Les Fougeres, Gatineau, Quebec.

October 2015.

This is one of our favourite places to eat. I can recall being here at least four times and never being disappointed. On the contrary, it’s always delightful. There is nothing slick or sterile about the restaurant or the wonderful home prepared food shop adjacent. This time it was entirely at expectation, which remains high.

It’s about a 20 minute drive from Ottawa, where we were staying with friends who took us for a Friday lunch. At this time of year the deciduous forest is alive with red, gold, and green. We pulled into the parking lot of a low-slung sloping-roofed building surrounded by all those colours. We are told a renovation is coming soon, which will enlarge the windows letting on a lovely garden in back still in bloom in mid-October. As it stands, one walks around the central bar, and we were seated at the end table in the U-shaped room which although medium-sized feels intimate and pleasingly private.

Our server was a thirty-something guy, comfortable with formality and also with mildly off-colour humour in both official languages. The ladies had cocktails while we looked over the wine list and chose a French malbec, a nice bargain at $45.

I started with a foie gras, perfectly panfried and dotted with islands of dissolved kosher salt. It contrasted pleasantly with berries surrounding a brioche underneath. Plat was the house signature duck confit for three of us, and a delicious, tender, perfectly-seasoned fish cake for the fourth. The confit here is always spectacular. It’s a huge leg with plenty of crisp skin, cooked so the meat is tender and moist with a suffusion of its delicious fat. It sits on a potato roesti with I think sour cream in the centre, surrounded with wilted spinach fragrant with garlic. A fabulous treat.

We proceeded to share crème brûlée, trying not to fight over the last spoonful. Two of us had a tiny glass of a recommended sweet wine with the foie gras, and the malbec kept us happy otherwise. Considering the quality, the tip-included approximately $100 each seemed more than reasonable.

On the way out, we stocked up on fond de veau, scalloped potatoes, and turkey stuffing from the products in the store. Overall, we enjoyed the usual much-anticipated superb celebration of lunch on this western edge of La Belle Province.

Food 9.4, service 9.3, ambience 9.1, value 8.4. We will certainly be back; if you’re in Ottawa and and have access to a car don’t miss it.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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