‘Kiddy Viddy’ Village. ‘Kwi-dee Vi-dee’ Village.
It’s as delightful to visit as it is to say, regardless of how that might be.
Once a fishing village, Quidi Vidi is now a part of St. John’s, though it still possesses a distinctly rural, small-town feel. It’s based around a well-protected harbour, known locally as ‘The Gut.’
Years ago, I heard about the village when watching the first season of Top Chef Canada, and Quidi Vidi’s own Todd Perrin was on the show. He was genuinely passionate about Newfoundland food, and very talented at cooking it; he made it far, and while he didn’t win, he became nationally popular. To this day, my mom still likes to talk about “that lovely Chef Todd from Newfoundland.”
When Dana and I were in town, he was just days away from opening his new restaurant, Mallard Cottage. It’s located in an old house, which he and his crew painstakingly renovated in accordance with heritage standards.
It’s actually a National Historic Site, considered one of the oldest wooden buildings in North America. The original owners, the Mallards, were a fishing family, and the home dates back to the 18th century.
Inside the recently-restored space, they’ve managed to maintain an old-world feel. The low ceilings, walls, and floor are all still wood, and warmed by a brick fireplace at the centre of the original house. They built an addition onto the back, which, despite having much higher ceilings and a brand new commercial kitchen, fits seamlessly with the small, cozy cottage. The restaurant doesn’t feel styled; it’s genuine, like a home.
The antlers on the beer taps, for example, didn’t summon hipster chic to my mind.
Rather, I kind of expected a hunter might join us at the bar for a drink, hauling a pair of antlers to give to Todd for the next draught line that goes in.
In an act that made us feel like the two luckiest humans on the planet, Chef Todd prepared us dinner, even though his restaurant had not yet opened.
His food? It’s Newfoundland: from the land, from the sea, and unfussy. It’s also unapologetic; Todd serves the the food locals have been hunting and fishing for decades, including seal. He served some on Top Chef Canada, helping to spread awareness that seals are a traditional food, eaten and utilized from tip to tail.
For our dinner, he climbed up a ladder to retrieve jars of homemade pickled cabbage, beets, and mustard from the rafters, then served them up with sausage, fried cod cakes, salted cod potato salad, and saddle of lamb with warm lentil hazelnut salad. Understandably, we weren’t left hungry after such a protein-rich meal, and every last bite was delectable. Todd was a generous and kind host, and we hope we can return someday to see Mallard Cottage in its full, packed house glory.
From the restaurant, two other local favourites were within sight: Quidi Vidi Brewery (we didn’t have time to tour it, but we did make sure to get a pint of their beer at one point),
and the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation, an unbelievably cool facility right on the water.
It’s home to a cultural incubation program, in which artists go through a selection process, and if successful, lease studio space and receive training and mentorship for their businesses.
The public can come by, watch the artists at work in their studios, and purchase their goods; we wanted to buy everything, particularly Laura Higenell’s line of pottery. I’m serious - I mean ALL of it.
Visit the Plantation, take a walk around The Gut, then go fill your own with the food from Mallard Cottage. You may choose to pronounce Quidi Vidi however you darn well please, just please, make sure you visit.