In a dramatic switch from “institutional buffet style” to “urban museum café style,” the Confederation Centre of the Arts has gutted its restaurant and recast it as Mavor’s Bistro, the “Mavor” an homage to Mavor Moore, founding director of the Charlottetown Festival.
There’s no doubt that the aesthetics of the place have improved dramatically. Gone is the grey institutional feel, the chichi prison approach to decor that used to permeate the Centre. It’s been replaced by brighter colours, better furniture, cleaner lines. You could be at the MOMA or MassMOCA if you squint your eyes and ignore the giant moose down the hall. It’s a very pleasant space for lunch.
Indeed the aesthetics of the entire site have taken an upturn. There’s bright signage everywhere (I believe it’s now impossible to lose your way), better washrooms (apparently the women’s washroom for the main theatre has gone from something like 4 stalls to 21 stalls, a development that apparently warranted a private “21 flush salute” when it opened), and the old “basement dinge” feel has been almost completely eradicated.
Mavor’s Bistro’s marketing pitch is that they “proudly serve” Starbucks Coffee. Presumably this is a pitch both for the local “wow, just like the big city” consumer and, more importantly, for the big city “just like home” coffee drinker. I don’t question this decision, but it does seem a little much to so loudly trumpet that you proudly serve Starbucks. I can think of better things to be proud of.
Food and drink-wise, there’s some room to grow. The menu is interesting, and offers a good, broad selection. Execution needs work, however.
My iced mocha coffee had a big glop of chocolate syrup sitting at the bottom, and about twice as much ice as was required. It wasn’t Starbucks-level quality, in other words.
Catherine ordered the sushi plate, and came away pretty convinced that it was the worst sushi she’d ever had: almost-raw rice, poor wrapping, uninspiring contents, the wrong soy sauce for sushi, and no pickled ginger (the chopsticks were nice, however). They should get their sushi from Monsoon, because they’ll never make it better than Monsoon does.
I had the grilled chicken and swiss cheese wrap, which was actually pretty good. Not life-altering, but well prepared with fresh ingredients. The accompanying salad was drenched in roasted red pepper dressing; I should have asked for it on the side.
Service was top-notch: friendly, efficient, quick and knowledgeable.
Overall, the experience was so different from the old “all you can eat roast turkey Thursday buffet” to make it almost inconceivable that we were eating in the same place.
We’ll be back to Mavor’s over the season, I’m sure: I expect the problems in the kitchen will improve as the staff gain more experience.
Our next stop: the new Mackenzie Theatre, which has apparently thrown off its own dinge, and emerged a bright, delightful space to watch music and theatre (caveat: this description came from a Centre employee). Apparently there are plans underfoot to programme the Mackenzie ever weekend this winter, which should prove a welcome respite from the endless drear.