1 Wharf Rd.
Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, NL
Ph. (709) 895-0000
A good friend told me about Landings Restaurant. Actually, she called it “The Landing,” which was close enough and she was dead right about the location – the old fish plant on the wharf in Portugal Cove. “They do fish and chips,” she added. I made a mental note.
Labour Day weekend we found ourselves at loose ends. Sunday was warm and bright. We took a spin along the closest coast and ended up in Portugal Cove, with an idea that we might visit Bell Island. It had been at least 15, maybe 20 years since I’d set foot on the island. I used to go to Wabana quite frequently to do live TV community broadcasts for the CBC. One memorable night in 1997, aboard a mocked-up Matthew, I pretended to be John Cabot – Giovanni Caboto – and did an unforgivable Italian accent.
We took one look at the length of the car queue for the ferry, which began well up the highway and snaked down to the ferry terminal and decided a Bell Island visit could wait for another day. Landings Restaurant is no more than 100 feet from the ferry terminal. I remembered the filed note and decided it was as good a time as any to see what Landings was all about.
Landings’ road sign, next to its parking lot, contains only five words. Two of them are “fresh fish.” I figured if it wasn’t the only thing on the menu, obviously cook and owner, Jim Parsons, thinks it’s the most important. While checking out the restaurant’s Facebook page I found more emphatic confirmation: “always fresh,” “never frozen,” “never pre-cooked,” “fresh fish daily.” Most places serve fresh cod these days. They must, because people demand it.
Landings’ building, which is under renovation – unless somebody named Tyvek owns part of it – is painted in what looks like a sort of new, orange heritage colour. As we approached the front entrance’s set of wooden stairs – no wheelchair access here – to my right I spied a rooftop deck. I hoped that’s where we’d be sitting.
More stairs greet you as you enter the building. At the top is a counter where orders are placed from a big blackboard of options – mostly deep fried. Items such as fries, fish and chips, cod bites, battered shrimp, fish burgers, chicken chunks, wings, onion rings, poutine and burgers. Apart from fries and onions, the only vegetable I saw was cabbage coleslaw, listed as an extra for $1.50. The single dessert choice was ice cream, unless you count candy bars. I saw KitKats. Oh heck, why not count them. Bliss is a KitKat and coffee.
Landings’ interior is quite colourful. A contemporary chandelier of clear, hard plastic shards hangs above the stairwell. Flooring is lightly stained knotty planks. Walls are painted either red, gold or beige. Dining tables are covered in bright cloth and chairs have upholstered seats and backs. The room we saw felt a little chopped up, mainly because of several waist-high partitions that created what looked and felt like dining pens, each with a quota of tables.
We dined al fresco on Landings’ rooftop deck. If you stood up, beyond an expanse of roof you could see the ferryboat, MV Legionnaire, Bell Island and plenty of water. It was a sunny and peaceful place to be. The only distraction was some chatter from another table where a budding food critic of about four was singing the praises of his poutine gravy. It made me wish I’d ordered some.
Since fish had been given top billing, that’s what I had – a two-piece fish and chips. Landings’ fresh chips were perfect: tender, slightly crisp, not greasy and not too dark. While enjoyable, with commendable, light batter, the cod was firm and less moist than expected. It was also a bit chewy and less flaky than I’ve found at other restaurants and take-outs.
Landings’ large burger had a patty that fit its soft bun like a glove. Both were approximately the same circumference. Better too much patty than too much bread but when both are in balance, even better. The moist beef had delicious grilled flavour. Bun and patty together made an excellent hamburger and an even finer lunch with more of Landings’ perfect fries.
I’m told Jim Parsons looks forward to expanding Landings’ menu in future. Adding sautéed and baked items would be a good start, as well as a few homemade desserts. Meanwhile, you can find some very good, affordable fast food on the wharf at Portugal Cove.
Price Lunch for two with soft drinks, tax and tip costs approximately $33.
Service Very friendly and helpful.
Atmosphere Like a work in progress, a restaurant currently more equipped for take-out than dine-in customers.
Sound level Low to moderate.
Open Daily from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Reservations Yes and walk-ins are welcome.
Credit cards All major.
Parking Building’s parking lot.
Beverages Soft drinks, tea, coffee and water but no alcoholic beverages yet. A liquor license is imminent.
Best bets Fish and chips, burgers, and I have reason to believe the poutine is pretty good.
Gluten free options Fish and chips for sure but please ask about other choices.
Wheelchair access No.
* Good * * Very good * * * Excellent * * * * Exceptional