A new farm-to-table café just opened in Murray’s Garden Centre in Portugal Cove. The Grounds improvises their menu daily, primarily using fresh local produce from Murray Meadows Farms.
Evan Murray is a manager of the Garden Centre and co-owner of Murray Meadows Farm, he runs the cafe with his brother Cameron Murray. Murray’s family has been running the garden center for over 35 years, selling ornamental plants, starter plants, and nursery supplies.
Evan and his partner Brian Kowalski launched Murray Meadows Farm in 2012. The farm sells produce to loyal customers at the St. John’s Farmer’s Market, and to several restaurants in the city.
The Grounds links the two ventures together, using the Garden Centre as a venue to showcase the farm’s produce in simple but delicious prepared dishes.
“We realized there was an opportunity to not just open a café but to open a farm-to-table café, using as much local ingredients as possible, and drawing attention to agriculture production in the area,” Evan said.
Their grandfather, who was an architect, designed the Garden Centre. The building has high, vaulted ceilings and large windows that let in lots of natural light. The brothers remodelled before opening the café, painting the walls bright white and installing wood panelling.
“Once we did that we realized, wow the space is so much more expansive than we thought it was, it really lets the natural light shine through. We wanted to highlight the natural features in the space and tie them into the farm fresh café and the products we offer,” Evan said.
The Grounds offers breakfast and lunch service, as well as coffee and house-made treats. The larger menu items all hover around $12.00, making it a very affordable lunch and breakfast spot by St. John’s standards.
Sous-chef, Amanda Bulman is a talented vegan baker and the café makes sure to always have vegan and gluten free options available.
The menu is displayed on a chalkboard above the cash so head chef Nick van Mele and Bulman can style dishes according to what’s available from Murray Meadows and other farms in the area.
“You let the food that comes to you dictate the menu rather than coming up with the menu and trying to source the ingredients. It’s a lot more natural to see what you have available and be able to change the menu on a chalkboard. If you get something nice you can add it to the menu that day,” van Mele explained.
The day we spoke, freshly picked cranberries and a tray of live basil arrived at the café, so van Mele whipped up some ricotta and served it on house-made toast with cranberry jam, topped with basil, as a light lunch option.
“In the winter it will be a little more challenging, but I’m going to prepare for it. There’s lots of ways to save what we have right now to use later on,” said van Mele.
“I’m going to stalk up preserves, I’ll be freezing, dehydrating, bottling, canning, jarring, and salting. The flavours will be a bit different but it will still fresh and vibrant.”