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Voyages: Rhubarb Restaurant

Voyages: Rhubarb Restaurant

Located just 5 minutes north of the famous Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, Jim and Diane Buckle’s Rhubarb Restaurant in Indian Harbour, NS is a must-visit destination for residents of the HRM and tourists alike. As I first arrive at the picturesque oceanside property, I am charmed and intrigued by the 2-story red house in which the restaurant is situated.

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My first impression is reinforced as I step inside – there is a distinctly homey atmosphere that is accented by a beautiful collection of maritime-themed paintings, sculptures, and plenty of natural light. Just beyond the dining area is a large outdoor deck with stunning views of St. Margaret’s Bay that is available during the summer months, and likely sees a lot of traffic considering that the place is packed at 1 PM on a Sunday November afternoon. As I take my seat, I am delighted by Diane’s warm welcome – she clearly takes impeccable care of her customers, personally making her rounds to grind fresh black pepper on top of their plates from an oversized wooden mill.

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Shortly after sitting down, Diane brings glasses of ice water and offers a choice of coffee or hot tea. I go with the tea and am pleasantly surprised by the fine china that it arrives in. Clearly they are not messing around here; every single little detail is paid the utmost attention and it shows. With strong tea warming my body from the frigid ocean wind outside, I am feeling overwhelmed with appreciation and I can already tell from the food coming to tables around me that this is going to be an extremely enjoyable experience. I am excited to say the least as Diane offers us a little background on the Sunday brunch menu. Served from 10 AM – 2 PM, the lineup consists of a small but classic selection of 7 items ranging from your choice of eggs benedict to pancakes and bacon & eggs.

As is the tradition for my visits to restaurants, I ask Diane to leave my fate in the hands of the chefs and sit back in my chair as I wait for the food to arrive. The first thing to make its way to my table is the roasted onion, spicy bacon, spinach, mozzarella/swiss and baked egg breakfast pizza. Besides the fact that it is everything you could possibly want in a breakfast dish, it is made even more interesting by the fact that they use Canada Dry ginger ale as the starter for the yeast in their pizza dough. It gives the crust a unique kick that is hard to describe, but is easy to get addicted to. I can easily see myself starting any day with this artfully executed approach to a pizza and I am certain that this opinion is unanimous, seeing the silent but exuberant faces around the table as we indulge ourselves.

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Seeing as I am here to explore all the options Rhubarb has to offer, Diane brings out the braised lamb shank next, a key element of their winter dinner menu. The succulent, fall-off-the-bone tender cut of lamb is cooked in local micro-brewery Hell Bay’s Cream Ale, and comes atop a mound of silky smooth garlic mashed potatoes and roasted root veggies. The first thing that comes to mind as I easily slide the delicate meat off the bone with my fork is that this is the ideal dish to warm you up on a cold winter day. This is real rib-sticking comfort food. Dark, rich, and luxurious, you can tell that it has been braised for hours, and that is something you cannot take for granted.

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Before Diane brings out the final piece of my food marathon, she lets me know that the next thing I am about to put into my mouth is highly addictive. Aptly named Chocolate Paté for its multiple layers of mason-jarred goodness, the desert is comprised of a ribbon of sea salt caramel topped with a blend of milk chocolate and dark chocolate, and garnished with a dash of whipped cream, sea salt, house-made nut brittle, and a sprig of fresh mint. As soon as I dig in, I understand why Diane describes this dish as their house “crack,” referring to the fact that once you have it, you’ll be back in three days guaranteed. From my first impression, it is hard to argue that this is the dish that gets people hooked.

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Rhubarb prides itself on fostering creativity, Diane explains. In her restaurant there is no executive chef. Instead there is a level playing field in the kitchen to ensure a collaborative effort on every dish they put out. This way Chefs Doran Hassett and Tomas Hejny are able to produce innovative and inspiring food that keeps people coming back week after week. As I can tell from the way her eyes light up when she talks about her staff, Diane is the kind of owner who is dedicated to empowering her employees and motivating them to reach their full potential. Kate Melvin, Rhubarb’s in-house pâtissier, even makes her own brand of hand-dipped, small-batch chocolates that sell under the name Lure Caramel Co. (email KATE@LURECARAMEL.COM for inquiries). Whether you are a student, a visitor, or a born-and-bred Nova Scotian, hop in your car and take a trip to Rhubarb today. It could be the best decision you ever make.

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