Just suppose you have promised out-of-towners some stunning fall colours on the first day of October. So you set off for a hike in the Gatineau Hills and… all is shades of green. Not a splash anywhere of autumn splendour. In your humiliation you offer a second guarantee – a good lunch, at least! And there, in a Wakefield café you find the colour you had promised: more electric blue than autumnal, but still… Le Hibou (cafelehibou.com) has recently emerged from a complete makeover, and its new walls vibrate.
It’s a lively, pretty room, a sort of Mexican cantina meets mademoiselle’s boudoir, and I promise to return to sit in it when the weather turns nasty but on this day, in the October sunshine, rare warmth and cloudless sky, we find a perch on Le Hibou’s front deck for a late lunch. The place is packed, but food arrives quickly and service is charming.
Two dishes stand out. The so-called Acorda a Alentejana (or beggar’s soup as it contains no meat or fish) traditionally relies on eggs for protein, bread for heft, and greens for goodness and aroma. Le Hibou’s version sneaks in chunks of chorizo sausage, which we don’t mind one bit. The two poached eggs plopped on top of the broth-sopped bread, sausage, tomato and herbs are perfectly cooked, dusted with smoked paprika. Pierced, they enrich the garlicky broth. And then I recommend the Hibou burger with caramelized onion, bacon, sharp cheese, arugula and the house barbecue sauce, tucked inside a great bun, sided with a mound of excellent fries. Doesn’t get much better.
Looking forward to seeing what Le Hibou dinner’s all about… when the deck’s been put to bed. For now, while this weirdly wonderful weather continues, get on it. It’s a rustic beauty on which the view is fine and the food is good.