Canada's best new restaurant: Raymond's, St. John's
By Sarah Musgrave
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A staff portrait in the main dining room; fresh Newfoundland lamb with local root vegetable dauphinoise. (Virginia MacDonald)
There are few views in Canada more evocative than the one from the dining room at Raymonds. Tall windows survey Newfoundland’s prosperity, past and present: from St. John’s Harbour, picturesquely gritty with its tugboats and toothless smiles, to colourful houses huddling together against the wind, to the Atlantic beyond, where offshore drilling is fuelling Canada’s other oil boom.
Chef Jeremy Charles and GM Jeremy Bonia have created a restaurant for these flush times, a place where sea captains of yore and current captains of industry (and the cast of Republic of Doyle) would be equally at home. Named for their grandfather and father, respectively, Raymonds is all chandeliered Edwardian elegance. What century is this again? Clinking stemware is muffled by thick carpet and heavy drapery. Generously spaced tables beckon prospectors to twirl the tips of their waxed moustaches. Seafood platters, conveyed in silver urns of Edward Gorey proportions, are heaped with lobster, shrimp, oysters and snails. “They’re periwinkles,” our suited waiter explains. “As kids on Ramea Island, we used to pick them off the shore.”
Charles’ food is fresh, bright and ultimately thoughtful. Inspired by the primacy of ingredients in this, his native land, he returned here to helm Atlantica (which earned top spot on this list in 2007) with Bonia. He goes in deep with meat – a vertical tasting of veal chop, cheek and sweetbreads is a trifecta of tenderness – and he’s expert with fish. However, his more particular distinction is that of root whisperer, coaxing the most intimate sweetness from parsnips, potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes, which he grows himself. Pan-seared halibut fluoresces under golden skin, brilliant white against braised short rib, a tangle of spinach, asparagus and leeks, and a fragrant purée of sunchokes that blesses anything it comes into contact with.
For this salt-of-the-earth city, fastidious about its fish and chips, these are uncharted waters. For all of us, a bold new horizon.
95 Water St., 709-579-5800, raymondsrestaurant.com