The forecast called for light snow—and a heavy dusting of parmesan. Gabby Peyton reviews one of the newest restaurants in downtown St. John’s
Shuffling down Cathedral Street on a blustery winter’s evening, my dining companion and I gratefully ducked into the sanctuary of No. 4. Once past the heavy black curtain keeping winter winds at bay, we were greeted immediately by the eager host of the newest restaurant in St. John’s. He whisked us past the bar that runs the length of the first floor to a booth made for two on the mezzanine-like second floor.
Spearheaded by general manager Hilarie Vatcher (former pastry chef at Mallard Cottage who appeared on Food Network’s Chopped Canada in 2015), No. 4 opened mid-January in the historic building that once housed much-loved local eatery The Casbah. After calling several times, I landed a table on a Friday evening about a month after opening (for the phone-phobic, No. 4 now has Yelp online reservations).
The restaurant has a flair for the dramatic. Vibrant red and turquoise walls, private leather booths and three mammoth vintage advertisements make No. 4 feel metropolitan and edgy with a pinch of Newfoundlandia.
Our server was initially distracted by the phone vibrating in her apron pocket as she reeled off the specials, but she soon focused and service was respectable. The menu—presented on clipboards—is simple and comfortable with a few surprise ingredients (most things on the menu had a dusting of cheese, which only the lactose-intolerant could complain about).
We started with cocktails, choosing from a litany of libations ranging from in-house originals to heritage classics. There’s a full page devoted to Old Fashioneds alone. I went with the No.4 Whiskey Sour ($13) with Basil Hayden bourbon, spiced orange syrup, egg white and lemon: crisp, sweet, timeless. My dining companion, meanwhile, savoured his Smoked Manhattan with Old Grandad Bourbon, red vermouth and Angostura bitters ($12). Together, we toasted sommelier Scott Cowan for crafting an extensive wine list as well as making room for at least a dozen taps dedicated to local suds.
Don’t let the aperitif adoration fool you—No. 4 is equally attentive to the dinner menu. Salt cod fritters ($11) are potato crusted, cradled in a chipotle tomato sauce with a smack of crème fraiche while the evening’s steak tartare special ($18.50)—since added to the menu—comes piled high on sourdough toast with pepperoncini, pickled shallots and parsley pistou.
I could wax poetically about the No. 4 Burger ($15, no side) perfectly posed atop a soft, savoury pretzel bun with white cheddar melting its way over ribbons of crispy bacon. Instead, I’m going to dig into every meal’s underdog: the sides. The half-size Mac & Cheese ($10) laden with cheddar, friulano, manchego and a heavy snowfall of parmesan cheese sat atop a dusting of crispy panko crumb that made for the best I’ve ever had. The No. 4 Fries ($6), a satisfying pile of crispy herbed deliciousness accompanied by housemade ketchup, punched above their weight. My companion’s Orecchiette Pasta ($26) was equally luscious with braised lamb leg, roasted shallots, baby kale, roasted tomatoes, and micro greens.
As if I’d had room for dessert, I had to try the Honeycomb Cheesecake ($12), a malted chocolate cheesecake served with giant hunks of sweet toffee honeycomb and hibiscus crème anglaise.
The cocktail list makes No. 4 a great place for after-work drinks or date night, and dinner’s accessible dishes (both in price and in choice of entree) satisfy an array of clientele. It’s the kind of spot I could pop into after work to scarf down a bowl of mac and cheese perfectly paired with a glass of wine then make the steep climb home—happy, full and slightly inebriated.
No.4 Restaurant & Bar
4 Cathedral Street, St. John’s, N.L.
Dinner Tuesday – Saturday, 5 pm – 10 pm
Drinks: Weeknights until 2 am, Weekends 3 am
Closed Sundays and Mondays
SMALL BUT MIGHTY The P.E.I. Mutual Festival of Small Halls is tuning up for their 11th season, running from June 9th through 23rd, 2019. Playhouses, heritage centres, churches and even breweries are leaving the lights on for evening performances across the province. More than 45 intimate concert venues will host 70 artists and this year’s lineup includes repeat performers like Newfoundland’s The Fortunate Ones and The Ennis Sisters, as well as American band Oliver the Crow, Nova Scotia’s Ryan Cook, and the hometown heroes Atlantic String Machine from P.E.I.