7 top spots in Old Aylmer
Gentle reader, if it’s been awhile since you visited Principale Street in Gatineau’s Aylmer sector (or if you’ve never been), I urge you to correct that mistake. I have to confess that before I picked the topic for this blog post I hadn’t been there often, especially in the last few years. Over the past few weeks, as I toured the businesses described below, I was constantly amazed and delighted by the wonderful discoveries around every corner—so amazed and delighted, in fact, that I couldn’t help sharing them with family and friends before this post went up. Apologies for jumping the gun, but I did it out of sheer enthusiasm!
My absolute TOP pick: Des Cèdres Park
This is one of the few spots in Gatineau, and indeed in the Outaouais, where you can watch the sun set minute by minute until it finally disappears below the horizon. On fine summer nights the dock and beach are packed with people enjoying this beautiful sight.
Of the six businesses I visited, L’Aubergiste was the only one I’d been to before, but I’d never sampled the regular menu. On my first visit, Sébastien and I were on a mission to try the duck confit poutine for my post about the best gourmet poutines in the Outaouais, and my second visit was on Valentine’s Day, when they serve a special table d’hôte menu.
This time, chefs Chanelle and Pierre-Louis prepared the three dishes shown, plus a dessert with just a hint (ahem) of sweetness. Everything was
decadently delicious, but my favourite dish was the beet trio, with its wonderful mix of flavours and textures. It was colourful and healthy … well, pretty healthy—beets are vegetables, after all!
Roasted marinated yellow beets, rose beet stuffed with goat cheese and truffle mousse, and candied jujube-style red beets with raspberry vinaigrette, garnished with cocoa walnuts and mango emulsion.
Seared foie gras on house-made onion brioche bread, with fresh cherries, cocoa and soya syrup, green apple slices, aged cheddar chips, corn, and maple prosciutto.
Argentina shrimps poached in red curry oil, served with barley salad with ginger, cucumbers and soya sauce, nori and caper mayonnaise, fresh watermelon and cashews. (It’s kind of like sushi.)
Deconstructed strawberry shortcake: vanilla cake, candied strawberries, basil mousse, balsamic pearl and Rochef chocolate.
Pierre-Louis’ pick: Les Deux Frères bakery
Chanelle’s pick: Sérénithé
My revelation of the summer took place at Sérénithé. I’m talking about bubble tea. I’d never heard of it before I visited Sérénithé, but I’ve already had it three times since! It’s addictive, especially the little bubbles at the bottom of the glass.
The owners, Louise and Normand, opened their tea shop in spring 2012, and that summer their daughter Jasmine introduced them to bubble tea. That’s when they came up with their Jazz Bubble Tea recipe. It’s been their top seller for the past two years, and I can see why. It’s a cold tea with a slushie-like texture, made with crushed ice, flavouring (you can choose from two dozen flavours) and tapioca pearls (boba) in another flavour. You drink it with an extra-large straw so that you can suck up the bubbles at the bottom. And take it from me, those bubbles are so irresistible that you’ll give yourself brain freeze. According to Normand, that’s pretty common, because people are so keen to suck all the bubbles up quickly.
When it comes time to order, it may take you a few minutes to decide: you have to choose among 24 drink flavours, 9 bubble flavours and 3 kinds of jujubes, and you can add tapioca pearls, a traditional ingredient in bubble tea.
On our visit, Sébastien and I ordered one raspberry bubble tea with yogurt bubbles and tapioca pearls, and one pineapple tea with strawberry bubbles and tapioca pearls. The owners told us that the most popular tea/bubble combinations are raspberry/blueberry, lemon/blueberry, mango/strawberry and watermelon/kiwi.
Fans of traditional tea will be happy to know that Sérénithé also carries some 150 kinds of loose tea.
Louise’s picks: L’Aubergiste and the Bistro Mexicana patio
Normand’s pick: L’Aubergiste
Béatrice et chocolats
Here’s the world’s worst-kept secret: I adore sweets, and as far as I’m concerned there’s no such thing as too much chocolate.
When I met Gaétanne, the owner of Béatrice et chocolats (her shop is named after her grandmother), let’s just say that I was in my element. And like most of her customers, I fell in love with her caramel sea salt chocolate. The best part is that it’s available in three forms: bars, molds and pralines.
Everything in this little shop on Principale Street is handmade by the owner. She sources and buys the chocolate, and makes all the products on display herself, from sponge toffee to candied fruits, cherry blossoms and more.
I was surprised and delighted to learn that there are 6 grams of protein in a bar of dark chocolate. What a great reason to eat more of it!
Gaétanne’s pick: William J. Walters
The British et Maison publique
A recent addition to Principale Street in Aylmer is the British Hotel (“the British”), home to the Public House, which specializes in gourmet burgers and artisanal pizzas. Watch for the official reopening of this beautifully restored historic building in a few days.
We opted for the pub side of the restaurant, which overlooks Principale Street. What better way to start the meal than with a tasty cocktail? Next, the chef, Adam, surprised us with a delectable appetizer of melted Brie with beer chutney, caramelized pecans and a balsamic reduction. Our appetites were well and truly whetted!
That was a good thing, because Adam then served us two generous entrées that are among his most popular menu items: a Mediterranean pizza (topped with basil pesto, mozzarella cheese, sundried tomatoes, grilled chicken and goat cheese) and the pub’s signature dish, the British burger, a 7‑ounce seasoned Angus beef patty topped with aged cheddar, maple-caramelized bacon, arugula and sriracha aioli.
Adam’s pick: Bistro Mexicana
Full disclosure: Until I visited L’Autre Œil, I wasn’t a beer drinker … but that’s all changed now. This is definitely the place that made the strongest impression on me!
When it first opened in 1998, L’Autre Œil carried 22 kinds of beer. In 2005 they stocked 200, and now they carry 550 bottled beers and 44 on tap. Talk about a beer bar! That’s why Martine, the friendly server who welcomed us, was positive she could convert me: in such a wide range, there was surely something I’d like!
Since I don’t really like beer, the first two I tried were OK, but nothing special (in my opinion): a Westmall Tripel, and an Épisode cucumber and basil beer. Beer connoisseur Sébastien, on the other hand, thought they were great!
But the third time was the charm: Martine hit the jackpot with Dieu du ciel’s Solstice d’été, a raspberry-flavoured sour ale. That one went down very easily. According to Martine, sour ales are very much on trend. “They’re all the rage in Quebec,” she told us.
Besides offering a wide selection of Quebec beers, L’Autre Œil also features a dozen new beers every month, and hosts beer-themed events. It’s definitely worth the trip!
Martine’s pick: Des Cèdres Park
Antonyme restaurant is brand new: it’s less than a year old. The three musketeers behind this cute little restaurant on Principale Street are Spencer, Marc-André and Richard, three creative guys who really enjoy working together. What’s special about this restaurant is that the menu changes almost daily. A few classics never change, but customers are sure to find new and enticing menu items at every visit.
When I visited, I dared to try an octopus dish. Don’t be too quick to judge: it was delicious!
Octopus, pattypan squash, Vietnamese coriander, mango coulis, tobiko, radishes and cucumbers.
The other two dishes we had were just as good: foie gras torchon with onion marmalade and carrot confit, and Arctic char.
The great thing about a restaurant like this is that it’s almost impossible to order the same thing twice: you just have to trust the chefs, and join them on a culinary voyage of discovery!
Spencer’s pick: L'Autre Œil
Marc-André’s pick: Amazon restaurant
Richard’s pick: L’Autre Œil and Des Cèdres Park
This concludes my discovery tour of Old Aylmer. I hope Sébastien’s photos will entice you to plan a visit to this beautiful part of Gatineau soon. The business owners are friendly and welcoming, and they have some really amazing products just waiting to be discovered. Have fun exploring Principale Street!