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Photo: Appetizers at the restaurant La Légende.
If you want to discover Northern and Boreal cuisine, a gourmet getaway in Quebec will delight you.
With its climate and surrounding forests, it is not surprising to find there the same style of cuisine, ingredients, and products that you find in Scandinavia.
Quebec chefs have drawn inspiration from these European traditions while creating dishes unique to their region.
If you’re intrigued, it’s time to plan a road trip to Quebec City. You will enjoy a wonderful and relaxing weekend.
The fact is that we cannot do justice to Quebec city if we only mention a few great restaurants or good hotels.
We stayed there often, always at very nice hotels, whether they were little boutique hotels or the majestic Chateau Frontenac. Quebec also has numerous restaurants.
So what we are sharing here is a gourmet getaway where boreal and northern cuisine is at the core of the experience. Here are some places not to be missed.
Where to stay
In the lower town of Old Quebec:
Small hotels and restaurants seem to be booming in lower Quebec City.
This is where we stayed. Nice room, with brick walls, reasonable prices, free breakfast included, friendly staff and an excellent restaurant (Louise) in the same building, not only for breakfast but for lunch or dinner. A perfect place to stay for a weekend!
For more information, visit Hôtel Port-Royal.
Hôtel des Coutellier:
We did not stay there, but it is the hotel right next to the outstanding La Légende restaurant where we had a memorable dinner. According to the photos on their website, the rooms and prices seem similar to those of the Hotel Port-Royal. This could be a good choice.
For more information, visit Hôtel des Coutellier.
Hôtel Le Priori:
This hotel also has rooms with lots of character, including beautiful stone walls. We had enjoyed our stay at this hotel in the past.
For more information, visit Hôtel Le Priori.
Ha, the Auberge Saint-Antoine! Twenty years ago, it was the most adorable and romantic boutique hotel in Quebec City. I have stayed there often. Each room had its own unique style, with a particular theme for its decoration. It is now a hotel Relais et Châteaux, larger and ultra-modern if this is something you like!
For more information, visit Auberge Saint-Antoine.
In the upper town of Old Quebec:
If you’d rather be in the upper town, the Hôtel Sainte-Anne also offers charming rooms with stone or brick walls. It is next to the Château Frontenac, so particularly well located so that you can enjoy Old Quebec within its old walls. We stayed there and liked it. Good prices as well.
For more information, visit Hôtel Sainte-Anne.
Here is something that you must do, at least once in a lifetime: to stay at Château Frontenac. The castle overlooks the St. Lawrence River and the lower town, and the outdoor wooden promenade in front of the castle (public space) is the perfect place to admire the view. The castle (which turns 125 this year) is really the emblem of Quebec City and is in every photo representing the city. It is even said that it is the most photographed hotel in the world!
The hotel is, in fact, a historical monument, and if you stay there, make sure to wander in the staircases. You will find photos of the historic meeting of allies’ heads of state (Roosevelt, Churchill, etc.) held in August 1943 in preparation for the landing. With its traditional dark wood furnishings, the hotel will surely take you back in time to the days of prestigious Canadian Pacific hotels.
For more information, visit Château Frontenac.
Where to shop
If you are interested in boreal terroir products, you won’t be disappointed in Quebec City!
Le Marché du Vieux Port (The Market in the Old Port):
Update 2019: This market was a great place to buy not only all kinds of maple products but blueberry products (syrups, juices, jams, etc.) and other wild berries (haskap, cloudberry, sea buckthorn, etc.), boreal spices, dried wild mushrooms, and much more. Not only it is now permanently closed, but the building has been bulldozed. There are talks about opening a “seasonal” tent in its place.
Accro cuisine et dépendances:
And if you are really serious, you must go and explore the local products section of the store Accro! You will be impressed by the number of products produced by small Quebec producers who do innovative things with local ingredients. We found the products of some producers we already knew, and also discover several new brands! The store is in the lower town, not in the tourist area, at 273 Rue Saint-Joseph Est.
Where to eat – Boreal and Nordic cuisine restaurants
The boreal bistro Chez Boulay:
“The bistro is enjoying great popularity thanks to their passionate chefs,” mentions their website, and it’s absolutely true! On this Saturday night, the restaurant was crowded, and we had trouble getting a reservation even two weeks in advance.
We were eager to discover their innovative cuisine. I had heard about Chez Boulay bistro on several occasions. I had read that, in Quebec, Arnaud Marchand was THE person who was particularly fond of boreal terroir ingredients. He has also contributed to the writing of several books on boreal cuisine (Saveurs boréales et Le garde-manger boréal).
Both on their menu and their website, the ingredients of northern Canada are definitely highlighted. Raspberry and black spruce macaroons, green alder pepper cream sugar, sea buckthorn pie or fruit paste, boreal spices are some of the products that you can purchase on their online store. Our main dishes (fish and balsam fir sauerkraut and cranberry rabbit with lingonberries) and their sea buckthorn (wild nordic berry) pie were delicious.
One downside for us was that the “Nordic” flavors were so subtle that it was sometimes difficult to recognize them, but it is possible that most people could prefer it that way.
For more information, visit Chez Boulay.
And if you would like to learn more about boreal cuisine, Jean-Luc Boulay also wrote a book: “Le garde-manger boréal : 80 recettes pour le découvrir et le cuisiner” 2017 (on Amazon).
La Légende restaurant:
Anyone interested in Nordic cuisine knows the NOMA restaurant in Copenhagen. So when Karyne from Morille Québec told me, “go eat at La Légende, it’s very NOMA,” it REALLY aroused my curiosity! And we were not disappointed. I would say even more: it is for us one of our most beautiful gastronomic experiences ever – at the level of some restaurants with Michelin stars! Their tasting menu (7 dishes that night) brought us from surprise to surprise, and their attentive and amicable staff made us discover all their creations with passion.
The atmosphere was warm and relaxed, the service was perfect, and the cuisine outstanding. What more to say? Among our discoveries, smoked sturgeon and Boston salad, scallops with turnips and shiitake mushrooms in a lobster bisque, dried bison with walnuts and fried polenta, cricket pasta (we are not adventurous and lovers of things too extreme like insects, but it was delicious) and their delicious dessert (photo below) with lichen, meringue infused with fir, haskap (nordic berry) and crystallized maple syrup. Definitely not to be missed!
For more information, visit Restaurant La Légende.
This concluded a wonderful weekend in Quebec, all about Nordic and boreal cuisine. We brought back unforgettable memories with us! I hope I have given you the desire to go.
And don’t hesitate to share your discoveries with us by leaving a comment below!