Posted yesterday at 11:00 a.m.
Hugo Lefrançois has spent his life in kitchens for 30 years. Originally from the Islands, the executive chef of the Château Madelinot hotel worked as a cook in Montreal, in Repentigny and for 18 years in the Eastern Townships, notably at Château Bromont, at Macpherson in Bromont, at Pinocchio in Magog, and as the owner of La bicoque, at Eastman. Five years ago, he returned to the Islands to take charge of Resto Bistro Accents, the hotel’s dining room.
Accents, with its Magdalen specialties, is very successful. When we went there, you had to book, even in low season. Last summer, the restaurant was always full. Demand often exceeds supply on the Islands, but Accents has also become essential. We ate there several times. Every meal was delicious. The scallop ceviche with Islands prosciutto was excellent. Just like the tuna tartare with basil and sesame.
The seafood chowder blew us away. Hearty, tasty, original, rich without being heavy. With fresh peas, tiny potato cubes, radish sprouts, local prawns, lobster caught during the summer and vacuum-frozen by the La Poissonnière fishmonger in Cap-aux-Meules, a way that gives the impression that it was caught the day before. And scallops cooked to perfection.
I was trained by chefs who over-roasted scallops. My grandmother from the Islands, Mémé Jo, taught me how to cook them well. I sear them on one side in the already hot butter, turn off my heat, turn them over and serve them.
We had already eaten seal in Newfoundland without remembering it well. The seal cooked by Hugo Lefrançois is a marvel. He prepares it in tartare, tataki or grilled mignon. Blue or rare, it’s excellent, so tender that it melts in your mouth, with its parsnip purée and its sour cherry and brandy sauce.
“The more you cook the seal, the more you smell the ferrous taste,” says the chef. It is a high protein meat, with no fat when you remove the top layer of the animal. I even use seal blood to make chocolate cake! »
Anything you do with beef or lamb, you can do with seals. I cook up to 30 kg per week. I am the restaurateur who uses it the most in Quebec!
Hugo Lefrançois likes to dare. Like him, who got a tattoo in 1986 — when it was rather frowned upon, except on the Islands! —, his dishes surprise us, because they are often seasoned in an atypical way. His fried chickens speak Cajun and his calamari has an Asian accent! “I spent two months in Thailand a few years ago, it inspired me for flavors,” he says.
Lamb risotto, rabbit tartare, his cuisine is a skilful blend of heritage and creativity. This is all the more commendable in that in the summer, in addition to the main dining room, it welcomes groups of tourists in a huge adjacent room. “So we serve between 400 and 500 meals a day and I have a team of 10 cooks, when I manage to have 10… Last summer, I couldn’t set foot on the beach once! »
Aged 49, Hugo Lefrançois regularly trains new cooks and hires staff as far away as the Philippines, Mexico and France, to have enough people. His mother, who is retired, even comes to help him sometimes, preparing seafood pâtés. He is delighted to see young people also open restaurants on the Islands. “It feels good, because in several places, cooks have sat on their laurels a little. When it’s the same menus for 10 years, it takes a change. Stability in quality is important. So the competition is good. We have a very good table in the Islands. »
Resto Bistro Accents is open year round.
A few specialties from the Magdalen Islands
Some restaurant suggestions
One of our favorite meals was at Quai 360, where it is always difficult to get a table. The welcome was remarkable. During the meal, the employees take the time to chat with you, present the dishes, answer your questions, even if the restaurant is packed! The plates are well presented and succulent. The seared scallops were delicious. The lobster risotto, divine, and its bisque, to roll on the floor! With a well-filled cellar and a festive atmosphere, the time spent with François Gaulin and Nathalie Miousse was pure delight.
360 Quay Road, Cap-aux-Meules
A friendly café-bar-restaurant. A regularly changing menu and a creative chef. The waiter sits next to you to present the menu. Light, tasty cuisine that satisfies. Dishes prepared around themes depending on the market. The owners, Ève Beaudoin Galaise and Philippe Raymond, are on a quest for originality. Working on dishes with little used seafood, such as bourgots combined with beef and strawberries! Lamb, with corn, edamame and leeks. Pork, with beets, apples, olives and cabbage. Gnocchi, with chanterelles and butternut squash. Book well in advance…
315 Quay Road, Cap-aux-Meules
Another nice restaurant, this time at L’Étang-du-Nord. One of Hugo Lefrançois’ favorite restaurants in the archipelago. A tasty work of local products presented by Chris and Andréanne. A bistro-style restaurant. A relaxed atmosphere and service. Cocktails, oysters, halibut ceviche with tequila, pork and ravioli duo with scallop mousseline and smoked mussels, desserts. Everything was beautiful, generous and good. Cheer !
499 Boisville Road West, L’Étang-du-Nord
Grande-Entrée being a fishing village far from the more touristy areas of the archipelago, a stay at the Auberge de La Salicorne is essential for eating well and celebrating, we have noted! One does not go without the other in this rustic and welcoming inn. With three chefs who share the kitchen. Don’t miss the sea bass tasting plate (with its cranberry seal peperette), the seafood dishes and the fish, of course, especially the halibut fillet, not to mention the salted meat boil and the specialty of chocolate cake. The hostel organizes a lobster package at the end of May, beginning of June. And the 147and edition of the lobster cage launch is back on May 6 and 7. “It’s to live! », says Robert St-Onge, manager of the inn.
377, route 199, Grande-Entrée