Story by Adrian Brijbassi
QUEBEC CITY — Maxime Fournier will do all the things you would expect from an exceptional waiter in this city known for its food, charm and hospitality. He will explain the dishes on the Café de la Paix menu, pour your wine, refill your water glass and ensure you go for dessert. What the waiter won’t tell you is he owns the elegant restaurant that, like so much else in Quebec, brims with grace.
For 25 years, Fournier worked at the restaurant that’s just off of the main street of Old Quebec, Rue Saint-Louis, before purchasing it a year ago. He continues to wait tables while the previous owner, Benito Terzini, sometimes works as the host.
“We are good friends and he wanted to retire, so we made a switch,” Fournier said with a smile after serving me dinner on Thursday night, the eve of the Quebec Carnival. “My heart is in this house. My two sons work here. I didn’t want to see anything happen to it.”
He said he continues to wait tables because he enjoys hearing what the customers have to say about the restaurant. The hardest part about being an owner is overseeing the accounting and administration of the business. “That’s not so much fun,” he said.
Fournier closed the restaurant for two months for renovations but said there were no major changes to Café de la Paix’s operations or menu. Among the superb items you’ll taste inside the restaurant’s gleaming wooden wall is a divine Chocolate Mousse Cake with English Cream and Raspberry Coulis. The cake has a silky texture that’s firmer than mousse, which allows it to soak up the flavour of the cream and raspberry, giving it a taste that is close to a Black Forest cake but without the heaviness. It’s a treat that feels light and delicate.
The $8 dessert, like the restaurant’s sugar pie and lemon pie that are also popular, is made in the Café de la Paix kitchen. On a busy day, more than 200 servings can be delivered during the lunch and dinner seatings, Fournier said.
Café de la Paix is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and guests can enjoy a multi-course dinner with wine for $60 per person. The Rack of Lamb for Two ($75) and Bison Filet with Foie Gras ($50) are favourite entrées of guests of Café de la Paix, which serves French- and Italian-inspired cuisine in an elegant space that embodies Quebec’s sophistication and good humour.
MORE ABOUT CAFÉ DE LA PAIX
Prices: A la carte menu items can be as expensive as $85 (Beef Wellington for Two) but many items are reasonably priced. Pastas are in the mid-$20 range, and soups and salads are less than $10. Desserts are $7 or $8.
Ambience: Although it’s a fine-dining restaurant with lots of elegance, Cafe de la Paix has a casual, come-as-y0u-are feel.
Location: 44 Rue des Jardins, Quebec City (see map below)
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