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.


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Black Sea Restaurant & Bar

On the main floor of the Franklin Hotel, in downtown St.John’s, lies a restaurant boasting authentic Mediterranean cuisine with a unique local twist.

Each time I walk past this restaurant my gaze is drawn in by the clean and modern floor-to-ceiling windows and each time, I am further intrigued by the open yet cozy-seeming atmosphere which lends itself to the consistently happy-looking diners lining the interior of the Black Sea Restaurant & Bar.

Black Sea Restaurant and BAR St.John's Newfoundland downtown where to eat

As you walk into the restaurant, you are greeted by a large well-lit, modern bar while the main dining room is situated to your right. The restaurant’s decor is minimal with colour-interest from accent walls, textural-interest from authentic red brick and visual-interest with various art pieces throughout.

Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.john's Newfoundland where to eat drink mediterranean

Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.john's Newfoundland where to eat drink mediterranean Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.john's Newfoundland where to eat drink mediterranean

We were seated immediately, thanks to having a reservation. Quite early into our evening, the restaurant began to fill-up.

As per usual, I started my dining experience by looking through the drink menu. The Black Sea has a nice assortment of delicious-sounding beverages, but with warm-weather on the rise, I was immediately drawn in by the White Wine Sangria.

Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.john's Newfoundland where to eat drink mediterranean cocktail menu

Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.john's Newfoundland where to eat drink mediterranean cocktail menu white wine sangria

I ordered the half pitcher of White Wine Sangria ($18) for myself and was incredibly pleased! The mix was perfectly flavoured with a unique focus on peach flavours (which was amazing) and loads of fruit – I even ate some of the fruit after the drink itself was gone.

Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.john's Newfoundland where to eat drink mediterranean cocktail menu white wine sangria pitcher

Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.john's Newfoundland where to eat drink mediterranean cocktail menu white wine sangria pitcher Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.john's Newfoundland where to eat drink mediterranean cocktail menu white wine sangria pitcher

I have been craving this fresh, crisp and flavourful drink ever since this meal – I can’t wait to return to get the full pitcher.

The dinner menu at the Black Sea is simple and sticks to its Mediterranean-based theme. With a selection of Soups, Salads, Appetizers, Evening Specials and Entrees there is something to please all diners.

Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.John's Newfoundland where to eat drink review dinner menu mediterranean

Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.John's Newfoundland where to eat drink review dinner menu mediterranean entrees

We started our meal with the Retro Salad ($12). The premise of this salad is a popular one, which makes it a good opportunity to showcase the originality of the restaurant’s chef. This particular version featured Lebanese string cheese, spinach greens, quinoa, strawberries and toasted pecans with a sweet martini and pomegranate vinaigrette.

I was particularly intrigued by the lebanese string cheese and was disappointed to find the cheese I was presented with was in fact crumbled, not string. However, this did not affect the concept of the dish. The Retro Salad was fresh, seasonally appropriate and absolutely tasty.

Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.John's Newfoundland where to eat drink review dinner menu mediterranean entrees retro salad spinach strawberry

For our second dish, we tried the Scallop Special (~$17) which featured 4 scallops in 3 different sauces. Overall, I loved this dish and would order it again.

The first sauce was a Cauliflower-Vanilla which featured a nice, smooth texture. I felt the vanilla was slightly too aromatic and did overpower the scallop, but I also appreciated the uniqueness of the flavour combination. It was an interesting experience!

The second sauce was an Avocado Thai Chilli Relish. The texture was slightly more chunky due to the avocado with a perfectly balanced flavour combination of sweet and spicy. This sauce was my favourite of the three.

The final sauce for the scallop dish was a Carrot Pepper Red Curry sauce. This rich, creamy sauce was also aromatic but was a lovely match to the perfectly seared scallop.

Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.John's Newfoundland where to eat drink review dinner menu mediterranean entrees scallop avocado curry cauliflower Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.John's Newfoundland where to eat drink review dinner menu mediterranean entrees scallop avocado curry cauliflower

After these delicious starters, we were very excited to dig into our Entrees.

The first Entree we tasted was the Duck Confit ($33). This dish featured a traditional Duck Confit with a Cranberry Truffle Risotto and a Spicy Apple Gastrique. A ‘gastrique‘ involves a reduction of vinegar and sugar that can be infused with anything of your choice – in this case, Spicy Apple.

The duck itself was cooked to perfection and fell off the bone with a simple touch. The risotto side was creamy and rich which made a lovely companion to the duck confit. I would definitely eat this dish again!

Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.John's Newfoundland where to eat drink duck confit asparagus risotto mediterranean

The other Entree at our table was the Tandoori Chicken ($31). This dish featured Tandoori Chicken Supreme with Basmati Rice with a Mint and Coriander Chutney and a Micro Salad.

I loved the presentation of this plate – the micro salad especially was visually interesting and was fun to eat.

Similar to the Duck Confit, the chicken was tender, moist, full of flavour and fell apart easily. The spicy rub on the chicken was complimented nicely by the Mint and Coriander Chutney. If you are not a spice-lover, I would not recommend this dish. However, if you like spice, the Tandoori Chicken is a must-try! I certainly can’t wait to try it again.

Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.john's Newfoundland where to eat review food blog tandoori chicken basmati rice chutney mediterranean

Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.john's Newfoundland where to eat review food blog tandoori chicken basmati rice chutney mediterranean

We finished our meals with complete satisfaction and were absolutely impressed with each of the dishes we tasted. As per the claim of the Black Sea Restaurant, all of the dishes were based on traditional Mediterranean cuisine and featured fantastic unique twists.

Naturally, we couldn’t resist trying their dessert. If you’re trying a new restaurant and are impressed with your meal, I highly recommend trying their dessert – chances are, you’re going to be really happy about it.

black sea restaurant and bar downtown st. john's newfoundland where to eat drink dessert decor review

We ordered the Baklava with Ice Cream. Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layered of filo, filled with chopped nuts which are sweetened while it all is held together with syrup or honey – which makes it incredibly sweet and just delicious.

I have had Baklava before, but this was the first time that I have had it warm and served with ice cream. The sweet and crispy layers of filo and honey were delectable and went perfectly with the traditional vanilla ice cream. I will be ordering this dessert again – in fact, I can’t wait.

black sea restaurant and bar downtown st. john's newfoundland where to eat drink dessert baklava ice cream review

We both thoroughly enjoyed our entire dining experience at the Black Sea. The food was authentic, well-presented and incredibly tasty. The service was genuine, helpful and although spotty at times, was enjoyable.

The decor was minimal, simplistic and allowed the food to speak for itself. The interior as a whole was an interesting mix of modern and traditional. I particularly enjoyed the exposed brick and the cozy feeling it imposed.

The only disappointment with my experience of dining at the Black Sea was that I hadn’t discovered it sooner! I’m eagerly awaiting a chance to return and taste more of this great menu.

Black Sea Restaurant and Bar downtown St.john's Newfoundland where to eat drink mediterranean cocktail menu white wine sangria pitcher