Magnum & Steins - Creating Choice and Keepin' It Real.
Walking into Magnum & Steins at 329 Duckworth Street you feel like you’ve walked into the home of an old friend. The atmosphere is cozy and familiar and you are greeted with a friendly smile. I sat down with owners Denise and Bernie Fowler (as well as the rest of the staff) to chat about the opening of the new Wine Bar, Magnum’s history and of course, sample some incredible food and wine!
Magnum & Steins Restaurant opened in December of 2001 at 284 Duckworth Street. They made the move down the street to 329 Duckworth in February of 2012, the location of their other business Duckworth Boutique Hotel. During the move they expanded, added another six hotel rooms (they already had six) and opened three dining rooms on their main floor and a lounge downstairs. Denise made the decision a few months ago to transform one of the dining rooms into a wine bar – their concept will be new to St. John’s.
They installed a 17 foot bar, a wine preservation system and had the whole space ready to go after just ten days of construction! They now feature 22 wines by the glass along with a Wine Bar & Lounge menu featuring some small plates that can be paired with your wine selection. You have the choice of 1 oz, 3oz or 5 oz pours…and of course a bottle if required! The different pours allow you to taste a bottle before buying and gives you the opportunity to be flexible and pair the best wine with your menu selections. It is all about exploring your own personal palate in a fun relaxing atmosphere.
It is always the people that make an atmosphere fun and relaxing and the staff at Magnums and Steins certainly do that. Debbie started with Magnums in 2007 then left and worked in just about every other restaurant in town. She says she always compared her other jobs to Magnums and nothing ever measured up so she came “home”. She also has her Level I ISG (International Sommelier Guild) Training completed which will be very useful for customers wanting to know a little more about their wine pairings. Marie, the hotel/office manager is referred to as the glue that holds everything together for the past 4 years. She is “hand on”, in fact she has probably put a paint brush to every wall in the building on top of her regular duties. Then there is the quirky fun story. I mentioned a feeling of familiarity when you walk through the door. Well it is literally. Jill the Floor Manager, Phil the bartender of 11 years, and Chef Jen are all Thornes – yes – siblings! Jill says “she loves working with her family and that it’s been non-stop fun and adventure since day one”
Opening a wine bar was influenced by Denise and Bernie’s love for travel. “Whenever we travel we always look for something different.” Denise says,” We always order food and share everything, and we also love wine. I wanted to do something at Magnums that would be fun, something that no one else is doing.” Their plan is to change up their wine offerings every six to eight weeks to keep it fresh and interesting. As far as food, they’ve created a mouth watering selection of plates, but you can also get their traditional menu that everyone has come to know and love.
Everything at Magnums is made fresh to order. They use the freshest local ingredients and do all their curing in-house. They’ve also decided to open the wine bar at 5:30pm to catch the after work crowd who may want to pop in for a drink and a small plate. Bernie wants to spread the word that there is more to Magnum & Steins than a traditional, sit down, three course meal. It’s a great place to come and have a drink, be it their extensive beer selection, creative cocktails (try the Starburst Martini!) or their new selection of wines. Stay tuned for news on their specialty nights like 5-7 course wine/dinner pairings, champagne/sparkling wine nights, and a wine lovers night where selected bottles of wine are reduced!
Bernie served me two glasses of wine, the Kung Fu Girl Riesling and the Closson Chase KJ Watson Pinot Noir – wow. Both choices pared so lovely with the food brought out. Everyone poured themselves a glass of wine and we got down to tasting the kitchen’s creations.
First up was the Beef Tartare – a favourite of Denise and Bernie’s 12 year old daughter. It was absolutely incredible, one of my favourite dishes of the evening. The tartare itself was so flavourful, and paired with the dressed greens – it’s a menu item that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Next up – Fish Tacos. This was my favourite dish and also the dish that disappeared the fastest! One of the more popular menu items and I can definitely see why. The chipotle lime crema really sets off all the flavours and it paired perfectly with the Riesling. They sell these individually – I suggest ordering more than one!
Clams with chorizo sausage and chickpeas. Spicy and robust – perfection.
Finally, two beautiful oysters that tasted so fresh, like they were plucked from the ocean and dropped onto my plate.
The opening of the wine bar means that Magnum & Steins now has everything for one diner under one roof. You can stay in one of the finely appointed hotel rooms, have a 3 course meal in their cosy dining room, enjoy light fare and a drink in the downstairs bar or sip on a superb glass of wine paired to perfection with their Lounge menu. The choice is yours. I’m already planning my next visit.