Destinations - Estérel Resort

Gastronomic Adventure
Spectacular visit to Québec resort
By Jon Rohr
Recently I had the pleasure of traveling with my partner to Estérel Resort. We decided to take the long way, a scenic route that would take us across and down the Laurentians via our capital city, Ottawa.  

The route was spectacular, as you weave in and out of the many small villages that are scattered along the rolling route. There seemed to be a clear difference from small town Ontario. I believe it was because of an authenticity unique to the area.

As we neared our destination, the quaintness of this wealthy village soon became evident.

Weaving in and around the natural landscape, the final turn in our travels took us onto a island spit that divides two lakes, Lac Dupuis and Lac Masson. 

Estérel Resort is two hotels in one, The Evolution and the Emotion. We stayed at the Evolution, which is a state of the art complex whose original footprint dates back to 1930's and rests within metres of the lake shoreline. The modern looking Emotion, that was built eight years ago, is set back further from the lake shore, making room for a pool area, boat use and beach area. 

The original resort was a sporting destination and is located right along the shore of Lac Dupuis. A legacy structure, its location was grandfathered in, and it offers water-front suites within steps of the water’s edge.

We enjoyed a somewhat secluded water-front experience, where we could enjoying swimming in the morning, just floating, sunbathing and of course taking in all the splendours of the wild north. All with the comfort and security of your room, just several steps away. 

Upon arrival, the valet assisted us with our bags, escorted us to our room and then parked our car. The Estérel Resort is a 4-plus star hotel, although not in a pompous way.
I first noticed several guest lounging in the lobby in white robes … “Spa day!” jumped into my head.

Entering the suite, I felt extremely pleased. The size was perfect. I had on-line work to do, it permitted me the space required to do that. So much for a true escape, but this is exactly what I need to unwind and chill. The layout was most appealing for a professional getaway – enough space to relax.
Crossing the room we opened the blinds. What we instantly saw was one of the most beautiful hotel room vistas in Canada. Once you located which of the huge windows was also a door, you could step out and gaze upon two massive sunbathing rocks, so sizeable that three people could easily bask in the sun together. A quick roll to the one side and you'd find yourself in the water. It was truly a unique setting for a Canadian hotel experience.

To the left was a hot tub that looked over Lac Dupuis. A small table with two chairs was placed to the left. The entire walk-out was bookended by screens that created a feeling of privacy that help define your private space, butdidn’t take away from the openness of been in the Laurentians. 

We had previously booked dinner reservations for 7:30. This left ample time to chill, catch up on the days end email and dress for dinner. Esterel Resort has three dinner locations: The ROK, 260° Rest, Bar & Terrasse and Bistro à Champlain. Our reservations for the first night were at The ROK.
The ROK, is located between the two hotels, on the second floor, overlooking the Nordic Spa Lac Dupuis and the Evolution. It boasts a two hundred and sixty degree view of the lake. Very nice.

Upon arriving at the welcoming desk, I could smell the gastronomic delights of the seafood and beef menu. Visually the restaurant was spectacular, well laid out and extremely comfortable. The environment has a formal/casu,al feel, no jacket required. Patrons were well dressed in a casual way. A few even wore flip flops, while others including us were wearing more formal footwear – which I wanted to kick off.

We were greeted in French by a lovely hostess, who quickly surmised that English was our preferred language. Our waitress, was equally lovely and explained the ROK experience to us. She did so with a flare of excitement – I think she new this was our first time there.

Surprised, we discovered that we would be cooking our own food … at our own table ….. on a slab of volcanic rock, heated to 1000 degrees … how cool! We both looked at each other with amusement, then scouted around to see how it actually worked. 

The menu was a wonderful mixture of seafood and meat. 

As the evening sky dimmed, the restaurant’s ambiance came to life. Lights from across the lake reflected on the still waters. When our main course arrived it came out on two large cutting blocks, with a blackish flat rock, about 8” square to the one side that held our meat seared, both sides, and sizzling on it’s surface. Vegetables, adorned the left side of the board. 

Our waitress suggested that we move our meat off the slab to the left, with the vegetables, cut our meat into smaller pieces and then cook them separately to our preferred style. We did as she said.

The meal was delightful, and extremely unique. It was certainly a first, and an enjoyable one at that.

We talked about it the rest of the evening as we retired to our suite and called it a night.
Day 2

I awoke around 6:00 am. Clearing the curtains from the large windows, I watched as the morning twilight slowly disappeared. Red morning rays adding a touch of colour to landscape. I appreciate landscapes, and the landscape that surrounded the resort was pretty nice.

A smile came across my face, as I turned to my Thursday morning routine of publishing our Thursday edition of

Unpacking my laptop, I set up my workstation at the large desk. I was a bit concerned about the speed of the connection, as I was at the mercy of the resort’s connection.  But the wifi was excellent, and may have even been faster that back home.

Over the next two hours, I worked with the large sliding door open so as to hear the sounds of the Laurentian wild life. The distractions were welcomed.  Hearing a loon, I grabbed my camera, attached the telephoto and rushed to the waters edge. 

Taking a few morning shots I was delighted with the warmth of the morning sun. Heading back to my temporary office, I made yet another espresso from the nespreso machine and finished my work. 

We then climbed into the hot tub to watch the rest of the morning come to life. The neighbors on both sides were also outside. Although not having a hot tub, they too sat in their robes and watched the morning come to life. So relaxing. We decided to have breakfast in our suite and then go for a walk.

The resort was originally built in the 1930, but walking through its halls you would never have guessed. The Emotion side was relatively new, and boasted a more modern feel with clean lines and bright rooms. At the base of the Emotion was the Nordic spa, two pools with bar and patio, a small waterfall, and a side yard where morning yoga was taking place. At the outer edge of the pool patio was a beach, covered with lounge chairs facing the water. To the left was a fleet of supping boards and kayaks. Immediately to the front, in the water, were two adult swings, and two double size hammocks that were suspended above the waters surface.

To the right of the hammock were the docks. On the dock to the left was the outdoor sauna, and tied to the docks were two dragon boats, paddle boats and a small fleet of pontoon boats. Remember to bring your boat license as the pontoon boats are available for guests with boating licenses and are a great way to explore the lake and take in the wealth of the homes/cottages that adorn its shoreline. 

We walked back to our suite and changed into our bathing suits.  Everyone wears the supplied white robes as this provides a certain degree of personal privacy as you walk through the halls. We arrived to the pool area only to find all the lounges had been taken. No problem, we headed to the beach and quickly found two lounges looking over the lake. The beach was full of life as patrons to the resort grabbed supping paddles and boards and frolicked in the warm summer waters of Lac Dupuis. There were all kinds of people, young and old. Although the resort does not promote activities for kids, there were a few, and their unbridled love of life filled the air with activity.

Our next commitment was to occur between 4:30 and 6:30. It was a wine tasting event held in the wine cellar located below the Bistro Champlain. On arriving we were escorted to our own tasting table. While waiting for the sommelier, we ordered a plate of cheese. The staff was delightful. As the sommelier approached our table, more guests arrived to fill the room. The sommelier was young and knowledgeable. Selecting our wine, we went with classic list that offered wine from France and Italy; the other choice was wine from the Niagara region in Ontario.

During the tasting we were invited on a tour of the wine cellar itself.  Wine tasting is a good place to practice your French, as the descriptives somehow sound so much better in French that in English. 

In reviewing the wine list at the ROK, I came across a bottle of wine available for $48,000.

I asked Frederick, the cellar guide if we could see that bottle. With a smile he said of course, and took us over to the area where the most expensive wine was been kept. In addition to the bottle I had asked to see, he also highlighted a bottle that was going for $40,000. This was way out of our league but was a delight to see and behold.

The wine tasting lasted approximately one hour and was a delightful experience. The history of the Estérel wine cellar is rich with passion. As the original collector, a doctor named Champlain Charest, who lived nearby, sold half of his collection to the resort several years earlier. With his collection so vast, it's no wonder that Wine Spectator gave it a 5 star review in 2016. Charest is wine legend, known world wide, with most sommeliers welcoming him at their table with open arms around the world.

Enjoying the wine cellar experience, we had one hour before our dinner reservation at the Bistro Champlain. Heading towards the Nordic Spa, we settled in a quaint spot overlooking the water, around our personal outdoor fire pit – with dragon flies everywhere. The warmth of the fire took the evening chill out of the air.  Relaxing and chatting, the hour went by quickly. 

We headed to the Bistro Champlain and was seated by the window, facing the water with the 3/4 moon reflecting in its still waters. The Bistro Champlain offers a five course meal: two appetizers, a main course, a chef’s surprise with dessert. Again, the gastronomic experience was spectacular. The service too was equally delightful. With language difference actually was a little fun, and not a barrier at all. 

In some respect the experienced was enhanced by the language. Some servers new to our table would bring one of the courses and would start off in French and continue until one of the other servers tapped them on the shoulder to tell them to speak English. Smiling we would just say, no problem, as the passion for the food again seems come across better in French than in English. We're so crude.

Day 3

Check out day. I awoke to a red sunrise, mirrored through the mist flowing over the still water, filling my lungs with the clean crisp air filtered through the Laurentian landscape.
Now home, I feel surprisingly refreshed. Melding into my routine, which I now feel I need to modify, there is a sense of clarity. The experience at Estérel, was at a level that I am not accustomed too. “C'était succulant”.

Uniquely enough, it came through a pampered gastronomic experience, one I am not accustomed too – but which I strongly recommend.

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ISSN 0824-45
Copyright, 2018.