Hotel Mount Pearl
7 Park Ave.
Phone: (709) 746-3832
Here’s something to think about. You’re in the west end of St. John’s or Mount Pearl and someone asks, “Where’s a good place to get something to eat around here?”
Assuming “around here” means an eatery within a half-mile radius, I’d say you’d be struggling to come up with more than one name. The entire area is not exactly a vast wasteland (apologies to Newton Minow) when it comes to restaurants, but close. And gourmet coffee? Forget it; although, at the risk of getting you overexcited, I did hear a rumour that Second Cup may be opening in the Pearl.
We of the west must therefore give thanks when something comes along offering anything, even a little different, from the regular diet of fast food restaurants. Fireside Eatery is such a place. It’s located in the Hotel Mount Pearl but is independently owned and operated. In fact our server, Andrea, told us she was one of the owners.
I took it as a good sign that an owner was that involved with the business. Our Fireside Eatery service, by the way, was impeccable: friendly, helpful and efficient.
Fireside Eatery is a rectangular room at the back of the hotel. Windows with booths, seating four to six people, overlook a valley of evergreen and deciduous trees. A deck detracts somewhat from the view but I tried not to notice. Tables with caramel coloured, padded banquette seating run along the wall opposite the windows. The restaurant is anchored by a dark wood floor, cream walls and ceiling. A fireplace can be seen at the end of the room, as well as a portion of wall in brick.
It’s important to note that Fireside Eatery is only open for breakfast and lunch. Go there after 2:30 p.m. and you’re out of luck. That probably accounts for the fact that they serve only two wines: Alma Mora Pinot Grigio and Las Moras Cabernet-
Shiraz. Molson beer is available too. On the non-alcoholic side they serve a range of soft drinks, juices and strawberry-banana smoothies.
Chicken wing meat, along with drumsticks and thighs, is the tastiest part of a chicken. Wings, even when cooked by the plainest method, are addictive. Like potato chips, it’s hard to stop at one. Make them beautifully crispy and slightly spicy as they do at Fireside Eatery and you may not want to stop at all. The wings come either coated in barbeque sauce or with the sauce on the side. We had it on the side. It was a hot chilli sauce diluted with tomato, according to the level of heat preferred by the customer. We chose “mild” so our wing sauce had lots of tomato flavour.
One of three soups offered at Fireside Eatery piqued my interest because it was listed as the restaurant’s signature soup. It had three robustly flavoured main ingredients: tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach. The bright red of tinned tomatoes and deep green of fresh spinach made it very attractive to the eye. Some aromatics enhanced the soup but the core flavours blended to make it deliciously earthy to the taste.
Fireside Eatery also has a signature selection in its salad lineup. It’s a mixed greens, spinach, fruit and nut salad that can be served with or without grilled chicken. I had it sans chicken. It looked, even minus the chicken, very appetizing. A mixture of fresh light and dark greens was dotted with dried cranberries, pecans, mandarin orange sections and crumbled feta. A drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette gave the already bright flavours a further lift.
They serve excellent pan-fried cod at Fireside Eatery. A large, tender, moist piece of golden brown fillet came smothered in crispy scrunchions.
A small amount of tartar sauce was served on the side to accent the fish but I thought the cod tasted just fine on its own. Slightly firm broccoli and sliced carrot joined a generous helping of home style fries to provide more good eating.
Another substantial lunch item was an open-faced sandwich featuring a striploin steak on a toasted garlic bun. I ordered mine medium rare and that’s exactly how it was served. The steak was smothered in mushrooms, onion and melted cheese. The home cut sweet potato fries, which came with a dip consisting of mayo, chipotle and sour cream, were highly colourful and commendably crisp.
Fireside Eatery offers something else worthy of mention and that’s their quick lunch menu.
For $10 you can have a lunch with your choice of five main items, such as one piece of fish or lasagna with garlic bread, as well as a choice of side: fries, soup or salad. The quick lunch is available Monday through Friday.
Price: Lunch for two with wine and gratuity — $90 (approximately)
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