from landmark cafe to landmark oyster bar
Eugene Sauvé was determined to find the ideal new owners for his aptly named Landmark Café.
With the help of his children and small staff, Sauvé had spent three decades building the Landmark into an eatery much beloved by regulars in and around Victoria-by-the-Sea. Word of good food, great service and a warm island atmosphere spread, just as Victoria began to attract tourists, and the Landmark grew into a must-stop destination for visitors from around the world.
Sauvé never missed a day’s work in 29 years, greeting guests and cooking most meals all season long, even when battling cancer. He raised his two children there, and made customers feel like family. When he decided to sell, he hoped to find buyers who understood what made the Landmark special.
“It was important that it be somebody who was going to be a part of the community,” explains Sauvé. “Who was going to open the place and run it and put some effort into it. Greg and Marly are the perfect people.”
Earlier this year, Sauvé sold his landmark business to Greg and Marly Anderson. The couple first discovered Victoria four years ago, quickly buying an historic church and converting it into a wedding and events venue, The Grand Victorian. When they heard through the grapevine that Sauvé was looking to retire, they jumped at the chance to put their mark on a family-run institution.
Last month, the Andersons re-opened the business as the Landmark Oyster House. They changed the décor to some extent, with new floors and fresh paint, but kept the old furniture. The result is a beachy kind of feel that they refer to as “classy seaside comfort.”
The biggest change involves the addition of an oyster bar. Marly spent years shucking that particular shellfish at oyster bars, developing both a love for and deep understanding of PEI’s world-renown mollusk.
“The thing about oysters is they’re all different. Wherever they’re seeded, whatever body of water they’re put in, they take on the characteristic of that body of water. You can have six different oysters on your plate and they all tell a different story.”
She compares them to wine: “If you explain to people what the differences are, all of a sudden they get that this one is sweeter and this one is briny. And that’s what we’re going to do. Everything has a story. One thing we really want to do is tell the stories.”
The tales will be purely local, touching on the history of the 200-year-old village of Victoria and of the people who have run businesses out of the Landmark building for much of its 150 years. But the hero of the story will be local food.
“I very much believe in supporting local as much as I can, and supporting the island and the Maritimes,” explains Landmark Chef Kaela Barnett. “So the menu is now based on supporting the local fishermen, local farmers, the beekeepers on the island, and as many bakers and producers as I can.”
She’s leaving shrimp, which aren’t raised locally, off the menu. But oysters and mussels are readily available, and she’ll get scallops in season and preserve as long as she can. Fresh lobster, of course, she can get straight off the Victoria wharf.
Those local connections allow the Landmark to share a food’s specific story. “Since we have the history of the oyster, we can tell them this is how it was raised and it took this many years,” says Chef Kaela. “It was actually this fisherman who caught it and now it’s on your plate.”
All those fresh, local ingredients are prepared using signature recipes.
“It’s going to be food that’s very good quality, French-inspired east coast. Stuff you’re not going to be able to get just anywhere,” explains Greg. “You’ll be coming to the Landmark just to get the Landmark fishcakes or to get Chef Kaela homemade espresso stout cake. Pretty much all the stuff that’s homemade.”
The Anderson’s have recruited their relatives to help run their landmark eatery. Chef Kaela, they stress, is like family. Marly’s sister and brother-in-law help manage the Landmark. Daugher Piper, they expect, will eventually help out as the Sauvé children did. And Marly’s parents have moved to Victoria.
“Mom’s going to be a huge part of it,” says Marly. “She loves flowers and I don’t; I like to look at them. But she wants to be involved anyway she can, so she’ll be the gardener for both places.”
“We realize that this is important to a lot of people for a lot of reasons,” adds Greg Anderson. “Because it’s a historical building, because of the history of the Landmark Café with locals and tourists alike. It’s important to everyone that it stay a family-run business and that’s what it is.”