Fancy a spot of tea? Or, better still, a hearty sandwich followed by a chocolate éclair or fruit tart to go with that fine steaming brew? How about an idyllic setting for it all? Right this way then….
By Julie Gedeon
In the midst of Québec City’s touristy bustle, Bois-de-Coulonge offers a verdant oasis of urban parkland. The 22 hectares served as the private gardens and grounds for three of Canada’s governors-general and several lieutenants-governor of Québec until the official residence was destroyed by fire in 1966.
Fortunately, the gardens remain as enchanting as ever and the guardian’s lodge is a luring 1891 château-style cottage with a corner turret and triangular roofs and upper windows influenced by the popular American Shingle Style of the time.
“It’s a house right out of a children’s storybook,” says Jean-Louis Souman, director of the equally historic Auberge Saint-Antoine in Old Québec.
Auberge Saint-Antoine entered into agreement with the National Capital Commission of Quebec, the park’s administrator, a year ago to run a seasonal tea room at the renovated but perennially charming lodge. Panache du Parc is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. from mid-May through late October.
“Our pastry chef, Yves-Marie Rolland, is in charge with some helpful advice from Panache’s executive chef Louis Pacquelin,” Souman relates. “Panache du Parc showcases the luncheon and patisserie abilities of our skilled culinary team.”
Indoor and outdoor seating is available for a lunch featuring Panache’s hearty salads or sandwiches. A sweet tooth will be satisfied with a myriad of fresh pastries. Some feature unique twists such as the éclairs prepared with pistachios or strawberries.
“The tarts vary according to what fruit is in season,” Souman adds. “And Chef Roland is known for the macarons and cupcakes he bakes.”
Children and kids at heart adore the varied flavours of fresh gelato on warm days.
A proper British tea service is available by mid-afternoon, replete with the customary three-tiered curate stand filled with cucumber, egg, watercress and other finger sandwiches, as well as scones and a variety of miniature pastries.
Panache du Parc is another way the Price family, the owners of Auberge Sainte-Antoine and an integral part of Québec’s history and businesses for almost two centuries, has ventured into the community.
“Our goal is to share the simple but exquisite pleasures of our Panache restaurant in another accessible and affordable venue,” Souman explains. “We’ve had many people come to visit us at Auberge Saint-Antoine for dinner or a stay after experiencing Panache du Parc.”
Top tips for a tearrific tea experience
• If you’re serving tea, make it memorable. Panache du Parc obtains most of its fine teas from Mighty Leaf, but also calls upon renowned Caméllia Sinensis to obtain some exotic blends.
• Keep it simple. True culinary talent lies in bringing out the best in the season’s freshness.
• Don’t buck tradition. People expect all the standards with a proper British tea.