In my lifetime, the dull grey cinderblock building on the corner of Water and Becks Cove has been home to a bank and two restaurants sequestered to the dim ‘vaultish’ basement. Now, the Jeremys of Raymond’s have reestablished this downtown cornerstone with a modern yet verdant sheen it always should have had to house their newest endeavour. The Merchant Tavern opened it’s doors in the Spring of 2015.
My most recent trip to St. John’s had been long overdue. Having experienced my first ‘Mainland’ Christmas with Adam in Toronto two months previous, I was itching to inhale cold ocean air and wander downtown to this watering hole while we were home for our engagement party. My sister Maggie and I met there for our traditional sister brunch that is basically law when I am home.
This bistro-tavern is casual, elegant, masculine and feminine all at the same time. With dark wood tones, navy walls and a moose head the chef shot himself, there’s an air of old man’s club. But the gold accents in the lighting, white marble table tops and delicate blue glassware contribute a modern feminine balance.
Mimosas are a given at sister brunch even though there is a great selection of cocktails from Negronis to Caesars. Maggie went for the apple mimosa and I went for the patridgeberry, which was more like an effervescent martini. I lopped it up, along with about 12 other beverages (it is brunch after all).
I’m embarrassed to say we ordered the same thing. As of late, I’ve been trying to NOT order Eggs Benedict in a desperate attempt to expand my brunchy horizons. It’s not going well. While mulling over my decision like it was Sophie’s choice, the server chimed in and said the hollandaise was the best she’s ever had. Well dammit, it had to be done.
Sitting atop a simple airy English muffin, the thin but abundant shaved ham and perfectly wilted spinach was covered in the most lemony delicious hollandaise I’ve ever had (and I’ve had my share of hollandaise, as we all know too well). The adjoining potatoes were crispy, salty and gone in a flash in between rapid fire catch-up conversations.
The next time I’m home in St. John’s, I’m going to sit at the 40-person bar and spend the day eating everything on the menu.
291 Water Street | St. John’s, NL | (709) 711-5050 | themerchanttavern.ca