For the sixth and final installment of the Dining Guide by neighbourhood we cross the river to explore the gastronomy in Gatineau and the Outaouais. From the dazzling French regional cuisine at Le Baccara in the Casino, to the chewy pies at the wildly popular Piz’za-za in Old Hull; from the promising newcomers like Bistro St Jacques, to the old timer, Le Pied de Cochon, dishing up the steak tartare since 1976. The region still seems to me haunted by the absence of the iconic Café Henry Burger, closed in 2006 after 83 years of distinguished service; in its place, a Thai restaurant filled with patrons in jeans chowing down on pad Thai. Progress, I suppose. And yet… we mourn. Venture out of the city into the countryside, to the quirky little restaurant named for a goldfish in Wakefield, or to the much-celebrated Les Fougeres, which seems to me better each visit. This guide is meant to direct you to those restaurants I feel I can recommend. Some unequivocally, some with some reservation, but which may suit a mood or a budget.
L’Echelle de Jacob
27, boul. Lucerne, 819-684-1040 $$$
A well-hidden, well-established restaurant on the second floor of a century-old mill. Local goat cheese soufflé; scallops ceviche, wild mushroom charlotte, perfect profiteroles.
11 Front St., 819-685-0123 http://pages.videotron.com/bifstro $$$
Cuisine: Seafood and steak
The thirty seats inside, mostly constantly filled, plus about 20 more when the patio opens, keep owner Flo flying around this cluttered little space. She is much the pleasure of this bistro. The generous portions of steak and seafood prepared by her husband Sandy are the other.
3, boul du Casino, Gatineau, 819-790-6410 www.hiltonlacleamy.com $$$$
Cuisine: Grill and seafood
The dining room of the Hilton Lac Leamy offers a menu of seafood and meat, mostly from the grill – steaks, ribs, Kobe beef hamburgers – but also from the oven (prime rib, pork sous vide) and the smoker (house-smoked chicken and salmon.)
Bistro St Jacques
51 rue St-Jacques, 819-420-0189 www.bistrostjacques.ca $$$
Cuisine: French Canadian Bistro
Carefully sourced raw materials, prepared in comforting ways – roasted vegetable soup, warm mushroom salad, duck confit, lovely desserts – are paired with gracious service at this new bistro.
125 Prom. du Portage, 819-771-7568 $$
If you have yet to experience what tasty things happen when a lamb has lied down with a preserved lemon for a few hours, Fatima’s place (recently moved from up the road) is a good introduction.
Chez le Thai
39 rue Laval, Gatineau, 819-770-7227 www.chezlethai.com $$
A dimly lit restaurant with bright food. All the hot-sour-salty-sweet we want in Thai food, ingredient focused and fairly priced.
45 rue Laval, Gatineau, 819-771-3456 $
You order from a display case with seasonal stylishness and either take it away and relish it, or else find a perch at this ten chair/six-stool café with a liquor license.
Fleur de Sel
59 rue Laval, Gatineau, 819-772-8596 $$
A vegetarian restaurant, serene and pretty, but with fish on the evening menu for pescetarians – pickerel with mango ratatouille, shrimp with arugula, lentil and cashew terrine – and now with crepes. (Read on.)
59 rue Laval, 819-772-8596 $$
For those former fans of this upper deck galetteria, who may have noticed it’s been supplanted (see Le Cafe en Haut) do not despair. You will rediscover it sharing space and a menu with the vegetarian restaurant Fleur de Sel a few doors away.
33B rue Gamelin, 819-777-3850 $$
In a vibrant room of ten tables, you find a traditional menu of tagines, brochettes and couscous dishes. Lamb with prunes, honey, almonds; chicken with preserved lemon, cumin, onion, olives and artichokes. Mint tea and Moroccan wines.
1 boul. du Casino, 819-772-6210 www.casino-du-lac-leamy.com $$$$
Fine dining restaurant of the Casino. Chef Serge Rourre’s cooking is anchored in solid French traditions, but filled with toothsome flights of fancy. Magnificent presentations. Magnificent wine cellar. One of the region’s best.
Le Café d’en Haut
39A rue Laval, 819-770-9997 $$
Cuisine: French bistro
Opened early in 2009, in the upper space vacated by L’Argoat, with a short, daily menu of fresh, seasonal fare – soups, fresh fish, homemade terrines – at a price point that will have you climbing the stairs often.
201 rue Eddy, Gatineau, 819-777-7771 $$$
Reliably good French and Mediterranean cooking complemented with a generous wine cellar and charming service in a petite, dated-looking space.
Le Pied de Cochon
242 rue Montcalm, Gatineau, 819-777-5808 www.lepieddecochon.ca $$$
Cuisine: French bistro
Since 1976, a no-nonsense lineup of Parisian bistro classics. Some things are done very well, like the steak tartare, duck confit, the daily fish.
Le Sans Pareil
71 boul. St-Raymond, Gatineau, 819-771-1471 www.lesanspareil.com $$$
More charming from within than without, but once within, inspired French and Belgian cuisine with emphasis on fish, seafood and game. Of course, moules et frites, but also venison in a Belgian beer sauce, veal kidneys with grainy mustard and a fine chocolate ending. Delightful.
133 rue Notre-Dame, Gatineau, 819-776-6424 www.letartuffe.com $$$
In a lovely old house, the principles of modern French cuisine applied to regional produce: cranberry-stuffed roasted quail, pheasant with wild mushrooms, crème brulée.
Lotus Royal Thai
101 rue Montcalm, Gatineau, 819-778-0559 $$
Thai food with all the right stuff. Excellent soups, panaeng, spring rolls, satay and fish curries.
69 rue Laurier, 819-777-0404 www.greenpapaya.ca $$
Not sure what Madame Burger would make of neau nam tok, but this pretty beef salad, along with a few dozen other Thai dishes (soups, curries, stir fries, rice and noodle dishes) now fill the menu of this third location of the Green Papaya restaurants, in digs once occupied for some 83 years by Café Henry Burger.
36 rue Laval, 819-771-0565 www.pizzaza.ca $$
This cheerfully French and jam packed restaurant is mostly about pizza and wine, but also about lemon pie.
835 rue Jacques Cartier, 819-568-8788 www.sterlingrestaurant.com $$$$
Cuisine: Steak and Seafood
Spacious, dramatic dining in Gatineau, where a cornucopia of cuts and weights of premium steak share a luxury menu with oversized seafood.
168 chemin Old Chelsea, 819-827-7687 $
There’s more than vegie soup to like at this little house in the woods in Chelsea: the house burrito has ample flavour, the chili has bite and brawn and the house pizzas boast fresh toppings and a tasty crust. Homemade desserts.
28 Valley Dr., Wakefield, 819-459-3747 www.cafechezeric.ca $$$
The blackboard menu changes regularly and is commendably short. On it you will likely always find a game terrine, dinner salads, sometimes fish and chips, pasta with local mushrooms, and magnificent duck.
783 Route 105, Chelsea, 819-827-8942 $$$$
Impeccably sourced raw materials prepared with contemporary flair at this lauded Chelsea restaurant. Potato soup with smoked Arctic char, scallops teamed with salt cod; lamb drenched with Indian spices, chocolate tart with blueberry compote.
L’Orée du Bois
15 Chemin Kingsmere, Chelsea, 819-827-0332 www.oreeduboisrestaurant.com $$$
Long-established, rustic-looking restaurant in Gatineau forest setting serves unrepentantly old school French favourites: fish soup, escargots, duck confit, seafood pot au feu. Regional products abound and chocolate enthusiasts are well served.
Wakefield Mill Inn
60 Mill Rd., 819-459-1838 www.wakefieldmillinn.com $$$$
The mill has changed hands and purpose over its 170 year history, but it has been operated as an inn since 2000. Its restaurant offers a short menu of contemporary dishes, some with Asian notes – smoked beef maki and ginger cream; scallops with a green tea beurre blanc.
Out of Town
La Table de Pierre Delahaye
247 rue Papineau, Papineauville, 819-427-5027 www.latabledepierredelahaye.ca $$$
Lacy French restaurant that specializes in the cooking of the apple rich region of Normandy: escargots with Calvados, ris de veau braised with apples, apple tart.
Maison La Crémaillère
24, chemin de la Montagne, Messines, 819-465-2202 www.lacremaillere.qc.ca $$$
The focus on chef Andrée Roger’s table d’hote is on local, seasonal and Quebec ingredients, prepared in classical French style. The focus on sommelier André Dompierre’s list is on wines to match his wife’s good cooking. Reservations essential.