Ambre.: One of Quebec’s best-kept secrets

Ambre. Ambre. Ambre. Ambre. Ambre. Ambre. Ambre. Ambre. Ambre. Ambre. Ambre.
  • Ambre.

  • 4292 Rue Saint-Félix Québec G1Y 1X5
    (581) 982-4067
  • Monday: Closed
    Tuesday: Closed
    Wednesday: 5:30 – 11:00 PM
    Thursday: 5:30 – 11:00 PM
    Friday: 5:30 PM – 12:00 AM
    Saturday: 5:30 PM – 12:00 AM
    Sunday: 5:30 – 11:00 PM
    • Owner(s) Étienne Nadeau, Sandrine Grenon
    • Chef(s) Étienne Nadeau
    • Opened 2022
    • Offers a tasting menu
    • Accepts mastercard, visa, cash, debit
    • 55 Seats
    • Accepts groups
    • Has a private room
  • Restaurant

In Vieux-Cap-Rouge, in the shadow of the trestle bridge, lies one of Quebec City’s best-kept secrets: a charming bistro-bar called Ambre.

Having opened in late summer 2022 in an ancestral home on rue Saint-Félix, just off the promenade of Jacques-Cartier beach, Ambre. (with a period, yes) is the project of a young couple: chef Étienne Nadeau and his partner Sandrine Grenon. The lovers already owned two street food trucks, Vagabon Cuisine mobile and El Gordito Taco Truck, but had long dreamed of having their own restaurant.

“We started the food trucks with the aim of eventually opening a restaurant. In the end, we did it for almost 10 years”, says Étienne.

We had a lot of constraints with our two trucks. We needed parking and space to store the cardboard boxes, and we wanted a place with character. That limited the possibilities,” confides the chef. The house on rue Saint-Félix, which previously housed a residence, a brickworks and then a restaurant, met every one of these criteria. In fact, it was the yellow hue of the building’s siding that inspired the name Ambre.

Fun dining

When asked to describe his approach, the chef mentions the idea of “fun dining”, an expression popularised by the Mon Lapin restaurant in Montreal, among others. “We want people who come to our place to have fun at the table, to have a good time,” he explains. Not quite gastro, not quite bistro (for want of a better term, we could call it bistronomy); carefully prepared, inventive dishes, a fine wine and cocktail list, in a relaxed, festive atmosphere – that’s a good summary of the experience at Ambre.

When you walk in for the first time, you feel more like you’re in a tavern than a proper restaurant. Colourful neon lights, skateboards and vinyl records hanging on the walls, rock and hip hop music blaring from the speakers – it’s a far cry from the white tablecloths and crystal chandeliers of the Champlain. But when the dishes come out of the kitchen and land on our table, we are reminded not to judge a book by its cover.

“We wanted to create a clash. We want to shake things up. We play hip hop, but we eat well”, continues the chef, who works very hard with his team to create surprising and tasty dishes, without giving himself too many constraints. “These are dishes to share, with local ingredients. We work with seasonal produce. If we feel like doing something more Asian or Italian, we’ll do that, depending on what we feel like doing at the time.”

Tuna belly, radish, wasabi mayo and Niponne sauce; scallops from the Islands with cauliflower, white wine sauce and herb oil; gnocchi with Brome Lake duck confit and oyster mushrooms; heirloom tomatoes, homemade stracciatella and pistachios; ravioli with buttered egg and sage; and for dessert, a fine strawberry meringue tartlet (from Île-d’Orléans, of course): these are just some of the delicious creations we were lucky enough to sample during our visit.

The pleasure continues in the glass, with a fine selection of mostly natural wines, many from Quebec. Étienne and Sandrine put together the menu, with a preference for artisans on a human scale. Bonus points if they get the chance to meet them in person! Étienne is also responsible for the cocktail menu, which is made up almost entirely of Quebec spirits: “I spent a good three months on research and development to create homemade syrups and juices,” he explains. Finally, hop lovers will be able to choose from some excellent beers from the EXP Artisan Brasseur microbrewery.

For all these reasons, Ambre. deserves a place on our list of the best restaurants in Quebec City. A great place to discover!

Photography by Mikael Lebleu

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