Plate With A View: Le Champlain Quebec
Published 19/12/2006 | 12:20
Le Champlain restaurant is in Le Château Frontenac, a turreted extravaganza of a hotel in Quebec.
It's named after Samuel de Champlain, French explorer, diplomat and politician. But the other name that everyone associates with Le Champlain is that of Jean Soulard, a local celebrity TV chef and the culinary brains behind the elevation of this restaurant to superstar status in Canada.
Soulard's menu dégustation starts with a large flute of champagne, followed by a terrine of duck with Tokay, then trout with Chablis, veal with Saint-Emilion, local cheeses with port, and champagne again with tarte Tatin to finish off.
The clientele are either French-speaking Quebeckers or hotel guests who have saved up for a special treat. The atmosphere is nouveau French imperial. Waiters pad through the oak-panelled dining room in 17th-century tabards, and music is provided by a lute trio in similar garb.
Immediately outside the dining- room windows, on the Dufferin Terrace, stands a statue of Samuel de Champlain, who founded Quebec in 1608 for Henry IV of France. Champlain made friends with the local Algonquin tribe and adopted their name for this section of the St Lawrence (Quebec literally means "the Narrows"). The mighty river lies beyond, swamped with ice for four months of the year. Diners can watch the floes move up or downstream, depending on the tide, and the two car ferries that ply this section of the river like clockwork, carving sweeping paths through the ice.
Champlain's New France was initially run from Fort St Louis, whose foundations lie just outside the window under the Dufferin Terrace, which is itself named after one of the most successful British Governors General of Canada. Beyond Champlain's statue stands another monument to the past, the magnificent belle époque Louis Saint-Laurent Building (now a post office), which was named after Canada's first French-speaking Quebecker prime minister.
The menu dégustation, which includes five courses and five different wines, costs C$145 (£65) per person.
Le Champlain, 1 rue des Carrières, Quebec, Canada (001 418 692 3861; www.fairmont.com/frontenac). The restaurant is open Tuesday to Saturday, 6-10pm.