A breeze rattles through the rigging of the small ships sheltered in Quidi Vidi Harbour. Bearded fishermen stand around a sorting table and watch one of their own gut a haul of cod. It's a scene that has played out in this small community on the edge of downtown St. John's for hundreds of years.
The French and the English fought an important battle for control over Newfoundland here in the late 18 th century, but it's otherwise been pretty quiet since then. In the mid-1990s, the old seafood plant was turned into Quidi Vidi Brewing and, in 2012, the Quidi Vidi Plantation, a craft incubator for local artisans opened. Three years ago chef Todd Perrin rescued one of the oldest Irish style cottages in North America and opened Mallard Cottage, a restaurant that's helped put Newfoundland cooking on the map.
This year and next will bring the most substantial changes to the area. "We're basically redeveloping around 30 per cent of the whole harbourfront of Quidi Vidi Village," Perrin, who is spearheading many of the changes, says. First up this spring is the Inn by Mallard Cottage, eight rooms spread across two buildings that represent the village's first hotel. "They're like big sisters to Mallard Cottage, Perrin says. "So it's a similar style of architecture, but much larger."
The larger project is the transformation of the old Flake House, once renowned for its fish and chips and roast beef dinners, into a 5,000-square- foot food hall and event space with a kitchen, bar, bakery, coffee roaster, butcher and café. While the final blueprints have yet to be drawn up, the completed project stands to redefine Quidi Vidi as one of Newfoundland's premier culinary destinations.
For more information, visit www.mallardcottage.ca.
LOCAL INTEL: ZITA COBB
As the founder of the Fogo Island Inn, Cobb has helped transform her native island into a world-class destination for cultural, culinary and geo-tourism
STAY: "A tent in the Torngat Mountains National Park, Labrador, is the perfect place to understand what E.F. Schumacher meant when he said, "Nature and culture are the two great garments of human life." I recommend hiring a licensed Inuit bear guard, who can offer protection and an opportunity to learn from the lived experience of those who know and love it most." www.pc.gc.ca
SHOP: "You'll want to move into Broken Books in St. John's. Where else can you hang out with the likes of Michael Crummey, Wayne Johnston, Michael Winter, Kathleen Winter, Lisa Moore, Andy Jones, Donna Morrissey and Ed Riche under one lovely roof, and with a side of great coffee?" www.facebook.com/brokenbookscoffeebar
ESCAPE: "Battle Harbour was once the centre of the floater fishery. Now it offers an away-from-it-all experience of 19th-century peace and quiet. There are no cars, though sometimes you can hear the whales and collapsing icebergs." www.battleharbour.com