Sunday, July 24, 2011

Niger Reef Tea House: A Royal Success

Sunday July 3, 2011
St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick

As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge conclude Day Four of their nine-day Canadian tour (so far a smashing success) and, back in England the Wimbledon crowds disperse (Djokovik defeated Nadal this morning), my queen and I are treated as VIPs at the Niger Reef Tea House.

Then again, all the guests at the understated edifice off Water Street are treated as friends, if not royalty.

Seated at the same picnic-style bench that we sat at this afternoon for lunch (I recommend the potato tart), our tennis shoes touch the slatted-wood deck. We are among half a dozen or so patrons dining on the patio of what is becoming famous for this sea-side town’s frugal-yet-fine dining experience.

As my tea steeps in a regal black teapot, I look over my right shoulder. Low tide on the Bay of Fundy reveals the reef, off Joes Point Road, into which the British warship HMS Niger collided (closer to high tide) in 1866. Above us, a man-made canopy flaunts a Canadian beer, and above that an umbrella of maple leaves affords us ample shade.

Proprietor Dave Peterson, a Canadian Red Seal chef, and his pal Josh, who says he’s “just the cook,” are the two mainstays of the enterprise that launched in 2010. The two native New Brunswickians, who worked together at two other local establishments, are taking orders and preparing the Sunday Night Special: prime rib.

The guests inside the log-cabin-like structure lob sports trivia questions at each other as Dave and Josh attend to business.

A few minutes later, after a superb mini Caesar salad, her majesty and I adore the presentation of the main course: The beef is just juicy enough to soften the homemade mashed potatoes (peeled this afternoon). The sautéed pea pods and carrot sticks complement the main attraction, and the ensemble of red, white, green and orange are in perfect proportion.

The prime rib’s subtle, sublime seasoning and tender splendor, the chunky potatoes, the sturdy vegetables: They render me satisfied but not stuffed.

Dessert, dear tennis and royalty fans, is a modest portion of strawberries and cream to rival a royal breakfast at Wimbledon, and more tea, of course.
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