En route home from Toronto and in desperate need of dinner, I ended up veering off the highway at Gananoque to see if the Athlone Inn was still turning out good food. It had been four years since I first discovered the pleasures of this place. Not being partial to fast food made by clowns, I will sometimes detour to Kingston or Picton for a bite. But the detours can be longer than I want. Gananoque, however, has the distinct advantage of being only minutes from the 401. Indeed, from turnoff to table took five. And how lovely to be seated outside on this, rare, fine evening, on a back patio shared with some fat racoons with a treehouse vantage.
A Victorian mansion built in 1870, The Athlone has operated as an inn since the 1950s, and for the past few years by Miranda and Jason McMillan. Spread over two rooms, the restaurant is elegantly appointed and formally dressed, its tables set with flowers from the gardens.
Chef Jason trained at the Jasper Park Lodge and in restaurants and inns on Vancouver Island. His menu is French in focus, favouring time tested classic dishes, quality ingredients and beautiful presentations.
I began with scallops — three tall, juicy beauties, bronzed and well seasoned, set in a blueberry gastrique. The bacon with scallops rule was followed to a point: flanking the scallops was a little frittata puck, herbed and onioned, the custard dotted with double smoked bacon.
As a main dish, I chose the local pork, mostly for the promised double cream Brie corn bread and the house peach and corn chutney. It was served ‘à l’Argenteuil’ which means it came with asparagus. Crunchy green spears shared the plate with hunks of pork tenderloin — grilled more than ideal — balanced on rounds of rich cornbread, and with the chutney spooned overtop.
The inn-made ginger ice cream is sensational.
All in all, a very fine detour.
This time of year, The Athlone Inn is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. Mains, $21 to $32 . 250 King Street, Gananoque, 613-382-3822. www.athloneinn.ca