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DOMAINE DU VIEUX COUVENT LE REFECTOIRE RESTAURANT
MAGDALEN ISLANDS

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The only four-star hotel on Havre-aux-Maisons in Les Iles de la Madeleine (Magdalen Islands) is Le Domaine du Vieux Couvent (address: 292, Route 199).

Le Domaine du Vieux Couvent hotel sign
Le Domaine du Vieux Couvent hotel sign
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

You don't have to stay at the Havre-aux-Maisons hotel to enjoy French bistro dining in Le Refectoire restaurant. The hotel name reflects the stone building's original use as a convent and school between 1918 and 1967.

Magdalen Islands residents know it as Chez Gaspard, named after Gaspard Richard's bar, which he built in the basement when he converted the convent into a hotel. His name also lives on in a Vieux Couvent restaurant menu item, the Gaspard burger.

Since 1985, the Domaine du Vieux Couvent hotel and restaurant have been owned and beautifully renovated by four owners, Evangeline Gaudet, Francine Leroux, Reginald Poirier and Henri-Paul Benard. Evangeline Gaudet is the chef at The Refectory restaurant, which is housed in a separate building.

Vieux Couvent restaurant menu

Large windows overlook Cap à Gaspard and Baie de Plaisance in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. A wall painting depicts one of the sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame who ran the convent as a school to train girls to become teachers. The washroom sign reads: "Confessional."

Diners at Vieux Couvent restaurant table
Diners at Vieux Couvent restaurant table
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Le Domaine du Vieux Couvent's restaurant menu features delicious appetizers like deep-fried salt cod acras. The popular Gaspard burger is made from local veal (Veau des Nathael), stuffed with lobster and Tomme des Demoiselles cheese.

Evangeline Gaudet is a member of Le Bon Gout Frais des Iles de la Madeleine, an organization that promotes the foods, drinks and restaurants of the Magdalen Islands. The Bon Gout Frais logo indicates which Vieux Couvent menu items contain local products, like lobster oil from L'Anse aux Herbes and smoked herring from Le Fumoir d'Antan.

Raspberry dressing
Raspberry dressing
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Au Vieux Couvent Raspberry Vinaigrette

A highlight of our meal was a salad topped with Au Vieux Couvent Raspberry Vinaigrette. After receiving numerous requests, Evangeline Gaudet bottled it for sale.

Like many of the outstanding foods and drinks that we tasted on Les Iles de la Madeleine, the Vieux Couvent raspberry salad dressing is only available in the Magdalen Islands and a few places in Quebec.

Pouring Vieux Couvent beer from tap
Pouring Vieux Couvent beer from tap
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Vieux Couvent beer, served from the tap at Le Refectoire's bar, is also only available in Quebec. The herb-flavored wheat beer is made by L'abri de la Tempete microbrewery on Cap-aux-Meules island.

Gourmet dinner

The CTMA Vacancier ferry, which we took from Montreal to Les Iles de la Madeleine, sells Au Vieux Couvent Raspberry Vinaigrette in its gift shop. Our Taste of the Islands themed cruise on CTMA Vacancier featured Evangeline Gaudet as one of the guest chefs.

One evening, Chef Gaudet prepared a memorable six-course feast for CTMA Vacancier passengers. Among the mouth-watering appetizers was a mussels and halibut soup, lightly perfumed with saffron. A succulent lamb shank, braised with root vegetables in maple syrup and Magdalen Islands cranberry sauce was the culinary highlight of the gourmet dinner.

Iles de la Madeleine cookbook

Evangeline Gaudet's recipe for the maple-syrup braised lamb shank appears in Le Gout des Iles, a French-language cookbook by photographers George Fischer and Pascal Arseneau. The Magdalen Islands cookbook also features Evangeline's recipe for croxignoles (tasty, braided donut-like pastries).

Le Refectoire chef, Evangeline Gaudet, holds Le Gout des Iles cookbook.
Le Refectoire chef, Evangeline Gaudet, holds Le Gout des Iles cookbook.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll
Croxignoles and confiture aux oeufs (egg, molasses sauce) made by Evangeline Gaudet
Croxignoles and confiture aux oeufs (egg, molasses sauce) made by Evangeline Gaudet
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

During our CTMA Vacancier cruise, Evangeline Gaudet gave a well-attended demonstration on how to make croxignoles. The only difficult part of making croxignoles is learning how to fold the dough into a decorative braid after cutting the center into parallel slices.

Evangeline Gaudet fried half of the croxignoles in vegetable oil and the remaining half in seal oil, so we could taste the difference. (The seal oil croxignoles had a heavier oil taste, but were equally delicious.)

To garnish the nutmeg-flavored doughnuts, she made a traditional confiture aux oeufs by boiling molasses and eggs and drizzling the thick syrup over the croxignoles. Yummy!

Vieux Couvent restaurant reservations

Le Refectoire restaurant at Le Domaine du Vieux Couvent is open for breakfast and dinner from May 1 to October 31. Hours open vary with the season.

For reservations at the Vieux Couvent restaurant, phone (418) 969-2233. The 90-seat restaurant has a terrace for 40 people. Outdoor parking is free.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

CTMA Vacancier: www.cruisesctma.ca

Iles de la Madeleine Tourist Office: www.tourismeilesdelamadeleine.com

Le Quebec Maritime Tourist Office: www.quebecmaritime.ca

Tourism Quebec: www.bonjourquebec.com

More things to see & do in the Magdalen Islands/Iles de la Madeleine:

Lobsters for Sale in Grande Entree Magdalen Islands

Restaurant La Table des Roy - Cap-aux-Meules