Contemporary, Canadian cuisine. That’s how I’d describe my dinner at Bolete. Located in downtown St. Catharines, Bolete is a restaurant-slash-marketplace with local offerings that are both unique and delicious.
As an aside, I have to say that I’m amazed at just how magically my family’s new neighbourhood is opening up to us every time I dine at a fabulous local eatery like Bolete!
Walking into the space, the entrance boasts shelves stocked with products made in-house like pickled asparagus and bourbon vanilla peaches, packages of smoked salmon and goodies made by local chefs, all in addition to an eclectic array of local wines, beers and ciders.
Moving further into the space, the walls are decorated with art crafted by Niagara artists and a large open concept allows guests to watch as their meals are carefully crafted.
The concept is simple: contemporary Canadian cuisine. The restaurant believes in honouring the fruitful landscape that surrounds us, taking advantage of the finest seasonal ingredients. That means that owner and chef Andrew McLeod frequently diversifies the menu in accordance to what’s available.
Excited to browse the menu of unique and decadent specialities, along with their gorgeous beverage menu of Ontario-focused wines and funky cocktails, we wasted no time delving straight into its pages, ultimately deciding on a Manhattan (made with rye, vermouth and angostura bitters) and a Ghost Me (made with tequila, aperol, grapefruit juice and a ghost pepper-infused honey). Needless to say, the cocktails packed a punch and were lovely alongside a bowl of warm marinated olives while we waited for the following courses.
Inspired by their featured appetizer of ice wine chicken liver mousse, I knew I had to give it a whirl, despite the fact that paté isn’t one of my favourite things. I was, however, pleasantly surprised at just how delicate the flavours of the mousse were, especially when paired with a dollop of caramelized onion jam on a toasted, buttered brioche crostini…the epitome of decadence, I know. Artfully plated, several crimson pickled peppers also lined the plate, providing some acidity—it’s all about balance!
Next, came a dish of crispy duck confit served with a side of salt and vinegar fried Brussels sprouts and a white bean and ham hock cassoulet, peppered with merguez sausage. I must admit, I’ve been on a duck confit kick lately, and while I was sure I tried it all, this crispy-skinned variation was super inventive. Its stick-to-your-belly comfort felt so familiar, despite also exuding luxuriousness.
Our final course—some may argue that it’s the most important course—was dessert. A tres leche cake served with a butter tuile, flecks of candied orange and crumbled chocolate soil, the cake was an extension of decadence from the many courses before it! My favourite part, however, was the dollop of apple cider sorbet on top of the cake, which tasted like a slice of warm, spiced apple pie!
Great ambiance and service, beautiful dishes and a reasonable price tag, this gem in downtown St. Catherines really surprised me. While I’ve had this idea that Toronto harbours some of the greatest dining experiences in and around the GTA, it’s quickly becoming apparent to me that this way of thinking isn’t always correct. Let this be a lesson to explore your own neighbourhood a bit better, you never know what great eatery you’ll discover!