Bernard Stanley defines gastropub

Published on January 9, 2016

Bernard Stanley Gastropub
223 Duckworth St.
St. John’s
Ph. (709) 722-5266

Once upon a time there were two grandfathers named Bernard and Stanley (probably Bernie and Stan to their friends).

One liked his food and the other liked the odd tipple. They, and their wives, shared a grandson named Chris Herritt. Chris grew up to be a skillful, professional chef. One day, when the stars were in alignment, Chris was able to open his own gastropub. Naturally, he called it Bernard Stanley Gastropub. What else could he do?  

If the name, Chris Herritt, is familiar, it may be because you were a patron of the recently closed Nautical Nellie’s on Water Street. Herritt was the chef at Nautical Nellie’s. He left just before it closed. When the space at 223 Duckworth (formerly home of the defunct Club Gastropub) became available, Herritt and partners signed on. Now, once again, the lights burn brightly and drinking glasses tinkle at the corner of Duckworth Street and St. John’s Lane.

Changes

There have been other changes at the location. Improvements were made to the kitchen, and the dining area was enlarged by removing the former restaurant’s raw bar. Now, thanks to the installation of high tables and chairs, you can actually sit in Bernard Stanley’s front window and gaze outside. If your eyes wander inside, you’ll notice a lick of new wall paint and a special new glaze on the tabletops (for easy cleaning).

Our server, Ashley (a Nellie’s alumna, front-of-house manager and Herritt business partner) was very helpful and most efficient. She rattled off the day’s specials (including pan-fried cod, salmon, et cetera) for us, but we preferred to order straight from the dinner menu. Bernard Stanley’s has an equally extensive lunch menu, which I was told includes a mean lamb ragout. (Both menus offer a few veggie options, containing dairy.)  

I’ve always thought bagged kettle chips purchased at shops and supermarkets to be overrated. (Give me a bag of regular Lay’s any day.) On the other hand, Chris Herritt’s freshly sliced and cooked potato kettle chips were an entirely different article. We were served a huge plateful sprinkled with shaved parmesan. A bowl of very creamy garlic aioli came along too. The excellent golden brown chips were thick enough to hold a good dollop of the redolent aioli without breaking, yet still retained a robust crunch.

Sambal

Next my palate was teased by six chunky shrimp dredged with sambal. The Asian sauce was hot enough to open my sinuses. Apart from the punch, I enjoyed the zip of lime and ginger. Shellfish, especially shrimp, seems to take well to sambal. While quite meaty, the shrimp retained tenderness and plenty of natural shrimp flavour.  

I have been served crab cakes in every size, shape and texture. Bernard Stanley’s crab cakes, with delicious tartar sauce, were different from the norm in that they were slightly thicker, and the texture was unusual. Although the texture wasn’t of crab meat in total, there was a reasonable share of crab flakes amongst the ingredients. Neither was there much (if any at all) potato present. I believe the cakes were mostly a mixture of crab flakes and breadcrumbs. It was a pleasing combination and the flavour of the popular shellfish certainly came through.

Our entrées proved that Chef Herritt does not want his guests to leave Bernard Stanley Gastropub with anything less than a very full belly. Both large, square plates were groaning under the weight of their contents. One contained duck breast with confit leg, sautéed spinach and fried spätzle, while the other was laden with rosemary Merlot-braised lamb shank, goat cheese and caramelized onion smashed potato and green beans.

Succulent

Beginning with the duck breast, I found it to be succulent, tender and filled with flavourful juices. Perfect, in fact. The confit duck leg was (as expected) less moist than the breast, but plain tasting. It wasn’t bland but could have used more pepper and maybe a few of the more interesting spices, like cloves, ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg. Sautéed spinach made a good companion. Spätzle? Not so much. It was a little heavy and hard at the edges.   

Braised lamb shank is the quintessential rustic dish and a fine choice for any gastropub menu. Bernard Stanley’s was excellent, smothered in its cloak of braising juices and vegetables. Nothing could have paired with it better than caramelized onion and goat cheese smashed potato. Not to be forgotten, of course, was the serving of beautifully al dente fresh green beans.  

Bernard Stanley Gastropub is the definition of “gastropub.” One of the best and here’s why: It’s got the gastro, meaning expertly prepared, delicious meals, and it’s got the pub, meaning beer to quench the thirst and wine to enhance the food. I love gastropubs, like Bernard Stanley, because they’re about as casual as you can get, with the perfect atmosphere for enjoying company, good food and drink. Plus, you need never fear that you’ll be denied admittance if all you’re after is a cold beer or glass of wine, because that’s OK too.

Rating

***         

Price: three-course meal for two with wine, tax and tip costs $145 (approximately).

Service: professional and well-informed.   

Atmosphere: like a well-established, Irish or UK country pub.   

Sound level: moderate.  

Open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Reservations accepted and walk-ins are welcome.

Beverages: Bernard Stanley’s beverage menu contains classic cocktails including, for gin lovers, the Tom Collins and Negroni. Wines are New World, with the exception of a William Fevre Chablis from France. A glass of wine generally costs between $7 and $11. Many domestic and imported beers are available, including craft and organic choices.

Wheelchair access: very difficult entrance with a step-up that requires help, some accessible tables, restrooms not accessible.

* 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