Plate With A View: La Montagne Coupée, Quebec, Canada
Saturday 20 December 2008
This restaurant may be set in one of Canada's finest health retreats, but it is no place for dieters. The emphasis is on elaborate, regional food served in hearty portions. After a bowl of chef Amélie Roch's homemade soup (a rich pumpkin the night I was there), starters range from artisan smoked trout or wild mushroom ravioli to a goats' cheese tartlet served with onion marmalade, grilled pistachios and a Cape Gooseberry brandy.
Typical mains include pink-fleshed Quebec veal paired – not altogether successfully – with melted Laracam cheese, chicken breast marinated in l'Alchimiste beer and Caribou rib served with asparagus. Desserts, meanwhile, run an appealingly original spectrum from crème brûlée with black tea infusion and raspberries to orange flower-water cake with candied peel jelly and a red berry cracker.
While Roch's championing of local produce is hard to fault, the resulting dishes might be a little too Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen for some tastes, with so much going on in a single dish that your eyes – and stomach – aren't quite sure where to focus.
One area where she keeps things more pared down, though, is the cheese plate. Though this still comes with a rather overwhelming side collection of dried cranberries, exotic fruit and smoked almonds, the regional specialities you get to choose from (three, five or more) are otherwise left alone in simple, earthy glory.
About an hour-and-a-half's drive from Montreal, in Quebec's scenic Lanaudière region, La Montagne Coupée takes its name from the jagged mountain this popular country inn perches beside. Thankfully for those with delicate stomachs, you can't see the overhang from the restaurant's floor-to-ceiling windows. Instead, diners look out over a peaceful, natural panorama of thick forest, open sky and, if you're lucky, the odd deer or two.
Most guests come to enjoy some of Canada's most easily accessible countryside – cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter and kayaking, hiking or fishing in the summer – or to make the most of the hotel's wide range of spa treatments.
Lanaudière is also one of the country's biggest maple-syrup-producing regions, hence the picturesque clusters of maple trees nearby.
Inside the restaurant, the décor is solidly old-fashioned, its faux-rustic styling and glowing fireplace belying the modern architecture that surrounds it.
The (largely repeat) clientele don't come here for design tips. What really draws them is the fact that they can sit in comfort and fill up in style while chewing over the landscape they've been out exploring during the day.
The four-course dinner costs a bargain C$45 (£25) per person, including coffee, though there are supplements for some dishes and for cheese.
La Montagne Coupée, Road 131, Saint-Jean-de-Matha, Quebec, Canada (001 450 886 3891; montagnecoupee.com). The restaurant opens daily, 5.30pm-9pm.
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