A new eatery in Charlottetown offers an old world flavour.
Terre Rouge, which opened less than a month ago on the lower end of Queen Street, serves up a diverse menu featuring dishes made from ingredients produced almost exclusively in P.E.I., or fished from Island waters.
But it is much more than that.
Patrons can also shop there for rotisserie chickens, seafood, charcuterie, gelato, pastries, chocolate and cheese.
Terre Rouge is the brainchild of chefs John Pritchard and Dave Mottershall.
In response to the suggestion that Terre Rouge was not a ham and eggs joint, both chefs said that actually, it is.
“In a way it is a ham and eggs joint. It’s just a better ham and eggs joint," Pritchard said.
“Great cured ham and solid farm eggs,” Mottershall added.
The idea has been brewing for over a year.
It first occurred to Pritchard a year ago when he was hired to cater a function at Liquid Gold, the olive oil business next door.
“I was using the kitchen space back there to do some plating,” Pritchard recalled. “When I saw what was here it became obvious to me what this space would lend itself to really well. Dave and I had been looking for an opportunity to open something together. We had lots of ideas of things we could do but nothing specific. This space dictated what it would be.”
Because of its proximity to Liquid Gold – the two businesses share the ground floor of the same building — they thought it would make a good overall market, but they wanted to be a restaurant too.
They decided to do both.
The restaurant, which seats approximately 40 people, occupies the back half of Terre Rouge while the market takes up much of the front end.
“We liked the idea of having a place with total circular production where things from the front could go to the back and things from the back could go to the front,” Pritchard said. “We liked the idea of never being in a situation where things were going off or spoiling or being wasted. Up until this point there’s been no waste.”
Mottershall said it’s a true 360-degree restaurant.
“What comes in fresh goes out fresh.”
They discussed various ideas for the place. They considered what Charlottetown already had but more importantly what was lacking.
There have been a number of attempts to put a local market/restaurant or café in place but for one reason or another they failed.
“We also saw that the Clover Farm had closed down. It’s been proven over the last decade that an independent grocery store will not work because the margins are too small but people downtown still need to eat dinner.
“So we offer them the choice of coming in for a reasonably priced dinner or picking up their rotisserie chicken and their salad greens and that sort of thing. But you’re not going to buy your Tide or your toilet paper here. It’s not a grocery store, it’s a food store.”
The emphasis at Terre Rouge is on food products from P.E.I.
Almost all of the meats in the store’s display cases are from P.E.I.
“We do have some other products, like our Italian products,” Pritchard noted. “The world’s best prosciutto comes from Italy so that’s why we have that. Most of our cheeses come from Quebec and east. We have a number of P.E.I. and New Brunswick cheeses, some from Quebec and some European cheeses. All our pastries, all our chocolates are made in house. All our gelato is made in house. All our dairy is from P.E.I. All our bread comes from local artisan bakers.”
Terre Rouge opens daily at 8 a.m. They seat their last table at 9 p.m. six days a week.
During peak season they will go seven days a week.
A paperless operation, the menu is posted on giant chalkboards hung on the walls.
Using chalkboards is also a very practical move because the menu changes frequently.
“We change the menu often, based on what fresh ingredients we can get our hands on,” Mattershall said. “With the chalk boards we just swipe things out, we don’t have to print new menus.”
The chalkboards also have another purpose.
“If you’re at the front of this place and you want to know what’s on the menu you have to walk through everything to look at the menu…. While you’re walking through you get to see everything that’s in the cases.”
They had hoped to be open this past summer but both were busy with their respective jobs.
“But it worked out really well because we really want to service the local community. Obviously the summer is all gravy but this concept really is about being local and serving locals.”
Pritchard says initial feedback has been absolutely tremendous.
He said the most general comment he hears from patrons is that they’re pleased to finally have a place like this here.
“People say we haven’t really had any place like this in Charlottetown until now,” Pritchard said. “This is something they would have seen in Montreal or Toronto. That’s pleasing to us that people really embrace the idea of a local European-style market.”
Pritchard said he and Mottershall both realize there is some fine tuning to do, some growing, but that both believe Terre Rouge has turned out just the way they envisioned it.
“We have created something cool here with Terre Rouge and the olive oil business next door. All we need now is to have something epicurean open across the street. Then we’ll have a food neighbourhood. We already have all the restaurants up the other way. A couple of more little bits and pieces down the street and this will be a very hip little area to hang out in.”
“There’s a lot of life coming into downtown Charlottetown. We’re part of that,” Mottershall said.