Old Quebec City Is A Magical Place

When celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain travelled to Québec City, in 2013, he said he felt Iike he was in an entirely different country. Having travelled there recently, I would have to agree. Old Québec City is unlike any other part of Canada. Cobblestone bricks line the streets, with narrow buildings that were built in the 1800s. Historical landmarks, such as cathedrals, monuments, fortresses and cannons, remain fully intact and can be found all over. The streets are narrow and twist up hills and down hills, adding an extra layer of charm to this lovely town that resembles 18th-century Paris. If the architecture is not enough to impress you, the beauty of the surrounding St. Lawrence River will. There are many elevated lookout points, throughout the city, where you can enjoy sweeping views of the river and the Île d’Orléans, which sits in the middle.

I have heard many great things about Québec City’s food scene. As I was only there for three days, I made sure to enjoy as much of the city’s culinary offerings as I could. My first stop was at Café La Maison Smith St-Jean. A short walk from my hotel, down the cobblestone street of Rue Saint-Jean, and I was there. I ordered a simple dark-roast drip coffee and a croissant ham and Swiss cheese sandwich. Both were divine. I would even say that the coffee here, which they source themselves, is the best I ever had. Super fresh, very robust, tasting of earthy chocolate flavours. It was as if the barista had just picked the beans, roasted them and ground them—all in one day.

Later that afternoon I enjoyed some relaxation at the Strøm spa nordique. The walking route to get there is very educational as you pass the Parliament Building, in all of its grandeur, and then cut across the famous Plains of Abraham. There are many plaques, along the way, that explain what happened during the wars. Upon arriving at the spa, the first thing you notice is how picturesque the grounds are. Built right by the banks of the St. Lawrence River, every view is a good one. Several of the outdoor pools overlook the river as well.

There is a stylish restaurant on-site, and it is here where I had the best food of my life. I started off by ordering a bourbon-based cocktail, with rose syrup, garnished with dry rose petals. It tasted heavenly. If roses could produce a drink, I swear this is what it would taste like. It was sweet but not overpowering, and you got just the right amount of rose flavour but could still taste the bourbon. To eat, I enjoyed a cold duck salad that consisted of thinly sliced duck, thinly sliced cheese, pine nuts, purple onion, microgreens and a creamy lemon sauce. Everything blended together perfectly.

After enjoying some more relaxation at the spa, I was ready to head back to the hotel. I enjoyed a bit of downtime and then thought it would be a great idea to dine at the hotel’s restaurant, the Il Teatro. This Italian restaurant is located on the main level of the Théȃtre Capitole, which was built in 1903. (I should quickly mention that the hotel I stayed at is called Le Capitole Hôtel and is a modern glass building that was built around the existing theatre). I was seated on the patio, which was very pretty. Lots of flower boxes, soft-white patio lights, with a view of the artillery fortification, down the road, and another theatre across the street. I enjoyed some calamari and beef tenderloin. The sauce on the beef was superb. Very flavourful; again, unlike anything I have ever tasted.

The next morning I popped into Paillard, a very well-known pastry shop, also on Rue Saint-Jean. I had passed by it the day before but there were 50 people in line, so I skipped it. This morning there were only 30, so I decided to wait, and it was very much worth the wait. I ordered a croissant filled with almond paste and chocolate. It tasted perfect and the croissant was so soft and fresh, I could have easily eaten five.

For lunch, I stopped at a place called Le Café du Monde, which is located in the port area by the St. Lawrence River. The restaurant patio is on a balcony, so you get a nice view of the water and the area of Lévis, which is on the other side of the river. I enjoyed a lovely ham sandwich that was topped with baked Gouda cheese and an egg. Again, absolutely delicious. It was around this point that I began to wonder why the rest of Canada has not caught on to Québec’s culinary style. I have been to a few different Canadian cities and grew up in Toronto. I have tasted many different cuisines, but nothing compares to how perfectly delicious the food in Québec City is.

After spending the day enjoying a boat tour and strolling around town, it was time for dinner. I was lucky enough to get a reservation at Champlain Restaurant, the five-star restaurant located inside the famous Fairmont le Chȃteau Frontenac. Originally the Chateau was built in 1893, as a hotel for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Currently it is managed by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. I have seen pictures of this stately chateau, but when you see it in real life, it is massive. Chateau is definitely an understatement, as this landmark is the size of a castle. And the service you receive at the Champlain Restaurant is fit for royalty.

When I arrived, I was greeted and given a welcome glass of Prosecco. I was then seated at a very large table that overlooked the river. I ordered oysters topped with Polish caviar, to start, and then opted for the Tasting Menu, for dinner, which served five courses consisting of scallops, lobster, risotto, beef tenderloin and a chocolate tart. Going into detail about this meal would be an entire article on its own. To give a brief summary, the service was perfect and the food was very unique and full of multiple flavours. It was truly a memorable experience.

Aside from the food, Québec City is also a historian’s dream. There is so much Canadian history there. I did not get a chance to visit any of the museums, but I did manage to pop into the Notre-Dame Basilica, which is absolutely stunning. I definitely recommend visiting this beautiful city to enjoy everything it has to offer. No matter which season you visit in, you will be enchanted by the city’s historical architecture. The only slight disappointment I had was not running into Celine Dion. That would have been epic … I know she sometimes frequents the area (maybe next time).

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