QUÉBEC CITY’S JOIE DE VIVRE
THE BISTROS, BREW PUBS AND BOULANGERIES OF “LA VIEILLE CAPITALE” PRESENT A DELICIOUS BLEND OF OLD WORLD CHARM & PIONEERING SPIRIT.
When Frédéric Cyr started cooking at age 12 in the kitchen of his family’s Relais & Châteaux– member inn near Québec City, he says the local cuisine scene was both dominated and defined by a small number of high-end restaurants in the historical Old City district that specialized mostly in classic French cuisine.
“Québec City has always had great chefs,” says Cyr, now in his early 40s and executive chef of the city’s most prominent and famous landmark — the castle-like Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, which overlooks the port and St. Lawrence River. “But the size and diversity of the offering was as limited as the supply of quality locally grown and produced foods and ingredients.”
But in recent years, a perfect storm of factors — from the advent of social media and the foodie movement to Québec City’s emergence as one of Canada’s hottest cities in terms of economic growth — have helped to create a new food culture that is making Québec’s pictureperfect provincial capital a culinary port of call to remember.
Long considered an A-list destination by international tourists because of its stunning natural beauty and bewitching Old World charm, Québec City now also boasts a bevy of world-class bistros, brew pubs and boulangeries that specialize in traditional recipes and experimental fare using a burgeoning blend of locally produced grains, meats, cheeses, seafoods, fruits and vegetables — not to mention mushrooms, roots and flowers harvested from the nearby boreal forest.
Even hearty albeit lowbrow traditional French-Canadian dishes like tortière, cipaille and poutine are getting imaginative ingredient makeovers — and finding new life alongside charcuterie and other fashionable meal items on the menus of both upscale and upstart Québec City eateries.
“The quality, abundance and diversity of the food offering here now is simply amazing,” says Cyr, who learned to cook alongside his late father Renaud, a farmto-plate Québec food pioneer, and honed his skills in top Asian hotels and international cruise ships. “We have a whole new generation of creative chefs who are infusing their energy, vision and personality into their food and their restaurants.”
Like many of Québec City’s best sights, a good place to find that new culinary spirit is in some of the most time-tested restaurants in the Old City’s Upper Town neighborhood.
One is the wood- and glass-paneled Champlain restaurant in the newly restored Château Frontenac, which is celebrating its 125th birthday in 2018. French chef Stéphane Modat makes cuttingedge regional cuisine there that combines seasonal ingredients and forest-fresh foods — everything from sturgeon and snow crab to wild berries and edible plants — with traditional and even First Nations’ cooking techniques to make unique dishes like fish-egg mayonnaise, an Inuit dessert.
The Château is also home to the 1608 Wine & Cheese Bar, which offers great views, drinks and cheeses from its aroma-laden cheese cellar, and stocks an impressive 350 Québec-made cheeses.
Other high-end Upper Town eateries that combine tradition and innovation include Le Continental and Le Saint-Amour. The latter, which is owned and operated by celebrity chef Jean-Luc Boulay, is a perennial top-10 pick for best Canadian restaurant and the eatery of choice for visiting celebrities like Sir Paul McCartney, Sting and Charles Aznavour.
Boulay also owns — in partnership with chef Arnaud Marchand, a Québec game-food pioneer — the nearby Chez Boulay Bistro Boréal. The intimate bistro specializes in northern Québec-inspired foods and fusions like bison tartare, braised beef ravioli with candied red cabbage, salmon in a cranberry glaze — and for dessert, iced nougat with tundragrown cloudberries.
It’s down on the narrow, cobblestone streets of Lower Town, which