St. John's: The business traveller's guide

St. John's is booming, so you might end up there on business. Here are the finest spots to check out on the Rock.


(Photo: Verena J. Matthew/GetStock)

St. John’s is booming. The harbour is dominated by enormous cruise ships landing thousands of tourists. Housing prices are at a record high. The service and supply sectors are seeing major growth, thanks largely to the offshore oil industry, and the employment levels are some of the highest in Canada. If you’re not doing business in St. John’s, you soon will be. Here’s our handpicked guide to the best of the City of Legends.

Best business hotel: Built in the first decade of the 20th century, Ryan Mansion occupies the former home of James Ryan, one of Newfoundland’s wealthiest merchants. The exquisitely preserved hotel features a sweeping oak staircase that was built by the same craftsman responsible for the grand staircase on the Titanic. The hotel’s Queen Anne decor may harken back to an earlier time, but modern amenities like heated marble floors, plasma TVs, therapeutic tubs and high-speed wireless Internet keep it firmly in the 21st century.

A great start to the day: Occupying a prime storefront on Water Street, not only does Rocket Food and Bakery serve the best coffee in the city, it also acts as a kind of unofficial town hall. Lively conversations mingle with the ring of the cash register and the whoosh of milk being steamed. A cappuccino and a cinnamon bun make a great start to the day, but a bowl of the house-made granola, chock full of chia seeds, pecans and powdered local wild blueberries, is a little more virtuous.

Best business lunch: This cozy house offers a down-home welcome and some of the best local cooking. Bacalao takes inspiration from traditional Newfoundland cuisine and updates it in sophisticated ways. Jiggs Dinner, a traditional supper featuring corned beef, carrots, cabbage, and potatoes repurposes the dish from a gut-busting behemoth to an elegant appetizer.

Where to unwind like a local: There’s no shortage of bars in St. John’s—the city allegedly has more per capita than anywhere else in North America—but few have achieved the iconic status of the Duke of Duckworth. A pint of local Quidi Vidi Honey Brown ale and an order of fish and chips at the Duke, as it’s commonly known, is practically a rite of passage. The bar, a regular on the television program Republic of Doyle, is situated halfway down a flight of stairs in an alley between Duckworth and Water streets.

How to impress your clients: Housed in a beautifully restored former bank, the dining room at Raymond’s, with its sparkling chandeliers, is every bit as impressive as the food. Start with East Coast oysters, as fresh and briny as they come. Move on to the local lamb. It’s raised on an island, and its diet of salty grass and seaweed imbues the meat with a profound savouriness. Impress clients by ordering the seven-course tasting menu, and let sommelier Jeremy Bonita match each course with wine.