A different view of local
By Leslie Wu
HALIFAX—When chef and owner Ludovic Eveno wants to select local produce for Agricola Street Brasserie’s menu, he doesn’t have to go any further than the back of his restaurant.
A partnership with local farm distributor Jason Pelley—who also sources other area restaurants—allows him to rent a walk in fridge and part of the 3,000-square-foot back-of-house space, providing a base downtown and avoiding multiple trips to bring produce back from local farms.
“When the partners bought the place, we didn’t know what to do in the back. We were happy to just put in a pool table for the staff,” joked Eveno. “Now, for us, it’s like going to the supermarket in the back of the house to pick produce in season, and [Pelley] only has to go out once a day to fill his fridge.”
Promoting Nova Scotia’s bounty in the 120-seat, 4,000-square-foot dining room is a clear goal for Eveno and co-owners Rachel Knox and Michael Hase.
Agricola, which opened in late November, gets its name from the province’s farming heritage.
“We wanted to keep it simple and not try to be too clever with it,” said Knox. “Located at 2540 Agricola St., we knew we wanted Agricola in the name, not only because it was the pen name of [18th century merchant] John Young who urged Nova Scotia to become agriculturally self-reliant, but also for the related reason that agricola means ‘farmer’ in Latin and we will be working closely with Nova Scotia farmers.”
The owners consulted with Melissa Cummings at Design 360 to create the look and feel of the restaurant, which is overseen by general manager Peter Goneau. “Our desire was to create a rustic restaurant and bar in an urban setting serving French-inspired, seasonal, home-style cooking with robust earthy dishes, and slow–cooked food in a warm, North End setting,” said Knox.
Knox, a 10-year hotel manager and Food Network veteran, and Hase, who has a background in finance, have moved between Halifax and New York for the past 11 years.
Eveno, an Alsatian trained chef with experience in England, France and the U.S., has spent a decade cooking in Canadian restaurants such as Cape Breton’s Keltic Lodge, and Halifax’s Bicycle Thief, Bish World Cuisine and the Westin Nova Scotian.
Joining his 14-person kitchen staff is sous chef Beth Muise, former chef at The Press Gang.
The food is influenced by Eveno’s French training, with cassoulet and beef tartare making appearances on the menu, but the focus is on the local ingredients, he said.
Average check is approximately $35 drinks excluded, with plates ranging from snacks such as gougères and brandade at $3 to $5 to larger plates and seafood platters from $32 to $84.
“We didn’t want to go with a first course, second course structure,” said Eveno. “The menu is designed so that people can choose anything at any time.”
For family meals, whole legs of lamb, pork shoulder and free-range chickens are available for pre-order as a “whole beast” meal.
Both Knox and Eveno stressed the importance of drawing locals to the restaurant. Recently, the restaurant ran a hospitality industry night at the end of November offering discounts for cooks, front desk, catering and servers.
“We don’t want to be considered a French restaurant, or a local restaurant,” said Eveno. “Really, we’re a neighbourhood restaurant.”
2540 Agricola Street, Halifax. Agricolastreet.ca.@agricolastreet.