The Vimy Boutique
233 Main Highway
Spaniard’s Bay, NL
Ph. (709) 680-4012
Spaniard’s Bay, Newfoundland is known for 565 million-year-old fossils, a bird estuary where migrating birds rest and feed, and for how it got its name. Apparently, about 400 years ago, long before Brian Tobin went cracked about Spanish overfishing, an Englishman named, Sir Bernard Drake, took on a fleet of Spaniards fishing in our waters and kicked the entire lot back to Spain. When the town needed a name, someone came up with the idea of memorializing Drake’s routing of the Spanish by naming the community, Spaniard’s Bay.
I almost forgot another important bit of Spaniard’s Bay history. The old town movie theatre, now part of O’Neill’s Gardenland, once hosted a live concert by country music legend, Hank Snow. The Nova Scotia native did a lot of Canadian touring before he hit the bigtime on American radio and the Grand Ole Opry. Just a stone’s throw from where the Singing Ranger belted out, “I’m Moving On,” we found our lunchtime destination.
Unlike its neighbour, Bay Roberts, Spaniard’s Bay has few restaurants. One is a Chinese eatery, another is half gift shop and half restaurant. It’s called, The Vimy Boutique. According to a server, the name is meant to honour the previous owner of the property, a Vimy Ridge veteran. The boutique’s in a relatively new building behind the home in which the Vimy vet lived. I’m sure he never imagined someone would be selling ladies’ apparel, jewelry, home décor items, pots of tea and sandwiches out of his back yard.
A wraparound deck provides the only dining space at Vimy Boutique and it’s beautiful, especially on a warm, sunshine filled day. One section, at the back, has a corrugated fibreglass roof to provide protection from the rain. Tables are covered in white cloth, underneath black cloth, with a woolly Galway shawl resting over the back of each chair – presumably to cover your shoulders or knees if the wind changes. In my case, as soon as my back touched shawl, like magic, I began hearing Denis Ryan singing, “The Galway Shawl.” Over and over …
“She wore a bonnet with ribbon on it
And round her shoulder was a Galway shawl.”
Given the setting, a summer garden, surrounded by laburnum and other deciduous trees, Vimy’s deck is a nice place to enjoy a cup of late morning or mid-afternoon tea. If you’re an adventurous tea drinker, someone who likes to try every kind of tea, Vimy has a good selection by Sloane from which to choose. Fresh coffee is on hand for those who prefer the taste of the bean. In keeping with best English tradition, Vimy does an afternoon tea featuring your choice of rosy, with finger sandwiches and scones no less.
Vimy’s menu is small and less exciting than its selection of teas. Mostly it’s a place for brunchy things – muffins, scones, eggs, Canadian bacon et cetera – soups, salads and sandwiches. Sometimes specials are offered and sometimes special dinner nights happen. On a recent Italian night, for example, Vimy served spaghetti and meatballs. I’ve heard of Sunday cold plates as well.
Our server announced the soup of the day as vegetable beef. It seemed a heavy soup for summer. But, I figured Spaniard’s Bay was a spot where they knew how to make a good pot of homemade soup. After the first spoonful, I regretted ordering the soup. It tasted like Campbell’s beef with vegetable soup. In other words, it tasted like tinned soup. I told the server that it didn’t taste homemade and she said it wasn’t.
I appreciated her candour. It seems to me, however, that when you make a point of mentioning the “soup of the day,” you’re implying that it’s freshly made, that day. I’ve never been served a restaurant soup of the day that wasn’t freshly made in-house. Until Vimy that is.
Fish cakes with mustard pickles – and yes, they were homemade pickles – was a good combo. The dish arrived with slices of ordinary, white Holsum type bread. (A homemade roll would have been better, or at least something less obviously factory made.) I enjoyed the crispy, thick, golden fish cakes. Vimy’s mustard pickles were even better, brilliant to the eye and bright on the tongue.
A Club sandwich is usually cut into quarters and held together with picks, to put on a bit of a show. Vimy’s was halved. It was a very ordinary Club, made with processed ingredients on toasted white bread.
Dessert was a piece of tiramisu, again, not made by Vimy or even in Newfoundland. Most of Vimy’s desserts are mass produced products of the type sold by Sysco or Costco, or one of the other cos. It tasted fine. Vimy makes some cookies, and, as the server made plain, “we make our own snowballs.”
In conclusion, Vimy is a handsome boutique with quality merchandise. I purchased one of their tea pots. It has a deck that on a warm day is perfect for enjoying a cup of tea and a bite to eat. You’ll feel content, relaxed and happy there.
And, to Vimy management I offer this advice; never serve tinned or mass-produced soup again. Make your own and freeze enough beforehand if you can’t make it every day. White, sliced supermarket bread is okay for Club sandwiches but try to find a more artisanal product to use otherwise. Finally, there’s nothing wrong with offering some factory desserts like the tiramisu, but please try to make at least one of your own on a regular basis. Apple tart? Something with berries, maybe? You can do it.
Price Lunch for two with beverage, tax and tip costs approximately $50.
Service Very good.
Atmosphere Deck dining at its best.
Sound level Moderate.
Open Monday to Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday: 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Reservations Walk-ins are welcome.
Credit cards All major.
Parking Boutique’s parking lot.
Beverages Red and white house wine, juice, milk, water, hot chocolate, coffee and various teas.
Best bets Fish cakes and tiramisu.
Gluten free options Some soups and salads may be gluten free. Ask your server for details.
Wheelchair access No.
* Good * * Very good * * * Excellent * * * * Exceptional