Café du Clocher PenchéJanuary 13, 2007
Café du Clocher Penché
Before the holidays, I was left alone one particular night in Québec city. My brother having abandoned me to the loneliness of this city while he was up to a romantic evening with his girlfriend (can’t really blame him can I? I mean I am good company but she has boobs and she cooks his meal 365 days a year, I don’t think I can compete.) After a long afternoon of buying gift for other people (I tend to try to complete my Christmas shopping way in advance but the family decided otherwise in showering me with request while I was in Québec…) and taking tons of pictures around the city, doing the tourist thing in a city that you lived in for 6 years and you left 7-8 years ago is a bit strange; especially since so much has changed in the interim, I decided to treat myself to a good dinner. I had heard good things about le Café du Clocher Penché and I was about five blocks away at that point.
This “Café” is honestly more of a bistro than anything else and presents food that reflects that. I came into the restaurants and was pleasantly received and taken to a table despite my lack of reservation, although there was only two tables left on that Thursday night. I opened the menu to just about the simplest description possible, no hyperboles or supplier’s names in there: Tartare de cerf, Chevre en Brioche, Bavette de boeuf etc… The menu was also fairly compact so the choice was relatively small: a few meats, a fish, one seafood plate and that was it. appetizers were also limited. It also looked like the menu would be changing regularly depending on the availability and freshness of the products, something you always want to see. My choice was fairly conventional, I needed good comforting grub after all that walking in the cold (yes it was one of those 3 days of cold we have had this winter). Bavette de Boeuf (flank steak) as the main course and open with a Chèvre en brioche (Goat cheese in brioche).
As I know next to nothing about wines and that beer is one of my passion I decided to match the meal with a good pint of brew. The place is serving beer on tap from local micro-brewerie La Barberie. After thinking about it I decided to go with la Cuivré au Coing (Quince coppery beer). The beer had a very strong bitterness to it that would quickly disappear to leave a nice fruity finish and a nice acidity that I enjoyed. The tunes were a little more complicated to choose, I felt laid back but at the same time needed to be comfortable and not too sleepy. In clear: I needed to be entertained, not challenged. I decided to go with an old favorite: Tom Waits. He released a massive collection of incredible work called Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards, three discs of songs you have no idea why they didn’t end up on records before. I am incredibly amused by the man and he not only rewards me by with great music but also with incredible storytelling. Great, great stuff. I have seen the three disc thing for 35.99$ and that is more than reasonable, get it.
The brioche came to the table with a certain amount of wow factor in the presentation. Nice geometry and good looking plate to me I was more than ready to dig in. First impression wasn’t so great. The chèvre was lukewarm at best, could have used a minute or two more in the oven and the cheese in itself lacked punch. This is the kind of plate that could have worked very well had the chef/owner chosen a better and more tasty cheese. The brioche was good and complemented adequately the cheese. The brioche came with a tapenade and a little compote of cranberry. All nicely complementing flavour if only the cheese had any….
The bavette came shortly after the appetizer plate was off the table and showed a fairly good portion of the bavette with roasted potatoes, garnished with olives and sautéed minced leaks with thyme and rosemary, and generously covered with olive oil The bavette was nicely grilled, a bit more cooked than I asked. While the meat was tasty, it could have been aged a bit more in my opinion. The execution of that plate was a bit clumsy but was none the less adequate. I mean, this is bistro fare so I am not asking for haute cuisine but this lacked a bit of the rigidity of the plating and overall execution that you see in classic bistro kitchens.
I was overall a bit disappointed by this establishment but from what I have seen, this is a place that definitely has promises, and I will come back to see if I caught them on a bad night.