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French bistro serves up hearty meals in a cottage casual style

"We take French bistro-style food and put more of a cottage country comfort feel on it.”

Located across from beautiful Callander Bay, on Main Street in Callander, 1886 Lake House Bistro was named in part as a tribute to the history of the area.

“1886 has to do with the history of Callander, when North Himsworth was originally incorporated in 1886 before it was changed to Callander in 2003,” explained Executive Chef Greg Luckey.

The restaurant offers a varied menu with something to please all ages.

“We have a kid’s menu, especially all summer long with how much tourism there is here in Callander. We have a lot of families all summer long. I wouldn’t say in the winter season we have as many families,” said Luckey.

“We don’t consider ourselves fine dining. We consider ourselves more cottage country casual. We are a French bistro but we take French bistro-style food and put more of a cottage country comfort feel on it.”

Which translates into heartier meals.

“Big meals that are going to keep you warm and fill you up, whereas most French bistros are more about smaller portions, and just a little bit fancier plating. So, we just take their styles and give it more of that homey feel, that cottage vibe,” explained the head chef.

As much of the food as possible is sourced from local farmers, whether it is mushrooms, meat, poultry, goat cheese, or assorted produce.

The name of the farms is no secret, in fact, they are included in the meal descriptions.

“For all of our items where we use those ingredients, we put it all right on our menu. We advertise them (farms) on our menu. We get a lot of people who ask where the farms are and we let them know where they are available because most of these farms, anybody can get stuff from them.”

Luckey prides himself on the carefully thought-out entrees.

“We have some really nice entrees. Our venison meatloaf is a nice dish. We have some neat ingredients like that, that you don’t find everywhere. We don’t do a salmon, we do an arctic char which is something you don’t see at very many restaurants. It is almost like a cross between trout and salmon. Our fish and chips are very popular here, we sell thousands of them every year. We have a stuffed chicken that is very popular. We do prosciutto and Gruyere stuffed chicken breast and in the summer months we sell just over one thousand of them on average.”

Venison sliders are one of its most popular appetizers.

“We use ground venison, a little bit of ground beef, red onions, herbes de provence-a French dried herb blend, salt, and pepper. It is grilled and on top of that we have Canadian brie and our homemade bacon onion jam with garlic aioli and arugula on mini Brioche buns.”

Another customer favourite is Canadian Arctic Char with “A wild mushroom risotto, heirloom carrots, and green bean almandine, and seared arctic char with our homemade cranberry and leek compote and a tarragon cream reduction served with crispy seared skin on top.”   

Lunchtime burgers are incredibly popular, whether it is the lamb burger, Bistro burger, Nipissing burger, Nosbonsing Classic burger, or vegan burger.

“It is just good quality meat, and just some seasoning, that’s it. I don’t like to add a lot to it. As long as you have good quality beef there is no reason to add anything much into your burger.”

Luckey takes pride in making his own homemade sauces and condiments.  

“I make all my own mustard, ketchup, and relish. Between most of the sauces and everything on our menu, there is about 17 items like that, that we make here.”

In addition to menu specialties, the bistro offers special events like wine tasting nights.  

“And we do winemaker dinners where we pick a wine region from somewhere in the world and I design a whole menu around that region. And then, the owner is a sommelier, so he pairs all wines with my food and we do nice private events here. I’m working on Southern California right now. We’ve done Italy and France and South America. I research all the food and design a menu around it. So they’re pretty fun events. And we have beer and cheese tasting events.”

For a completely different dining experience, last winter customers could reserve a table in a private igloo complete with heated blankets, faux fur, a fireplace, and cozy socks to stay warm. Roughly 300 customers took advantage of this novel way to enjoy their food.

Customers will again be flocking to the patio once warmer weather arrives to enjoy good quality food and if timed right, a gorgeous sunset over Callander Bay.