In her opinion:
Winter can be a total drag and that has definitely been the case this winter. So any opportunity to break it up and enjoy amazing food at the same time...well we're all over it. We have taken full advantage of been many foodie events this year including Winterlicious and now Fabulicious. This is Niagara-on-the-Lakes' prix-fix event with $25 3-course lunches and $35 3-course dinners. So we gathered our troops from last year to join us...just Liz and Jacob and made a dash to wine country!
We started with a lunch at the beautiful Charles Inn and Restaurant which is a part of Niagara's Finest Inns. This is a stately inn which is both beautiful on the inside and out. Their Fabulicious lunch menu was also lovely. We were shown to our table right away and our server, Lloyd came to bring us warm bread and butter and fill our water glass.
After perusing the menu, I ordered a glass of Megalomaniac's Riesling. My favourite white wine varietal and this one did not disappoint. It was a perfect reflection of Niagara region.
As for my meal I decided on the following:
Caramelized Onion and Cherry Tomato Tart
(Balsamic Dressed Baby Arugula, Woolwich Goat Cheese)
Crisp Skin Atlantic Salmon
(Buttered Lentils "Du Puy", Parsnip Puree, Mushroom Ragout, White Wine and Chive Cream)
Rich Chocolate Pate
(Raspberry Sorbet, Candied Orange Peel and Creme Anglais)
The whole meat was excellent. The carmelized onion and cherry tomato tart was flavourful and absolutely delicious. The crispy skinned salmon was perfectly cooked and succulent. But the piece de resistance on the plate was the mushroom ragout. So delectable...I could have had just a plate of mushrooms. Dessert was very nice as well. You needed to be a chocolate lover to appreciate the chocolate pate but I'm a chocolate lover. The tartness of the raspberry sorbet was the perfect accompaniment to this delicious pate.
Overall, an excellent experience from the wonderful service provided by our server Lloyd, to the delicious food and wine and of course the fabulous company. Another successful Fabulicious experience!
In his opinion:
There are so many great restaurants in Niagara-on-the-lake that it makes it very hard sometimes to decide where to eat. This was to case when deciding our Fabulicious restaurants this year...lots of choices, great menus and of course great wine.
We chose the Charles Inn because of our previous visit to their restaurant. It was a very pleasant one and we said we would surely return and we did. The Charles Inn also has a spa and inn facilities besides their award winning 4 Diamond Restaurant.
The room exudes "old world" charm throughout and has a very inviting dining room with salmon red walls and period chandeliers. Even the chairs are a perfect match for the room decor.
I started my meal experience with a Pinot Noir 2010 from In Between the Lines Winery. This was a medium bodied red with some tannins but still a bit young.
For starters, I picked the Celeriac Risotto (Roasted Celeriac, Baby Spinach, Sauteed Mushrooms, Shaved Parmesan, Herb Oil). This dish was delightful and heavily complex in flavours and textures. The risotto was smooth and creamy but given that it was celeriac risotto that was expected. The mushrooms ended up being the gold mine of this dish, rounding out the texture of the risotto in a smooth creamy sauce. The shaved Parmesan was a nice touch to finish the plate but it felt not needed or a bit out of place.
For my entree, I chose Oven Roasted Supreme of Grain Fed Chicken (Goat Cheese Polenta, Roasted Root Vegetables, Simple Jus). The chicken was cooked to perfection and the skin was properly crispy without coming out in one big piece as it so often does. The chicken was moist and full of flavour. The roasted root vegetables were delicious with just the right amount of doneness to them to give you that firm yet easy to chew bites. The polenta unfortunately didn't feel fresh or wasn't properly cooked. It felt spongy and bland but it would have been a great addition to this dish, had it been well done.
To finish the meal, I chose the obvious dessert of Creme Brulee. I say obvious because there usually has to be something very special as an option for me to pick it over creme brulee. The brulee presented as a ginger, orange and honey scented custard, topped with the usual burnt sugar and fresh berries. The sugar coating wasn't all the way caramelized but maybe because it was a bit thicker than usual. Overall, it was still a good dessert, even if not great.
The Good: great service and a fantastic atmosphere makes this place a gem. The food was presented well and flavours were good.
The Bad: A few misses (mentioned above) in each one of the dishes can't be a true representation of this 4 Diamond award restaurant. Maybe an off day.
The Verdict: My last visit seemed much more perfect. Although the experience was good, it always seemed like it lacked something, just those little misses in the food. Otherwise, the experience was good. It may have been because it was Fabulicious, I will never know.
I give it 3 our of 5 Olives as rating