Mickey Quinn’s gets an A for food

Karl Wells
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But fails on the fruity drink front

Mickey Quinn’s

Delta Hotel

120 New Gower St.

Phone: (709) 570-1333

I hadn’t dined at Mickey Quinn’s in years. Four of us had booked a table for dinner.

A friend and yours truly arrived early and decided to have a pre-dinner drink in the bar. Mickey Quinn’s is an amalgamation of a faux Irish pub, a European style lobby patio café and a white tablecloth dining room of 1990s contemporary design.

The bar area was half full with casually dressed, mostly male customers who looked like they might be hotel guests in town for a convention.

One or two gentlemen appeared to be doing paperwork as they supped.

A convention was happening in the hotel at the time. We asked two servers standing at the maître d’station if it would be OK, while we were waiting for the rest of our party to arrive, if we had a drink on the lobby patio. We were told yes and proceeded to a patio table.

Ten minutes later, a server arrived to take our drinks order. I asked for a glass of the house red (Masi Modello Delle Venezie Rosso) and my friend asked for a virgin creamsicle — orange juice, cream and ice. When he returned, he served my wine and told my friend that the bartender was not able to make a virgin creamsicle. He didn’t tell us why, but since I knew that most hotels, even small ones, would have the ingredients needed to make the drink, I was puzzled. We were prepared to pay the same price as for an alcoholic version of the drink.  

Disbelief

Then my friend asked for a glass of fruit punch.

“Just mix up some different juices, maybe pineapple and orange juice, and that’ll be fine,” she said.

The server looked more positive about the fruit punch order. Yet, several minutes later, he returned to say, “Sorry, but we don’t have any fruit punch.”

At this point, I believe my friend’s jaw and my jaw dropped to the floor simultaneously, and we both looked at each other in disbelief.

The look on our faces must have shocked the server into realizing this whole scenario was beginning to resemble an episode of “Fawlty Towers,” with him cast in the role of Basil Fawlty.

He promptly disappeared. A couple of minutes later he returned with a glass of mixed juices and said, “It’s on the house.”

I could only shake my head and think, “The Delta is the largest hotel in St. John’s and serves hundreds of local, national and international guests every day (many tourists), and this is the way guests with a dinner reservation are handled?”

When the rest of our party arrived we decided it was advisable to move directly to the dining room for dinner. The bar and patio had left a pale impression.

Dining area

The more formal dining area of Mickey Quinn’s is pleasant enough, if dated. It’s fitted out in muted décor from the 1990s.

Apart from us, the dining room was empty. Mickey Quinn’s, apparently, is not a hot spot for a downtown dinner on a Tuesday evening. Another table was eventually occupied by an older man in a short sleeve shirt who sat by himself and read a magazine as he ate.

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A long buffet table, empty but for three or four chaffing dishes, ran along the west wall. Its presence gave the room an odd sad tone, as if the bare buffet were calling out, “You’ve come at the wrong time. You’re too late. Come back in the morning for my scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and hash browns.”

Our dining room server told us that normally she works as a bartender (I wondered if she knew how to make a virgin creamsicle or how to mix up some fruit juices). Despite her lack of table service experience, we agreed she did a good job.

After passing out the menus, she announced the specials for the evening. Only one member of the group went with a special — the table d’hôte featuring a salad with greens and sliced tomato, freshly baked cornmeal coated cod with bacon wrapped scallops, and double chocolate cheesecake dessert.

After finishing off a basket of hot dinner rolls, we began our first course. The French onion soup was remarkable in one particular detail. It was the darkest soup I’ve ever seen. Although it was full of cooked sliced onions, looking down into it I could see nothing except the deepest, darkest brown black pool. It resembled unadulterated demi-glace — except for the addition of cooked onion. It tasted partly of onion but also tasted very beefy. It is definitely a cold weather soup.

Calamari

Mickey Quinn’s calamari with hot peppers was of the opposite colour. The battered calamari rings had been fried to the lightest golden colour and were almost indistinguishable from the rings of yellow pepper sprinkled over them.

I liked the texture of the fried batter. The calamari itself was slightly chewy but still enjoyable, more so when gently dipped into the accompanying small pot of citrus aioli.

Cajun linguini Vera Cruz featured pasta, vegetables and — for $6 more — slices of chicken. All was coated with a cream sauce flavoured with Cajun spice. It was another good example of cold weather comfort food, heavy and flavourful with stick-to-your-ribs potential.

Speaking of Cajun, the blackened salmon was very good, not overcooked. I was somewhat surprised by the rice that came with the salmon. It was plain cooked white rice (a tad dry) with absolutely nothing added. A good counter to the spicy salmon, certainly, but more moisture would have been appreciated.

There was no such problem with my flamed grilled mesquite ribs. I thoroughly enjoyed them. They were succulent, greasy, sticky, smoky and full of pork flavour.

The baked cod was a very good dish as well. Again, the fish was tender, delicate and moist. I’m less a fan of bacon wrapped scallops (which accompanied the cod) because I find it’s almost impossible to find a bacon wrapped scallop that is not overcooked.

I didn’t taste the double chocolate cheesecake that two at our table shared, but I can say it looked delicious and was quickly and happily consumed.

Most of the food at our table was happily consumed and that, of course, is very important when people are paying for a night out in any restaurant. Unfortunately, as I described earlier, Mickey Quinn’s let us down on service.

Rating:

**

Price:

Dinner for two with wine and gratuity: $135.00 (approx.)

Sound level:

Moderate

* Fair  * * Good  * * * Excellent  * * * * Exceptional

• • •

For regular updates on “One Chef One Critic,” my Telegram Dining Out column and the latest developments on the local culinary scene, please follow me on Twitter @karl_wells

Karl Wells is an accredited personal chef and recipient of awards from the national body of the Canadian Culinary Federation and the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. He is also a restaurant panellist with enRoute Magazine. Contact him through his website, www.karlwells.com.

Organizations: Canadian Culinary Federation, Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Vera Cruz

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