At home at Oliver’s

Karl Wells
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A solid restaurant that never fails to please

160 Water Street
Ph. 754-6444

A visit to Oliver’s is, for me, almost like visiting an old friend’s. I’m welcomed with a broad smile, treated sincerely and made comfortable in a cosy, warmly lighted, unpretentious space.

Then I’m fed excellent food and drink while being allowed to stay as long as I need or desire.

Of course, I pay for the experience at Oliver’s. Special extended visits with old friends are rare. It’s nice to know there are places like Oliver’s where I can relax and spend a pleasant evening.

Oliver’s has regularly managed to find excellent kitchen and front-of-house staff. Current executive chef Chris Riche has been there for many years.

His food has always been delicious but I think it’s getting even better.

Like most serious chefs, Riche pays attention to detail. For example, recently I’ve noticed his vegetables have perked up. The choice is good, they have colour, are interestingly cut and perfectly cooked — not too al dente and not mushy.

The menu features daily additions, but the regular card contains a good balance of seafood, meats, pastas and a vegetarian offering.

At lunchtime, sandwiches and a similar variety of entrées are served. Oliver’s also has an attractive, if somewhat eggy brunch menu for Saturday and Sunday daytime dining.

The wine list emphasizes New World products but offers enough variety to satisfy most diners.  

Horn of Plenty

After a few sips of dark and deep Altos De Raiza tempranillo and some fresh bread, we welcomed a plate of fried calamari. It looked absolutely festive. As if spilled from the Horn of Plenty, a tumble of golden brown rings and tentacles dominated a bed of bright, crispy greens.

The white, rectangular plate also held a wedge of lime and a small pot of sesame lime sauce for dipping. The fried calamari was the best I’ve had in ages, tasting fresh, properly seasoned and tender inside exquisitely crispy coating.

The sesame lime sauce was very tart. I used it sparingly.

The specials that night included an appetizer, cod fritters. Two plump balls (larger than a golf ball) placed on a bed of greens arrived on a board, which also contained a large portion of Oliver’s aioli.

The fritters were brown, with the exception of a fleck of white cod flesh peeking through one.

Inside they were a brownish combination of finely chopped and cooked mushroom (or mushroom duxelles), breadcrumbs, green onion, cayenne and flaked cod. Apart from it being a tad salty, I enjoyed the combination of flavours and the aioli accent.

Grilled Black Tiger shrimp were served in a bowl with house made Louisiana style rémoulade, a classic sauce. Rather than mixed through it, the shrimp were arranged standing to look like a crab stuck in a tide of rémoulade.

The smoky crustaceans were succulent, dripping with flavour.

Louisiana style piquant rémoulade was made for those shrimp. There could not have been a better choice of accompaniment. Perfection graced this plate.


Two substantial mains rounded out the meal — one of duck and one of lamb.

Brome Lake duck breast, with a hint of pink, was sliced and fanned over absolutely correct (al dente, but just) risotto.

Tucked, in eye pleasing fashion, around the risotto and meat were vegetables: carrot, Brussels sprouts and green beans. Finally, a drizzle of blueberry demi-glace made just a narrow stripe of colour over the duck before settling into a pool at the end of the plate.

Almost everything on this plate met with my approval. The juicy, tender duck, creamy risotto and flavourful vegetables were excellent. My one criticism is of the blueberry demi-glace. It was dull and had not a hint of sweetness.  

Oliver’s serves one of the best rack of lamb plates anywhere.

 This entrée provided six beautiful chops crusted with Dijon herb rub over the silkiest whipped potatoes, and the aforementioned carrots, etc.

A drizzle of honey mint vinaigrette helped extract even more flavour from the mouth-watering lamb. I hope this entrée never disappears from Oliver’s menu.  


* * *       


Dinner for two with appetizers, wine, tax and tip - $175 (approx.)

Sound level:


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

Canadian Culinary Championships

Today I’m in Kelowna, B.C. judging the Canadian Culinary Championships. Eleven of the best chefs in Canada from St. John’s, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary and Victoria are competing for what has become the most prestigious culinary honour in Canada.

Our St. John’s representative is Chef Roger Andrews.

Andrews is a culinary instructor with the College of the North Atlantic. He also owns and operates Relish Gourmet Burgers in St. John’s.

Let’s wish him well in his efforts to stand on the Kelowna podium. I’ll have a complete wrap-up of details in the next Weekend Telegram.

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, author of “Cooking with One Chef One Critic” 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,

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic, Canadian Culinary Federation, Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Louisiana, Kelowna, Brome Lake Brussels Canada Montreal Toronto Ottawa Winnipeg Saskatoon Regina Edmonton Calgary Victoria

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