This casual Gatineau eatery has been in business for 23 years and the chef has been manning the grill for 20. Café Cognac has changed hands a few times, but the original founder still works as a server. Inside, golden walls are adorned with local artwork. Outside, a large, quiet back patio is shaded with Stella Artois umbrellas.
The restaurant’s name is a bit deceptive because the house specialty is not spirits, but rather mussels and fries. On Thursday nights, the mussels are all-you-can-eat, with 13 flavours to try. Mussels are baked in their sauce to maximize the infusion of flavour and to catch all the lovely juices. In an opaque goat’s cheese and white-wine sauce, they’re tangy and light. In the house sauce of garlic, thyme, leek, white wine and cream, they’re an earthy, robust and assertive twist on the traditional parsley and cream combination.
The fries are also excellent, fresh cut with a starchy, crisp exterior distinct from the soft potato inside. Fries come with other mains, including the sausage plate, which features a duo of local sausages made across the street at William J Walter Saucissier. Grilled to order, reddish, North African merguez lamb sausage is spiced with warming, caraway-spiked harissa and garlic. A comforting duck confit shepherd’s pie is served in a miniature orange Dutch oven.
Service in English is seamless and immediate, which isn’t always the case in Gatineau.