When you enter Terre via the lobby of the ALT Hotel, the warmth envelops you. It’s a Newfoundland thing, embodied here by the sunset glow spilling through the wall of windows overlooking St. John’s Harbour, as well as in the earth tones of the sparsely decorated interior, where black tables are topped with sea urchin lamps made by subsea forager Tim Ball. These organic and modern elements reappear on the plate in the chef’s devotion to shining a new light on Newfoundland and Labrador ingredients.
Best Hotel Restaurant
Terre: Taste the Many Seasons of Newfoundland and Labrador
The menus at this year’s Best Hotel Restaurant showcase the freshest ingredients the province has to offer.
Both chef Matthew Swift and sous Drew Wolfson Bell hail from Ontario and honed their trade at places like Vin Papillon and Joe Beef in Montreal. Swift was drawn to Newfoundland by the opportunity to open a cuisine du terroir, and arrived in St. John’s with ideas and experiences that show up on the Terre menu in dishes like Turkish bread with beets, ricotta and za’atar, or the playful, succulent lamb pastrami with local radishes.
Meanwhile, at the bar, classic cocktails get the full Newfoundland and Labrador treatment: Cosmos are made with Newfoundland Distillery Company rhubarb vodka, Tuck’s Bee Better Farm cranberry and Cointreau; other indigenous plants show up in infusions like dead–nettle tea and cloudberry bitters.
Terre deliberately established itself slowly on the dining scene in St. John’s, taking the time to carve out a niche with its reverent treatment of place: Newfoundland produce and seafood are so integral that Swift works with local fishers to create a supply chain for the lesser–known items like sea urchin – abundant in the province but seldom found on menus.
In the end, the Terre experience is a parade of Newfoundland produce, off–menu dishes and a chef’s inspiration of a rugged island, as found in such seasonal specials as massive halibut collars anointed with lamb jus and parsley, and crispy fried capelin with a spiky escabeche – but only in spring, when the tiny fish “roll.”