If a picture is worth a thousand words, then stepping into The Merchant Tavern at 291 Water Street is like walking into a tome that tells the vibrant story of this place – a solitary ship sailing upon the open ocean, the grey-blue of the water mirroring the cloudy sky above; the yellow-orange hue of a sunrise just before it beaks over the sea. The bold images and solid lines of Ned Pratt’s photography are unmistakable, echoing the restaurant’s clean aesthetic and modern design while reflecting what can be seen just outside its doors.
The Merchant Tavern (part of Raymonds Restaurant Group) displays artwork exclusively from the Newfoundland photographer and the large poster-style prints were specifically created for the restaurant. The photographs and the tales they tell hold a special meaning for chef Jeremy Charles says Jane Bonia, assistant general manager at The Merchant Tavern.
“The photos in these prints are very unique as they were taken by Ned on a trip to Old Perlican with our restaurant’s owners (sommelier Jeremy Bonia and chef Jeremy Charles). Old Perlican is where Jeremy Charles’ grandparents called home, and where he spent a lot of his youth,” she says.
“Ned is a close friend of the owners, as well as a valued customer. Ned’s pieces showcase a deep connection to our beautiful island and the people who inhabit it.”
Besides adding a special touch to the decor, Bonia says the photographs have proven to be a great conversation piece, with patrons regularly inquiring about Pratt’s work and where they can purchase or view more of it.
“I personally have had some great conversations with guests arriving and leaving the restaurant discussing which piece is our favourite and why,” she says.
The Merchant Tavern’s mantra, Bonia says, is all about supporting and promoting local talent, which extends to the artists on their own staff, including graphic artist Kate Miller, musician Jamie Dart, clothing designer Dani Ryan, photographer Jill Willcott and Hold Fast festival manager Hannah Morgan, just to name a few.
From having local musicians in to play during service, to having local artists help with promotional material and joining up with local arts events for catering or bartending, Bonia says having a cooperative relationship with the arts community is a boon to the business as well.
“They, the artists, are our parents, friends and neighbours. It’s all about paying it forward because if we support them, they in turn support us,” she says.
“It’s a good representation of our ‘support local’ philosophy.”