A Red Letter Day: Experiencing A Quattro & Quatrefoil on the same afternoon
BY CHRIS TIESSEN
The moment I press the start button, I know we are in for a treat. As the car announces it’s ready to go – growling, then settling down – Gary Crosby gives us these parting words: ‘Be careful with this one. She’s a little monster.’ I tap on the gas just a smidgeon. The response is thunderous. Lusty. Insistent. Vehement. I give it another tap, unleashing a crescendo of snarling and bellowing out the twin tailpipes.
‘I could do this all day,’ I shout to TOQUE Partner Cai Sepulis, my passenger on this adventure. ‘We should probably just get going,’ she replies with a chuckle, adding, with just a hint of admonishment, ‘I think we’re being a bit disruptive.’ Taking my eye off the tachometer, I survey the pristine car bay and note that a number of mechanics have looked up from their work. A small group of customers are also quizzically gazing our way. Some with obvious irritation. Others with expectant grins. I overhear one of them remark: ‘Must be his first Audi.’
Indeed, it is.
An RS3. In Nardo Grey. With 400 horsepower. ‘It’ll go O to 100 in 3.9 seconds,’ I tell Cai as we exit the bay at Audi Kitchener-Waterloo. ‘About as fast as a Ferrari F40,’ I hear myself telling her, recalling a favourite hypercar from my youth. ‘And they’ve given it to us for the day,’ I add – in amazement. Not for simply horsing around, mind you. But for business; namely, the business of fine dining. At the highly-exalted Quatrefoil Restaurant in the small town of Dundas – another culinary masterpiece by Chefs Fraser Macfarlane and Georgina Mitropoulos. Because, after all, we want to fit in – and arriving in an RS3 is, I assert to Cai early in the day, a solid first step.
About forty minutes and sixty-five kilometres of scenic countryside driving later, Cai and I find ourselves on King Street in downtown Dundas. We pull into a spot right in front of Detour Coffee Roasters and walk the block or so to Quatrefoil for our noon reservation. Just enough time to wipe from my face the grin that’s been plastered there since leaving the dealership. ‘We need one of those,’ I tell Cai, speaking of the Audi. And trying to figure out where I’d put magazines during delivery rounds. ‘Yep, I know,’ Cai sighs. ‘You’ve been saying that since we left Kitchener.’ Because I mean it, I think to myself. I really do.
Quatrefoil is not hard to spot, housed in a gorgeous century home at 16 Sydenham Street just off the main drag. The exquisitely-dressed (and seemingly well-heeled) line of people out front is a clear giveaway. The black Ferrari 575 pulling up in front (‘like the one Michael Jordan used to drive,’ I note to Cai) is further evidence.
Within minutes, we’ve been seated in the restaurant’s gorgeous shaded courtyard and are enjoying a pint of Fairweather ‘High Grade’ IPA (me), a glass of white wine (Cai), and Quatrefoil’s house-made breads to start things off. Usually Cai and I try not to eat much bread before meals like this because we know there will be lots of food coming. After one bite, though, I’m throwing this strategy straight out the window, and nod ’yes’ to the offer of a second serving. The poppy seed bread sticks, aged cheddar gougere and a bread made from Shed Brewery’s spent grain go down easy. Again. We try to restrain ourselves and nibble, keenly expectant of what’s to come.
Soon it’s time to order. ‘Might I suggest,’ our server offers, ‘that Chef brings out a few things he thinks you might enjoy?’ Music to our ears. And, as we soon experience, a feast for our eyes – and for every other sense imaginable. It’s not long before Chef-Owner Fraser Macfarlane’s impeccably-plated dishes begin to arrive. First the appetizers: Ontario white asparagus with green garlic, confit hen yolk, brown butter and mushrooms on toast topped with shaved truffles for me, and torchon of Quebec foie gras with rhubarb, strawberries, hibiscus, sesame and toasted brioche for Cai. Beautiful. Complex. Brilliant.
I delicately reach across the table and help myself to some of Cai’s foie gras – rich, buttery, smooth – and spread it onto a modest hunk of brioche. And eat. And attempt for the next ten minutes to describe how mind-blowing it tastes. And smells. And looks. Yet words fail. ‘It just makes me feel happy,’ I gush at last. We bask in the sheer bliss of the occasion. But not for long. It’s time for our mains.
Asparagus, gruyere and spinach quiche with soubise, cherry tomato, snap peas and chive beurre blanc for Cai. Manitoulin rainbow trout with asparagus, cucumber, potato cake and dill crème fraiche for me. I remain speechless. And for dessert – a honey rhubarb dip (brioche doughnut, macerated strawberries, poppy seed curd and lemon gelato) along with a ricotta cake (almond ganache, poached cherries, chocolate milk wafer and olive oil ice cream). I remain unaccountably (and unusually) bereft of speech.
Once we’ve finished eating, there’s only one thing left to do. I make a beeline for the kitchen and straightaway spot Chef Fraser orchestrating things from the pass. Our eyes meet and before he’s able to ask what we thought of the meal, I’m giving him a bear hug and mumbling something about having just experienced the best meal of my life. He laughs. I do too. And, with a belly full of heaven, Cai and I hit the road in our RS3 for Kitchener again. To drop off the Audi. And make it back to Guelph in time to pick up my lils. And, for the foreseeable future, to tell everyone I know (and others too) that they need to make it out to Quatrefoil. ‘Like, now.’
Not only because a few years back en Route Magazine ranked it as one of Canada’s Top 10 new restaurants. Or because Toronto Life did the same. But also because TOQUE says so. And forget Top 10. In my estimation, Quatrefoil really can’t be beat.