Flashes of Mallard Cottage decor are present in the table settings at Waterwest: the antique silverware and china showcase classic dishes like twice-baked potato and asparagus with hollandaise.
The pork schnitzel is served with a wedge of lemon for an extra punch of flavour tableside.
During the day, Waterwest Kitchen and Meats offers an array of pastries from three-cheese scones ($2.95) to cinnamon buns ($3.50)
The macaroni carbonara is tossed with housemade lardons, sometimes made of pork, sometimes with lamb.
The beef in the beef carpaccio is aged in-house in the butcher shop on the bottom floor of Waterwest Kitchen and Meats.
The flashbacks started the minute our server began talking about the soup du jour. The dark skies. The torrential rain. The beer.
A few months ago, I was in Quebec City spending a rainy afternoon at a craft brewery when our server told us she was moving to St. John’s. When our party left, I told her we’d see her again soon, and I’m sure she rolled her eyes.
Now our server, Chloe, was here in St. John’s telling us about the butcher’s cut at Waterwest Kitchen and Meats, the city’s newest restaurant. My husband, Adam, and I recognized her immediately and we talked animatedly like old friends during our Saturday evening dinner.
Waterwest is all about those kinds of connections. As the newest endeavour for Mallard Cottage chef Todd Perrin and co-owner Stephen Lee, Waterwest Kitchen and Meats was conceived in hopes of creating a hub on the west end of Water Street, a veritable restaurant desert. Lee and Perrin opened their butcher shop, takeaway, café and restaurant at the end of August in the building which formerly housed Healy’s Pharmacy for more than 50 years.
Keeping in mind the price point of the entrees ($18-$45), this place isn’t necessarily accessible to everyone in the neighbourhood looking for a feed. That said, the grab-and-go options range from a crunchy $2 baguette I took home to pair with charcuterie, to fresh-made pasta for $3.50 a bundle, cheaper than any brand at your local grocery store. I visited a few times for a coffee and pastry, which comes with a much more digestible price tag.
Those who do choose to imbibe at Waterwest are in for a time. We started with cocktails chosen from a succinct, classic menu. Adam went with the old fashioned ($14) and I drank one of the best French 75s ($14) I’ve ever had (and I’ve had so many of the lemon, gin and Champagne cocktails that I have a portrait of the famous concoction in my living room). The well-stocked bar also offers choice; looking around the room, I saw dry martinis being sipped slowly.
The vibe at Waterwest is decidedly jovial with lots of laughs ringing out over the soft music and close proximity of tables — there are only about 20 seats in the small dining room. The decor hints at steakhouse with a forest green leather banquet, a dash of Newfoundland with white shiplap walls adorned by local artist Jessica Waterman’s artwork, and a drop of modern with black-and-white penny tile floors.
The menu is also small but meaty. The butcher shop at Waterwest services both Mallard Cottage and the in-house shop and features old school standards Perrin is known to favour, like porchetta and spaghetti with meatballs, along with a variety of classic sides like green bean almondine and beefsteak fries.
I stared enviously at the bountiful butcher’s platter ($18) at the table next to me, drooling as the server listed off the items, but our starters arrived and I soon forgot everything around me. My penchant for carbonara led me to order the macaroni carbonara ($18) with housemade lardons. The silky-smooth sauce with a hint of lemon covered the housemade macaroni and disappeared quicker than I would like to admit.
Adam’s choice, beef carpaccio ($16) with lemon capers and aioli, was presented beautifully. Thickish slices of aged beef layered the plate, dotted with salty capers and grainy mustard with whole seeds that popped in your mouth. After one bite, I was scanning the takeaway market to see if I could take the mustard home with me.
For the main event, I went with a glass of natural wine ($12), the Adamo Estate Legacy Pet-Nat from Ontario, that paired well with the pork schnitzel ($24). It arrived as advertised: crispy, nestled in a lemon cream sauce. Adam’s dry aged striploin ($45) was huge, cooked to a perfect medium-rare and served with greens dressed in emulsified lemon vinaigrette, and definitely could have been shared. I could say I wish the server had told us, but then I wouldn’t have had that amazing schnitzel.
The pared-back twice-baked potato ($8) was full of flavour and garnished with parmesan and parsley. It looked small but ate big. Our other side, asparagus and hollandaise ($12), was light but rich, offering another punch of lemon to the entrees.
We finished the meal chatting with Chloe over crème brûlée ($10) with vanilla bean, and left already planning what we would order next time (porchetta with a side of risotto). St. John’s is a small town with big tastes and the classic dishes of Waterwest Kitchen and Meats are a welcome addition.
The Nitty Gritty
Waterwest Kitchen and Meats
720 Water St., St. John’s N.L.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday, closed Monday and Tuesday.
Accessibility: There is a ramp which leads to the takeaway area
and dining room with an accessible washroom,
however there’s a large step up into the seating area
which may prove difficult to access in a wheelchair.
Noise level: Average with soft music.
Reservations: Walk-in only.
Meal for two, with drinks and tip: $245.
Gabby Peyton is a freelance food writer based in St. John’s. You can reach her by email at [email protected] or via Twitter and Instagram @gabbypeytoneats.