Golf club eatery not just for members

Karl Wells
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Nineteen
100 Golf Course Rd.
St. John’s
Phone 709-722-6413

I dined at Nineteen recently, an unlikely location for an afternoon nosh. It’s the dining room and members’ lounge at Clovelly Golf Course in Northeast St. John’s.

Country clubs and golf courses in the city have ramped up their catering operations in recent years to accommodate more weddings, conferences and parties. I’m told Clovelly is also keen to develop its general restaurant trade. When Nineteen showed up on my radar, I decided to pop in (twice to be exact) to check out the lunchtime menu available to members and non-members.

If you intend to gee up your restaurant business, then hiring an experienced chef helps. Clovelly has employed Matt Evely to handle culinary chores for Nineteen and its other catering business. Evely worked with Rob Summers and Dana Williams at Get Stuffed on Duckworth Street. I like Get Stuffed and feel certain I tasted Evely’s food while dining there. They say we all need something to hope for, and thanks to news of a Get Stuffed alumnus working at Clovelly, I walked into Nineteen brimming with confidence and hope.  

The main dining room doesn’t see much action outside the warm weather months (apart from catered events). Clovelly would like to change that, pronto. They’d like the public to see Nineteen as a place to dine night and day throughout the year. I wasn’t able to sit in the main dining room because, when times are slow, customers are accommodated in the lounge.

Lounge

Nineteen’s lounge is darkened by deep brown wainscotting, brown tables set for four and brown leather easy chairs arranged around a handsome fireplace. Tan walls feature a collection of good original Newfoundland landscapes by artists such as Cliff George and Brenda McClellan (making up for windows lacking in panoramic vistas). A light hardwood ceiling, highlighted by white borders and dark support beams, dominates the top half of the room.

The same server was on duty on both my visits. She was quite friendly and displayed a wicked sense of humour. (I think it’s utterly impossible for anyone to survive in the restaurant and bar business without a keen sense of humour.) I ordered a glass of red wine on both visits but on the first I didn’t specify a particular red or ask any questions about the wine. I expected a house red, obviously, but what I tasted was more lacklustre than even the cheapest house red should be. It tasted like a wine that had been open for several days and fallen victim to oxygen.

On my second visit I asked which red wines were available by the glass. Then I asked which one had been opened most recently. Server told us the merlot was my best bet. It was quite good — much better than the unidentifiable liquid I’d tasted on the first visit.

For a restaurant or bar selling any amount of wine, it makes sense to invest in a commercial wine preservation unit such as Cruvinet or a less expensive system like Vinfinity. They really do work. In lieu of that, you can always pour what’s left in a bottle into a smaller container where oxygen has less chance of ruining the wine.

Appetizers

Soup is a constant at Nineteen. Each day brings a new surprise. Their sweet potato soup, spiced with a hint of (I believe) cumin, and decorated with a swirl of crème fraîche was absolutely superb. The flavours were bright and doing a lively dance — maybe even a jig. Unfortunately, the wild rice and vegetable soup was in the opposite category. It was thick, stodgy and bland.

Nineteen’s green salad ($11) was much more than green. In addition to various lettuces and greens tossed in maple vinaigrette, it contained dried cranberries, frosted pecans and goat cheese. You can’t lose with a salad like this when everything is of excellent quality and fresh. I liked it. According to the menu, it can also come with a grilled chicken breast for $5 extra. Looking for a healthy, protein-laden light lunch? You won’t do better.  

Fish and chips is usually something I avoid outside of places where it’s a menu staple, and to be honest, I much prefer the experience of getting stuck into a large fish and chips at Ches’s, Leo’s or Rice’s. The fish in the takeouts is cooked by folk who cook hundreds of pieces a day. The product has been perfected so that the batter is the perfect gauge, the fish is fresh and flaky and the chips are not too light or too brown.

Thick

I’ve had, from time to time, great fish and chips in full-service restaurants, even ones with large and varied menus. Once or twice I’ve also had delicious fish and chips in eateries that specialized in barbecue or Chinese cuisine. Nineteen’s fish and chips did not make the grade. The batter was too thick and the fish (I think it was previously frozen) was slightly dry.

Much better was Nineteen’s burger with fries. It was large with a 1/2-lb ground beef patty, cheddar cheese, tomato and pickle.

A burger is only as good as the patty and the best are ones that are made fresh. Nineteen’s had the homemade taste, juiciness and correct texture — with just a hint of resistance when bitten. The fries were flavourful, but too brown for my liking.

Call me old fashioned, but I like a club sandwich to be presented in the classic way — that is, cut into quarters with the four pieces served on end, side by side (brazenly displaying their contents), and held together by toothpicks. Nineteen’s had all the correct ingredients: three slices of bread, bacon, turkey, etc., but it was simply cut in half and laid flat on the plate. The plain bread surface gave a good showing but that was about it. It tasted like a club should, but where was the showbiz?

We eat first with our eyes. What I saw was something that looked like a sandwich I’d make at home washed down quickly with a glass of milk.

Wonderful

On one of my visits, Nineteen was offering a filet steak special served with ricotta gnocchi in beefy sauce and crispy pancetta. The steak was wonderful. It was — to use the cliché — melt-in-your-mouth good. As for the gnocchi, being made with ricotta instead of potato, it was quite heavy.

I enjoyed it, but with a filling steak perhaps classic gnocchi (potato, egg, flour) would have provided better balance.  

Nineteen makes some of its desserts while others are imported. I tasted their homemade chocolate ice cream and it was fatty, rich, silky and not too sweet — just the way ice cream should be.

Finally I had a piece of chocolate orange flourless cake, topped with cherry sherbet, and resting on raspberry coulis. Everything about this dessert was commendable: intense flavours, perfect textures, all elements in harmony.

Lunch is served daily at Nineteen in Clovelly from 12-3 p.m. Dinner is not served during the off season but will commence with the regular golfing season.

Once again, you do not have to be a member to dine at Nineteen. All are welcome.

I believe Nineteen provides another good option for those looking for a place to dine in Northeast St. John’s.

Rating: * *          

Price: Lunch for two with wine, tax and tip — $70 (approximately)

Sound level:Moderate

* Fair  * * Good  * * * Excellent

* * * * Exceptional

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.

Contact him through his website,

www.karlwells.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @karl_wells.

 

Organizations: Canadian CulinaryFederation, Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Duckworth Street, Newfoundland, Northeast St. John

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