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Dining at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise9

Dining at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

written by Julie Cohn

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One of my favorite motivations for travel is the opportunity to try new cuisine.  A new destination (or a favorite old destination) is the perfect chance to indulge in gourmet delights you might not be able to get at home.  Last month, while vacationing at the beautiful luxury mountain resort, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, we had a chance to sample the dining options available at the resort, with several delightful surprises.  Join me as I share our culinary journey into the dining at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise!

{Disclosure: My son and I were hosted for afternoon tea service but all other dining was paid for personally.}

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Dining at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, located in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada, is a luxury mountain resort destination in the middle of the Canadian Rockies.  Known for breathtaking mountain views, its iconic turquoise blue lake, and fantastic family skiing at nearby Banff Lake Louise ski areas, the Lake Louise area is one of the most incredible places on earth to visit, any time of year. Located in a small hamlet about 45 minutes from west Banff, dining choices at the Fairmont Lake Louise are limited but with seven different restaurants on-property, guests don’t have to venture far for an exquisite meal.

One of the restaurants, Lago Italian Kitchen, is only open in the summer so we did not get to sample their menu. Another restaurant, The Fairview, is currently undergoing renovations, so we did not have an opportunity to try their menu either.  We were able to try the menus at the other five restaurants on-property including Walliser Stube, The Lakeview Lounge, Poppy Brasserie, Alpine Social, the Chateau Deli, and the afternoon tea in the Lakeview Lounge.

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A Little History

Our trip last month was not my first visit to the Chateau Lake Louise, my first visit was in 1993. By now, you know I have a love affair with Fairmont Hotels…and the Chateau Lake Louise is the hotel that started it all. In addition to the incredible scenery, I still remember some of the amazing dishes I sampled from that first visit, including a rich and hearty beef consommé with real gold leaf flakes, an incredibly light and buttery sole, and a sinfully delicious chocolate torte. Isn’t it funny how great food can impact your memories?

The Restaurants

Walliser Stube

Tucked away in a back hallway off the main lobby of the hotel, the Walliser Stube is a tiny European-style alpine restaurant with a cozy, yet elegant ambiance. The menu is European influenced, with dishes from Germany and Switzerland. The restaurant has seating for about four tables upstairs and another 3-4 smaller tables downstairs, plus a bar area.  We sat upstairs in the loft area, with a balcony that overlooked the tables below.  Large windows looked out over the lake and mountains. In such an intimate setting, we were able to enjoy a nice dinner without the clamor found in most restaurants. Since we made an early reservation, we had the place to ourselves for the first hour but even after other tables filled up, we continued to enjoy quiet dining and individualized service.

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For cocktails, my husband ordered a German beer. My son ordered an alcoholic pear cider and I ordered a non-alcoholic hot apple cider. Although the Walliser Stube is known for their fondue, we decided fondue would be too rich, so ordered other dishes. My husband and I shared an appetizer of French onion soup; it had a flavorful broth brimming with cognac infused onions and just the right balance of crostini and melted swiss cheese. My son had a caesar salad with fresh greens.

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For entrees, my husband had a tender veal chop with a side of red cabbage. The veal would have been too rare for my taste, but my husband enjoyed it.  My son and I both ordered the pork schnitzel, an enormous cutlet of fried breaded pork that was crispy on the outside and tender inside, and not at all greasy. Although it did not come with our entreés, we were able to customize our dishes with a side of spaetzle. Oh my goodness, the spaetzle!  Housemade daily, the spaetzle were creamy little bites of heaven.  Needless to say, we will full from our entrees, so did not get a chance to try the fondue.  At first glance, the pricing might seem expensive but the service, quality of food, and portion size justify the rates.

Bottom Line: The setting was cozy and elegant, the views spectacular. The service was exceptional and the food was outstanding. The Walliser Stube does require an advance reservation and reservations book up quickly, so reserve at least 48 hours in advance.  If you are looking for a last minute reservation, check with the concierge. $$$

The Lakeview Lounge

The Lakeview Lounge is set right off the main lobby, with stunning floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the mountain and lake.  Although the scenery is elegant, the atmosphere is relaxed and family-friendly.  As guests walk into the Lakeview Lounge, they enter a large bar and lounge area, and to the right (facing the windows) is the dining area.  Reservations are not required, but I recommend arriving earlier in the evening for better seating.  The menu at Lakeview Lodge is casual as well, with soup, salads, and burgers the typical fare.  The lounge does have an extensive cocktail and wine menu, which we took advantage of.

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My husband had a local brewed IPA, I had a Gunpowder cocktail with Gunpowder gin, Lillet, yellow chartreuse, and grapefruit juice; our son ordered a special non-alcoholic gin & tonic with fresh thyme and blueberries.

 

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For entrees, I had the french onion soup and the lobster roll, my husband had the tomato coconut soup and Rocky Cheesesteak, and our son had the Canadian Club Sandwich. We all enjoyed our meals, but the highlights were the lobster roll and the Rocky Cheesesteak.  The brioche bun was a nice touch for the lobster roll, but I did not eat much of it, concentrating my efforts on the tender-fresh lobster salad tucked inside.  I especially appreciated that the chef was lighthanded with the mayonnaise, preferring to let the fresh lobster meat and vegetables shine.  My husband thoroughly enjoyed his Rocky Cheesesteak and especially appreciated the caramelized onions, but decided to forgo the jalapéno aioli.  Again, we were too full for dessert, but that does not mean we did not enjoy any sweets at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.  Read on!

Bottom Line:  The views are incredible, the cocktails inventive, and the food is hearty and delicious. $$

Poppy Brasserie

Poppy Brasserie is the main breakfast restaurant at the resort, located on the lower level.  For families staying at the resort, children under 12 eat breakfast free. Although diners can order off the menu, most people opt for one of two buffet choices, including the Glacial Continental for 26 CAD or full hot and cold buffet for 34 CAD.  Beverages are included in the buffet, including coffee, specialty coffees, tea, juice, and other beverages.  The cold buffet includes bread and pastry items, cheese, yogurt, and fruit.  The hot buffet included pancakes or waffles, bacon, egg dishes, and a made-to-order omelet bar.  The pastries, a popular choice, are made fresh in-house. I saw one lady filling a to-go box to the brim with pastries!

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Bottom Line:  The breakfast was hearty and delicious.  The omelet bar was a nice option, as was the breakfast bread pudding, which was a little sweet but tasty.  My only complaint was the specialty coffee.  I ordered a mocha and the espresso did not taste freshly brewed, it tasted like it was from a machine, and lacked the whipped cream and chocolate swirl you would find at most espresso bars.  The regular coffee was fine and their orange juice was fresh squeezed. $$

(Note: Our breakfast was complimentary each day as part of our Signature* hotel package.)

Alpine Social

Alpine Social is a busy bar/restaurant located on the lower level.  Although we came early for dinner, there was already a bar crowd embedded, with televisions blaring a hockey game from several sections of the room.  This is more a place for having a few drinks apré-ski than enjoying a relaxing dinner, yet the food was unique and tasty.

For cocktails, my husband ordered a local beer, a Grizzly Paw Red. Our son ordered a hot Toki Tea Toddy with Suntory Toki whiskey, honey syrup, oolong tea, star anise, and lemon. I ordered a Seeking Shelter cocktail with vodka, Gifford Apricot du Roussillon, prosecco, cranberry juice,  ginger shrub, and lemon.

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For entreés,  my son and I had the alpine burger with a side of waffle fries and my husband had a 10-inch strip steak. The highlight of the meal was the bacon jam. Sweet and tangy, the jam was the perfect compliment with our juicy burgers and my husbands’ steak.

Bottom Line:  The food and cocktails were good; the atmosphere was a bit noisy but the service was impeccable. $$$

Chateau Deli

Chateau Deli, located off the lobby near Walliser Stube is a 24-hour deli and coffee shop.  Through busy, we were able to get in and out within 7-10 minutes. In the morning, they serve specialty coffees, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches; the rest of the day they have soups, salads, and pastries.  Several days during our visit, my husband bypassed the breakfast buffet at Poppy Brasserie and grabbed a coffee and muffin before hitting the slopes.  We did not try any of the soups, salads, or desserts, but did try their specialty coffees (the espresso is brewed fresh here) and their made fresh daily pastries.

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A word of warning:  The apricot twist pastries are addictive.  My husband and I shared an apricot twist the afternoon of our first day, then he was able to successfully “twist my arm” twice more into getting a pastry during the week, once even bribing me to hurry up on my walk so we could grab one before they were gone from the pastry case!   (I am a pushover for a good pastry, as my hips would attest.)

Bottom Line:  Chateau Deli is a convenient place to grab breakfast on-the-go, with friendly staff and great pastries. $

Afternoon Tea in the Lakeview Lounge

English style afternoon tea is served in the Lakeview Lounge every afternoon between 11 a.m and 2:30 p.m. daily.  Because the Lakeview Lounge is also used for regular lunch service during this time, reservations are required and a 24-hour prior cancellation is enforced.  We had advance reservations, but because of a mix-up, they did not find our reservation. Nevertheless, they were able to make accommodations to seat us. Once seated, we were surprised to see the tea service was more casual than we were used to, with plastic placements instead of a white-draped table, and blue and white Spode-style tea set instead of bone china.

Dining at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise13Tea service started with a glass of prosecco and a choice of Fairmont’s own propriety tea (Darjeeling for me; oolong for my son).  We were then served individual dishes of berries with Chantilly cream, which was pleasant but sweet.

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Dining at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise14Next, a three-tier tray was presented with finger sandwiches, scones, and mini desserts.  The finger sandwiches were lovely.  My personal favorites were the coronation chicken and smoked salmon roulade with caviar; my son enjoyed the egg salad finger sandwich and the lemon thyme and cucumber cream cheese sandwiches.  The scones were light and flaky, and the lemon curd and jam were delightful. Surprisingly, there was no Devonshire cream served with the scones.  The desserts were scrumptious, but we were too full to enjoy them all.

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Dining at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise19Something to note about sitting in the Lakeview Lounge during teatime:  The views are breathtaking, so the first inclination would be to sit by the windows.  On a sunny day, however, the sun streams through those gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows and it can get quite warm.  Ask to sit at one of the tables away from the windows, where you will still get a great view but are seated out of direct sun.

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Bottom Line:  The Afternoon tea was nice but not as impressive as I’ve had at other five-star hotels.  They did not use bone china for tea service, the flavors of tea were ordinary, and service was not as impressive as we had at the other restaurants on-site.  Perhaps it was because of our reservation mix-up, but I felt rushed, and the ceremony of afternoon tea is meant to linger over.  The food was unique and delicious.  $$$

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Summary

Although dining options were limited at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise this time of year (winter) especially for dinner, there are many wonderful gourmet choices for dining.  Would we dine at all of these restaurants again?  Absolutely.  Each of the restaurants was wonderful in its own way, some with better food and some had a better atmosphere, but all with exceptional service.  Our favorite place to dine was Walliser Stube, followed by The Fairview Lounge (for dinner) and Poppy Brasserie (breakfast), as well as the Chateau Deli (for sweet treats).

 

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