Seared Lake Winnipeg pickerel served with a side of steamed mussels, crispy sweet pork belly wrapped in house-smoked bacon, and Arctic char cooked cold in citrus juices and topped off with apples, cilantro, mint and avocados.
If the taste buds have been tickled and teased, they were meant to be — those are just some of the items expected to land on the menu of a new restaurant and café planned for Kildonan Park.
On May 7, the city’s property and development committee approved a 10-year lease of the park’s Peguis Pavilion to WOW! Hospitality for a new restaurant and café at the site.
"We are super pumped," WOW President Doug Stephen said last week during a visit to the pavilion to check in on renovations.
The pavilion has been closed since late 2008 and the city is spending $2 million on interior renovations, including refurbished washrooms and a new elevator.
Under the terms of the lease, the restaurant would operate Tuesday through Sunday. Stephen said WOW is planning a daytime café with about 30 serving wood fired pizza, couscous salad, wraps, pitas, house-cured corned beef with homemade mustard, along with coffee, ice cream and other snacks.
The restaurant will open at night, with a range of small, tapas-style plates, entrées in the $20 to $30 range and a licensed bar.
"We’re going to make sure we’re trying to use local purveyors as much as we can, and have the seasonality of the park reflect what’s on the menu," said Stephen.
The city approached WOW, which operates eight restaurants including 529 Wellington and Terrace in the Park in Assiniboine Park, to look at setting up in the pavilion about four years ago, but the company wasn’t looking to expand, Stephen said.
When the city took the company on a tour of the pavilion’s renovations this past winter and outlined future plans for redeveloping the adjacent duck pond, the company was impressed and put forth a proposal, Stephen said.
"It’s an iconic location because of where it is and what it is," said Stephen.
"Taking advantage of the natural beauty that exists in Kildonan Park means it’s going to be a little bit more of a dining experience, not just an eating environment."
Pending council approval on May 29, Stephen hopes to open August 1. He’s still looking to hire a chef and will hire another 40 staff through a job fair.
"Hopefully we can hire a lot of locals from the north end of town," Stephen said.
North Kildonan resident and regular park user Tika Johnson said the north part of the city has many family and chain restaurants, but needs higher-end fine dining options.
"I love the idea of having something in this end of the city," Johnson said.
"We would certainly come for this. I’ve missed having something here."
Martha Greenwood and her husband Maxim are looking forward to the new café. The couple takes a regular early afternoon walk through the park several times a week and have missed the former café that operated in the pavilion.
"It’s fun to go for a walk and grab a coffee and enjoy the day and enjoy the park," she said.
"(The renovations are) money well spent," she added. "It will make the pond more beautiful than it is now."
With the pavilion already perched overlooking the pond, the odds of success favour the new restaurant, Maxim Greenwood said.
"The food, the service and the price will determine the rest," he said.