Asked why her restaurant is so popular, having won Best Restaurant in The Coast’s Best of Food poll for 3 years, Jane Wright ponders for a few minutes, hemming and hawing over an answer, then says, simply, “I don’t know!
“I’m fond of saying, ‘You’re only as good as your last meal,’” explains Wright at last. “So making it as good as you can each time is important. You don’t get a second chance in the restaurant business.”
Walking up Robie alongside the Common you don’t expect to find an eating space that pushes creative limits and brings a fanciful, home-cooked meal to the table. Walk into jane’s on the common and you’ll be blown away.
A gleaming, black bar is what first catches your eye, with five diner-esque stools waiting for you (your bum may warm these seats at peak times when waiting for a table, this is a popular spot). Glance to the right to see a larger-than-life print of Venus on the far wall---Wright’s favourite painting reprinted with permission from the National Gallery of Canada.
Before you can look further, a server---or Wright herself---greets you with a warm smile and asks how they can help. Your love affair with jane’s begins.
With chefs who’ve trained nationally and internationally, and employees who stick with jane’s and know the clientele, a second chance isn’t necessary; the first one’s on the mark.
“We try really hard to source our ingredients locally,” says Wright, pulling out a menu and scanning its contents. She quickly points out the Nova Scotia free-range chicken breast, local organic greens and mentions the fish is fresh off the line.
Wright thinks it’s also important the daily special is fresh, and not simply a way to use old ingredients---as many restaurants tend to do.
“For us, the daily special is the focus of our daily creativity,” says Wright. “The chefs spend a lot of time and creative energy on it.”
These days, the restaurant isn’t the only place for creative energy flow. There’s a new take-away counter next to jane’s on the common, called jane’s next door, with a slightly different menu and no seating. It serves fair trade coffee, sticky buns, a variety of sandwiches served on fresh bread from Julien’s Bakery in Chester and frozen entrées, to name just a few.
“It’s coming along, building with word of mouth,” says Wright with a smile. She adds that it’s attracting some of the crowd she thought was missing. Wright often wondered, for example, why the employees at Musicstop didn’t visit on their lunch hour. After launching her take-away menu she discovered they only have a short break. Now they grab a roast beef sandwich to scarf down on the way back to work.
“It’s like we’re feeding people we haven’t fed before,” says Wright, laughing.
The fact Wright knows her new customers is a hint at why jane’s is bringing in the crowds almost five years after opening day. Stepping into the restaurant anchored to the city’s Common is like being handed a slice of home, your off-the-wall siblings replaced with pizzazz and comfort. What more could you want, really?
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