2 Hill O’Chips
The last time I dined at Rumpelstiltskin’s was in 2009. Michel Autexier (who was a chef in a former life) was maître d’ and manager of front-of-house operations. He still is and I suspect his steady hand has been one reason the restaurant is consistently good in many areas. Rumpelstiltskin’s chef in 2009 was Shawn White. He left a few years ago and was replaced by three cooks. They appear to be doing a solid job.
It was Sunday lunch and I was in a party of four. Not surprisingly Rumpelstiltskin’s was packed. The food has always been decent, the prices very fair and service good. And, the space is reasonably attractive with a friendly atmosphere and buzz. The décor has been changed since I was last there, and for the better.
Lots of light-coloured stone has been added to walls and columns, new earthy shades prevail in upholstered booths and fixtures, like the antique design pendant hexagonal lanterns hanging in the area nearest the windows — windows that provide a splendid view of the harbour. Individual tables now have sturdy black leather seats.
In my first scan of Rumpelstiltskin’s Saturday and Sunday brunch menu I noticed three very ordinary words that individually would not have raised a flag with me.
However, in succession, they set off a bell in my head — indeed a memory of an intemperate email I received from restaurateur Paul Merlo a few years ago.
The words, “fresh fruit cup” reminded me of Merlo’s reaction to my review of his Torbay Road Press and Bean.
I pointed out that the fresh fruit cup advertised on his menu was, in fact, mostly bottled fruit. What really troubled me about Merlo’s reaction was his contention that it’s almost impossible to get fresh fruit here on a regular basis. He even embellished that surprising statement with the bromide, “We live in New-found-land, not Disneyland.”
Wait a minute, what’s that I hear? Yes, yes I thought so. It’s all of you readers saying, “What the heck is he talking about?
Of course we can get fresh fruit here on a regular basis.” A visit to any supermarket can confirm that fact. And, by the way, if Merlo was talking about it being difficult for “restaurants” to procure fresh fruit in St. John’s on a daily basis, I have one word for you sir … Cora’s. They put fresh fruit on everything, all the time, even when you don’t want it.
Back to Rumpelstiltskin’s.
I asked our server if the fruit in the “fresh fruit cup” was in fact fresh. She looked slightly puzzled, as if not quite understanding my question. She began talking about how it was in a cup, and it was fresh, but it was in a cocktail. (I think she meant cocktail liquid or syrup perhaps.) It was this and it was that. I found her answer confusing, but she did appear to be totally sincere and trying.
Finally I said, “Is the fruit actually cut up in your kitchen and put in a bowl?”
That’s when the penny dropped. She replied, “No, it comes in a tub from Sysco.” (Sysco sells processed foods that allow restaurants to cut back on labour.)
So, my question is, why call this stuff “fresh fruit” on a menu? Has the term been co-opted to mean bottled, canned, tubbed, preserved, dried or powdered? Personally, I’ve always been under the impression that fresh fruit meant fruit that had come — with possibly an intervening plane or truck ride — pretty much straight from the orchard or field.
I’m not questioning a restaurant’s decision to sell tubbed, canned or bottled fruit. That’s a business decision and more power to them. I’ll never order it because I don’t think it tastes like fruit — never mind fresh — and I don’t like it.
But it is misleading to call it fresh fruit on a menu. That is simply wrong and Rumpelstiltskins and every other restaurant doing it should stop. Call it a fruit cup. Period.
We wouldn’t think of calling fish that was frozen (or tinned or dried) fresh. So why should fruit be any different?
It was about 12:30 in the afternoon when we walked into Rumpelstiltskin’s. Instead of lunch they were doing brunch. No worries I thought. Since the word “brunch” is a combination of the words breakfast and lunch, I assumed the menu would reflect that.
Rumpelstilskin’s Saturday and Sunday brunch menu is really a straightforward breakfast menu. I really wanted some lunchy offerings as I’d already had my breakfast.
There were four of us and what we ordered pretty much spanned the various categories of food offered on Rumpelstiltskin’s brunch menu.
I had the steak and eggs: a medium rare striploin, two fried eggs over easy and hash browns. The steak and eggs were perfectly cooked and delicious.
This was impressive because so many cooks screw this up. (Never underestimate the skill required to properly cook a fried egg and get a steak exactly the way a customer wants it.) My buttered brown toast helped mop up the beautifully soft, sunshine yellow egg yolks.
The hash browns tasted like the frozen ones available in supermarkets. They’d simply been taken from a bag and deep-fried. There was no seasoning to speak of.
Two at our table had the breakfast called Rumpelstiltskin’s. There was no spun gold involved, just more golden egg yolks.
This breakfast offered a choice of bacon, ham or sausage, eggs your way and hash browns. The bacon was crispy, the fried ham not too salty and the hash browns, as previously described.
Again, the eggs, two soft boiled and two over easy came exactly the way they should have.
Rumpelstiltskin’s western breakfast skillet was a combination of eggs scrambled with ham, onions, green peppers and cheese.
It was a stick-to-your-ribs affair, nicely done but a tad too cheesy. The accompaniments were the usual hash browns, toast, coffee or tea. Our coffee was replenished frequently by our servers who, as well as the cooks, did their jobs well.
For an affordable and satisfying weekend breakfast in pleasant surroundings I recommend Rumpelstiltskin’s. I do advise you make a reservation.
Brunch for four with tax and gratuity — $60 (approximately)
Main floor area only
“One Chef One Critic”
On Sunday’s episode of One Chef One Critic we welcome singer, Shelley Neville, of Spirit of Newfoundland Productions. Shelley demonstrates her kitchen skills as we make Newfoundland fish cakes. Chef Brett Pottruff also stops by to prepare his recipe for seared scallops. That’s One Chef One Critic Sunday, March 25 at 7 p.m. on Rogers Ch. 9.
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 the Canadian Culinary
Federation’s Sandy Sanderson Award. He is also a Restaurant Panellist with enRoute
Magazine. Contact him through his