Most restaurant reviews focus on just one part of the dining experience: the food. But just as important as the food is everything else: branding, interior design, service, music, and overall vibe. An exceptional dining out experience is one where all the senses are engaged, not just the taste buds. Find out which restaurants have the “taste” to meet our standards (and which ones don’t).
Hungry for Design’s authors are Susan Battista and Fritz Klaetke—partners in both work and life. By day they run Visual Dialogue, a branding and design firm where Susan leads strategy and Fritz leads creative. By night, they can be found sharing meals (and opinions) at restaurants all over Boston and beyond.
new brunswick, canada
Exceptional stands the test of time
A trip to “one of the best restaurants” north of the border doesn’t disappoint.
We recently returned from a 10-day vacation traveling through the Atlantic Maritimes of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. In this beautiful, peaceful corner of the world, we feasted on local seafood and produce daily never disappointed with the quality of the food or the hospitality of the people. But there was one place that was a memorable stand out—like nothing we had ever experienced. On a tip from a concierge in Halifax, we made our way to Moncton, New Brunswick to see the Bay of Fundy region. (This is the best place to stay when visiting Hopewell Rocks—home of the greatest tidal change on the planet and of the most amazing natural sites we’ve ever seen)
Our handy Fodor’s guide casually mentioned that “one of the best restaurants in all of Canada”—The Windjammer—was located in Moncton. Of course, we were intrigued and had to find this restaurant the evening we arrived. Our hotel in the center of town, The Delta Beausejeur, looked like a typical Sheraton or Hilton here in the States. To our great surprise, “one of the best restaurants in all of Canada” was located in the corner of what was otherwise our fairly nondescript hotel lobby. Later we found out the hotel had gone through a number of owners and renovations through the years while leaving the restaurant intact.
Walking from the generic hotel lobby into the Windjammer restaurant is like stepping back in time. The entire intimate space is clad in mahogany paneling with brass details. The perimeter features booths that resemble sleeping quarters on an elegant ship like what you would expect on the Queen Mary in the day.
The name “Windjammer” references the shipbuilding industry that thrived in the New Brunswick area in the 1800s. Windjammers were large ships that carried bulk cargo, such as lumber, grain or ore from one continent to another, following the prevailing winds and circumnavigating the globe during their long voyages. And in keeping with the name, a nautical theme is used throughout the interior with ship models, portholes, and nautical paraphernalia carefully arranged in an elegant manner.
The formally attired, attentive staff showed a level of professionalism that is rarely seen today but greatly appreciated. Our Maitre D’ Frederic Maxerolle has worked at the Windjammer for close to 30 years and truly represents a bygone era when making guests feel special was taken seriously. (He stills prepare dishes table side and at the end of our meal shared his book of recipes he’s been perfecting through the years.)
Because of this location surrounded by the ocean and small farms, Chef Stefan Müller has access to some spectacular ingredients. The “farm to table” movement has always been part of the Windjammer philosophy and has recently been branded as their “100 mile meal.” The classic, French-influenced dishes (everyone here is bilingual) include ingredients grown on a rooftop garden of the hotel. They even offer gin made by a local distillery.
Of course Frederick helped us select the perfect organic Italian white wine to accompany our dinner which included pan-seared Digby scallops with a beet and celeriac puree and micro greens, and local halibut with an assortment of uniquely prepared vegetables—delicious. The dessert was something you rarely see on menus, a perfect pavlova, with roasted rooftop rhubarb and ice wine reduction with honey creme fraiche.
While so many classic restaurants have forsaken their heritage in an effort to modernize or “change with the times,” the Windjammer really demonstrates how an authentic experience is timeless and becomes even more precious now because it is so rare. It’s as relevant and elegant today as it was when it opened years ago. The Windjammer is truly a first class experience.