REVIEW: Terre Rouge Bistro du Marché, Charlottetown

Terre-2Back in 2013 when Chef Robert Pendergast was in Quebec City to promote Prince Edward Island’s Confederation celebrations, I did an interview with him about PEI oysters. He’s thus become my go-to reference for all things oysters, and well, all things PEI. A quick facebook message later, he suggested I eat at Terre Rouge. Get to know the local chefs before travelling, they are always a key to great restaurant suggestions.

Terre Rouge is a 20-seat bistro located on Queen Street in the hubbub of downtown Charlottetown –Ch’town as locals say. Everything is cured, cooked and transformed in-house. Today’s special: Chowder, charcuteries and mac n’ cheese.

Terre Rouge offers a more modern take on local favourites. Unfortunately, the setting feels cold and very impersonal; I’m told the location used to be a grocery store. Long black support poles stand in the middle of the room, bright fluorescent lights emanate from two very wide refrigerators right next to the table. Even though the high windows of the façade of the restaurant let in beautiful natural light, the fluorescent lights dominate the tables section. The further part of the room thus becomes poorly lighted and not very attractive. The kitchen is hidden in the way back, only a small rectangle to see the cooks in action. A sombre, unpleasing feeling that doesn’t give me much faith in the food.

Yet another example of a setting in true contrast with the essence and philosophy of a cuisine. Thankfully, I had a trusted reference. Terre Rouge’s beautiful ingredients made me forget its wintry atmosphere. I can only imagine how frigid the ambience gets when the sun sets. They should consider covering the refrigerator lights with tinted sheets of plexiglass and adding warmth to the decor.

Maybe it’s meant as light therapy for November…

This bistro du marché doesn’t pride itself on doing trendy; its emphasis is on quality and seasonality of ingredients. As I mentioned, everything is transformed in-house. The rillette was generous, the saucisson textured yet no too fat, and the cooking smells from the far kitchen were very, very pleasing to my nose.

Owners John Pritchard and Chef Dave Mottershall work alongside small local producers to guarantee quality and taste. Nothing to do with popularity or a trendy locavore cooking, at Terre Rouge local is the only thing they do. If it isn’t grown in the island, it isn’t served at Terre Rouge.

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