tavern menu cocktails where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland food blog jeremy charles jeremy bonia

The drink menu at The Merchant Tavern is a little different than what we’re used to seeing in downtown, St.John’s. Jeremy Bonia, the Sommelier at Raymonds, decided for this restaurant to opt for a larger focus on craft beers, simplify the wine menu and take a more traditional turn on cocktails instead of the popular sugary-mixed drinks.

I opted for the Eastsider cocktail ($14) and Andrew opted for the Liberty Ale ($8). My cocktail was perfectly flavoured, fresh and had just the right amount of sweetness to it.

The Merchant Tavern menu cocktails where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland food blog jeremy charles jeremy bonia eastsider The Merchant Tavern menu cocktails where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland liberty ale craft beer food blog jeremy charles jeremy bonia

Also, to be noted. They have opted for a European approach in offering Sparkling Water as the staple drink, instead of the North American tradition of Flat Water – but obviously, you can get flat water if you request.

The Merchant Tavern menu cocktails where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland food blog jeremy charles jeremy bonia

While we sipped away and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, we perused the menu. It was so hard to choose what would be our first dish here – I wanted to try everything!

With a dedication to keeping it clean, fresh and local both Raymonds and The Merchant Tavern source as much as they can from local farmers, fishermen and suppliers. You can read about a few of them here.

The Merchant Tavern menu dinner where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland food blog jeremy charles jeremy bonia The Merchant Tavern menu dinner where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland food blog jeremy charles jeremy bonia

The Merchant Tavern menu dinner where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland food blog jeremy charles jeremy bonia The Merchant Tavern menu dinner where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland food blog jeremy charles jeremy bonia

The Merchant Tavern menu dinner where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland food blog jeremy charles jeremy bonia The Merchant Tavern menu dinner where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland food blog jeremy charles jeremy bonia

Once our order was in, we were presented with a rustic plate of bread and butter. The slices of bread were carefully placed in a bag and were lovingly kept warm with hot rocks in the base. Seriously, it was amazing. I want hot rocks for all of my bread now..

The Merchant Tavern bread butter where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland

We started with a dish that is gaining popularity, the beet salad. Of course, The Merchant Tavern has their own version that certainly stepped it up a notch. The Organic Beet & Green Salad ($12) featured sprouted grains, toasted pumpkin seeds, rapeseed oil and beets.

The Merchant Tavern organic beet and green salad sprouted grains downtown st. john's where to eat

The flavours were simple and natural giving the dish an earthy and fresh flavour. At my first bite, I knew I was in for a treat for the rest of the food. I will certainly be ordering this again!

The Merchant Tavern organic beet and green salad sprouted grains downtown st. john's where to eat

Being a lover of cured meats, I couldn’t resist trying their take on a Charcuterie Plate ($8pp). This featured a selection of house cured and Canadian meats along with house-made pickled vegetables and grilled sourdough.

The Merchant Tavern charcuterie plate prosciutto chorizo pickles sourdough where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland

This was truthfully the best Charcuterie Plate I have been served at a restaurant. It had a beautiful selection, the pickles were absolutely delicious and it was quite a large serving for being a starter for 1 person – this is worth more than $8 for sure. Definitely ordering again!

The Merchant Tavern charcuterie plate prosciutto chorizo pickles sourdough where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland

After devouring these two large-serving starters, we were presented with our mains. I chose a small serving of the Spaghettini ($14). This dish featured fresh pasta, beautifully cooked broccoli, lemon, chili, a mound of parmesan and crisp bread crumbs.

The Merchant Tavern spaghettini pasta broccoli where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland The Merchant Tavern spaghettini pasta broccoli where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland

This pasta was light and perfectly flavoured with hints of lemon that complimented the rich parmesan cheese. I’m glad I opted for the small size, as after eating the starters I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish the large portion! I highly recommend this dish – it’s simple and absolutely delicious.

Andrew chose the Roast Cod Fish ($24). This take on a traditional meal featured perfectly cooked Cod Fish, turnip, blueshell mussels and cider. Again, the flavours felt natural and light. I find often at restaurants that fish dishes leave me feeling unsatisfied, this would not be the case here! The serving was hearty and satisfying.

The Merchant Tavern roast cod fish mussels seafood where to eat downtown st. john's newfoundland

We were pretty full after all of this – but we had to try dessert! A friend of ours, who is now working at The Merchant Tavern, recommended to us to try the Vinegar Pie. Even with the clause of “I know, it doesn’t sound good”, he swore it was delicious. We went for it and he was so right – it was phenomenal!

The Vinegar Pie ($10) had a perfectly crisped crust with a moist interior. This was topped with Dandelion Ice Cream – amazing! If you’re sticking around for dessert, you should really give this dish a go – trust me.

The Merchant Tavern vinegar pie dandelion ice cream dessert where to eat food review The Merchant Tavern vinegar pie dandelion ice cream dessert where to eat food review

My visit to The Merchant Tavern was an absolute 10/10. I can’t wait to return and try whatever they come up with next. From the professional and kind staff to the beautiful decor, this restaurant is sure to be a hit just like its cousin, Raymonds.

The Merchant Tavern restaurant and bar fine fare ailes and spirits downtown st. john's newfoundland 291 Water Street where to eat food blog review

I suggest you get out there and check out The Merchant Tavern as soon as you can – no doubt, it’s booking up quickly!

You can visit their website at themerchanttavern.ca or visit their Facebook page here.


Deck Dining: Magnum and Steins

The season has finally arrived – deck season! Not much is better than a warm breeze, the sun beating down and enjoying a cool drink while basking in the warmth and company of good friends. Well, it gets a little better if you can do all that while enjoying some great food on the deck of a local restaurant.

On our first warm and sunny day of the season, I watched hopelessly from the window of my fourth floor office, while the entire downtown population made the best of the beautiful day. That was when I decided, it was the perfect day to kick off deck dining for the summer. I put out an open call on Twitter for tips on who had a dinner-ready deck and thankfully, Magnum and Steins answered my call.

bring the bread on twitter newfoundland st. john's where to eat deck dining drink magnum and steins

I called immediately to make a reservation on the deck and rounded up a group of friends who were up for the sunny food adventure.

If you recall my previous review of Magnum and Steins’ Lounge Menu, you’ll already know that I’m a fan of their food but, eating on their deck was a brand new experience and I got to try a new item on their menu.

Decor

Upon arrival, we were escorted through the modern dining room to the deck at the rear of the restaurant. The deck itself is quite small, seating only about 8 people, which made me very thankful that I did make a reservation!

The deck furniture is simple, bar-height and feels limited in comparison to the very chic decor of the restaurant’s interior. But, it was perfect for our casual evening out. Being a group of six, we had the deck to ourselves and enjoyed a private, catered affair in the warm sun.

magnum and steins restaurant wine bar deck eat drink st. john's newfoundland

Drinks

Naturally, we started our fête in the sun with drinks. I opted for a drink I reviewed last time – yes, it is that delicious. The Melontini is a fantastic mix of sweet melon and rich vanilla which was a perfect start to our meal.

magnum and steins restaurant and wine bar st. john's downtown newfoundland where to eat review deck patio dining martini reservation

While we mulled over the menus and noshed on the fresh bread appetizer, I tried out another mixed drink off the Magnum and Steins cocktail menu. This drink, the Sea Breeze, is a sweet and citrusy beverage mainly consisting of grapefruit juice. I will definitely be returning to try this fresh and light cocktail.

sea breeze cocktail martini magnum and steins downtown st. john's newfoundland eat drink where to eat restaurant review patio deck

Dining

The first dish which graced our table was the Charcuterie Plate. This plate featured Duck Prosciutto which was a real treat. However, the rest did fall a little flat and felt a little lack lustre overall.

charcuterie plate magnum and steins downtown st. john's newfoundland duck prosciutto salami chorizo where to eat restaurant review

Thankfully, this was followed by two much-loved dishes. Fish Tacos ($8 each) and the Mags Fries ($7). These two appetizers make a perfect combination together to create a casual meal, which is exactly what you need while deck dining with friends.

The Fish Tacos were served on a perfectly Grilled Flour Tortilla, while the Crispy Fried Cod was layered with Shaved Cabbage, Pico de Gallo and drizzled with a mouth-watering Chipotle Lime Crema. The Mags Fries feature Hand-Cut Bistro Style Frites with Parmesean Cheese and Fresh Parsley along with a complimentary dip.

Honestly, I wish I could eat this meal everyday. Both dishes are fresh, full flavoured and leave you wanting more.

fish tacos mags fries sea breeze martini cocktail charcuterie plate magnum and steins downtown st. john's newfoundland restaurant review where to eat patio deck dining wine bar

We continued our casual Magnum and Steins meal with the infamous Duck Confit Nachos ($10/half serving). This plate is a favourite of mine and I am always happy to be present for the first time others get to try it! Seriously, you need to go and try these nachos.

They’re rich, decadent and irresistible. The dish is based on crispy, Fried Wontons, topped with a Carrot & Ginger Slaw, drizzled with Sweet & Spicy Sesame Soy and finished off with a mound of juicy and rich Duck Confit.

duck nachos mags fries parmesan fries magnum and steins downtown st.john's newfoundland where to eat restaurant review wine bar deck patio dining

The last dish we ordered was a Magnum and Steins feature for the month of May; fresh, homemade Gnocchi. Gnocchi may seem like a popular restaurant dish however, finding a truly well-done gnocchi dish is rare.

This dish, was perfect. The base was rich yet subtle, which felt very authentic. The lobster claw admittedly felt out of place initially but its flavours blended perfectly with the tomato and garlic base – and was itself, delicious. The gnocchi was cooked to perfection with the tender, yet structured consistency that it should have.

I would be very happy to see Gnocchi as a feature on the Magnum and Steins menu again.

gnocchi lobster tomato magnum and steins restaurant review downtown st. john's newfoundland where to eat dinner patio deck dining bring the bread blog

Experience

Overall, my experience on the Magnum and Steins deck was wonderful! It was a real pleasure to have such a private dining experience at such a great restaurant, while getting to take advantage of a beautiful day in downtown St.John’s.

One thing to note is that it was a little noisy on the deck, as it is in close proximity to roof-top machinery from the restaurant and nearby buildings. However, you do get used to the background noise quickly – and surely the experience makes up for it!

On the next warm, sunny evening I highly recommend gathering a few friends and trying out the Magnum and Steins deck for a truly delicious experience!

magnum and steins restaurant st.john's newfoundland