His mission is two-fold. Entrepreneur Jean-François Béland wants to bring “one of the best ice creams in Canada” to the capital region, while also playing a leading role in the revitalization of Gatineau’s Hull sector. His ice cream parlour is located at the junction of Eddy and Wright streets, kitty-corner to Cha Yi tea shop and just steps from the homey Café La Tierra coffee shop and the upscale Soif wine bar and restaurant. “This area is becoming a hub,” Béland explains. “I want to complement my colleagues and be a part of the renewal.”
City Bites Insider sat down with the busy Béland just days before Le Bilboquet Outaouais is scheduled to open. (Fingers crossed for a June 4 or 5 opening date.) He took time out from building picnic tables for the patio to talk ice cream, sorbet, and what makes a truly great iced treat. (Le Bilboquet, 66, rue Eddy, 819-205-6085).
Le Bilboquet ice cream has been hugely popular in the Montreal area for three decades. How did you get the idea to open a franchise in Gatineau?
I was having dinner with a bunch of friends one day. We had just finished and one of us said, “You know, this dinner would be truly amazing if we only had Le Bilboquet ice cream for dessert.” I said, “I should open a store!”
For someone who has never tasted it, can you explain what makes Le Bilboquet ice cream so special?
The flavour combinations are amazing, and also all of the ingredients are local and real. Real cream and milk and fresh local berries.
I know you’ll have about two-dozen ice cream flavours on the menu. Any guesses on what will be the most popular?
The Brou-Ha! Ha! [a vanilla ice cream with caramel, brownies, toffee, and pralines] is really popular in Montreal. The Choco-Chic [a dark chocolate ice cream] and Divine Vanille are also really popular. We will find out when we open.
You also serve sorbet?
Yes, lots of fresh fruit sorbets, as well as ice cream cakes. We will also have freezers with 500-mL containers of ice cream so you can take them home.
How did you become familiar with Le Bilboquet ice cream?
I grew up in Montreal and when I was studying there, I was just five minutes down the street from the store. I ate a lot of ice cream!
How did you find this building?
It’s owned by a friend. It’s a perfect location — the covered terrace will probably be big enough to seat 30 people. It will be such a nice place to be on a sunny day.
Who do you picture visiting?
We’ll be very family-friendly. We have one section that is set aside for families — it has toys and books. I see families coming by after dinner — an after-dinner sortie for ice cream. I think people from the office buildings and the neighbourhood will come.
Any plans to open a Le Bilboquet franchise on the Ottawa side of the river?
First, I’ll see how things go here. It’s definitely a goal. Give me three years! If I succeed, I will write a book about the permit process. [Various regulations make it difficult to take dairy products across provincial borders.]
What are you most looking forward to?
Meeting all the people who will stop by. We have had a great reaction on Facebook already so I am excited to meet all of these people. It’s going to be fun to work with my staff — they are all students and they are all friends of friends.