Description: Just finding the place is a bit of an accomplishment. Although it’s tempting to turn at the signpost leading to “Paradise,” keep driving and you’ll find another kind of paradise further down the road.
After being led into the dining room at the Beach House hotel in tiny Portugal Cove, with the French doors closed behind, you feel like you’ve been admitted into a secret society. Tall windows frame steep cliffs plunging into Conception Bay, and with the tide rolling in, it can seem like the whole restaurant is sailing. When the room is full, which is often, there is a hushed, contented buzz. This is a grown-up restaurant, but that’s not to say it’s stuffy or inaccessible or avant-garde. It simply serves beautiful food in a professional way – think apple and celery salad with almonds and Parmesan, roast mushroom soup with truffle cream – with maximum flavour coaxed from each component. It’s a concept that’s either very old or very new.
Atlantica is a homecoming of sorts for its abundantly talented chef, Jeremy Charles. Originally from St. John’s, Charles left to pursue his training in Montreal, where he worked with Claude Pelletier, now of Le Club Chasse et Pêche (number three in our 2005 survey). After stints as a private chef for the Molson and Bronfman families, he worked in the kitchens of L.A. and Chicago. But he has now come home to bring all of his training and experience to bear on this seaside restaurant, creating something unexpected and, frankly, enchanting.
His menu is compact and tightly edited: A thick fillet of cod, glistening with moisture, balances richness with acidity and a touch of sweet from the preserved lemon zest. The aromatics in a long-simmered veal ragout add deep complexity and flavour that evolves with each bite. The chef’s mother provided the recipe for the carrot cake with butter pecan ice cream, raising the bar for carrot cake and possibly for mothers.
The crew of Atlantica runs a very tight ship.