Eating & Drinking

Palmier Cafe and Meech & Munch open in Old Chelsea

Sleepy Old Chelsea is no more. A pair of new openings, a major expansion at Biscotti et Cie., a 60-room hotel planned for Le Nordik Spa, line ups out the door and down the road at La Cigale ice cream shop, and all the new residential construction at Hendrick Farm mean that Old Chelsea has a new and upbeat vibe.

Palmier Cafe
40 Chemin Scott, Chelsea, QC

Palmier, is a striking café, bar and dinette around the corner from the Chelsea Pub, a few doors up from La Cigale and nearly opposite the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre. Where there used to be a quaint, one-storey Victorian style cottage, now stands an elegant, contemporary building with huge windows, wood accents, a flat roof and a retro So-Cal vibe.

“I had a very strong vision for this place,” Renée Rocher says during a recent conversation in her light-filled space. A passionate 27 year-old, who loves coffee, design and people, Rocher is the driving force and front of house at Palmier, which is a family business. (Rocher owns the business with her father, formerly of the aviation business, and her mother, an accountant.) They originally intended to renovate the existing building. “But when we discovered lots of bad surprises, we changed plans,” she explains.

For the new building, they contracted Maisons Chicoine, a Wakefield company that specializes in sustainable buildings, and used Cross Laminated Timber and Passive House technology to build an energy efficient building that allows light to flood in through large south and west facing windows; the design also shelters the rear of the building.

The landscaping includes quiet terraces to enjoy a coffee and read a book in the dappled light of large old trees dotting the hillside behind the building. Strangely, there’s a putting green and a wooden cactus sculpture. “This all ties in with my love of Palm Springs, the architecture, design and the desert,” explains Rocher. “The Astroturf gives it a pop of modern and makes the link with golfing and Palm Springs. Children love it. The cactus was carved by local artist Russ Zietz from the tree that used to stand in that spot but which had to come down.”

Inside, the retro vibe sings with wooden chairs, customized by Rocher in a grey-and-baby-blue palette. She also chose a palette of soft pastel tones, natural textures such as cotton and linen, blonde wood with plenty of character, and concrete. “I love seeing layers of wood,” she says, indicating the stacked plywood tables made by Maisons Chicoine, the banquettes and bar front, all of which offer texture in wood. And with the help of Kitsch Kreativ, a local design studio, Rocher made a Scrabble-inspired menu. “I’m just sick of chalkboard menus!” she adds.

At present, Palmier serves coffee from roastery Anchored Coffee, out of Dartsmouth, Nova Scotia, and Little Victories from Ottawa. They make their own almond milk and recently began offering sandwiches made with Art-is-In bread. Next will be salad bowls and, once they get a liquor license, possibly themed evenings such as taco nights with music. Watch this space.

Meech and Munch
205 Chemin Old Chelsea, Chelsea, QC

Meech & Munch; (middle) co-owner Charles Grimard
Meech & Munch; (middle) co-owner Charles Grimard

Another offering in Old Chelsea is Meech and Munch, the brainchild of Charles Grimard and Joey Rivers. This is the friends’ first collaboration, but Rivers owns Le Foubrac, a café, bistro and burger restaurant in Hull.

Meech and Munch, which is halfway between the Chelsea Pub and Le Nordik, offers sophisticated pub food. An extensive menu of stalwarts such as calamari, beef carpaccio, kale Caesar salad, fish and chips, salmon, steak and several sandwiches, is served alongside spirits, wine and seven different beers and cider on tap from Boréale and Brasserie du Bas Canada in Gatineau.

The restaurant seats 65 inside a cheerful, rustic modern space with bright pops of contemporary art on the walls (all for sale), wooden tables, leather-look banquettes and barnwood behind the bar. Outside, there are 35 seats on a shady, pleasant terrace, packed on a recent summer afternoon.

“We wanted to offer a family-friendly option here, and I think that’s what we’ve done,” says co-owner Grimard. With a five-year lease in place, let’s hope Meech and Munch becomes a solid spot for regulars and Gatineau Park visitors alike.

Just 15 minutes drive from downtown Ottawa and even closer to Gatineau, the new Old Chelsea offers something for everybody; the Gatineau Park to bike, hike, ski, walk and snowshoe, plenty of good opportunities to eat, enjoy coffee, pizza, and ice cream. You can spend a day at the spa and head on down the road to eat and explore, or if you really love the new vibe, you can move right in to one of the new housing developments in the area, so that all this is right on your doorstep.