Chez Michel

By Roberta Avery back to list

On day in early October, I pulled into the strip mall just west of Blue Mountain Road in Craigleith and couldn't believe my eyes, Chez Michel of my favourite restaurants, had closed up, not just for the day, but for good.

Then with a flood of relief, I noticed a sign - Chez Michel had relocated to Creemore, which after all is only a 20-minute drive from Collingwood.

Craigleith's loss is Creemore's gain.

Since 1989, Michel and Eleanor Masselin magically transformed the strip mall end unit into a classy little restaurant with a taste of Provence not only in the food, but also in the décor.

Michel was born in Normandy, but grew up in Provence, before emigrating to Toronto in 1976. There he trained in the kitchens of Chez Pierot, a French restaurant in the Bathhurst St. Germain area so brought a European flare to the cooking at Chez Michel. Eleanor, who was originally from New Zealand, added her own brand of courteous hospitality to the dining room.

It was a successful formula, so I was anxious to see if the magic would be recreated at their new premises on the main street of Creemore.

Chez Michel was in rented premises in Craigleith, so the Masselins were thrilled when the building that had once housed the Purple Hills Bistro came on the market.

As soon as I stepped inside the new Chez Michel, I knew the magic was still there. Even the wine bar, a long time Chez Michel fixture had been taken down and reassembled in its new home.

I was also pleased to see Eleanor's dining room service model was still in place. Unlike many restaurants where servers look after their own sections, Chez Michel uses a system where everyone "out front" shares responsibility for every customer. Eleanor acts as host, a sommelier takes the wine order, a server takes the food order and another delivers the bread - fresh crusty French loaf of course.

The result is seamless service and no one ever says "sorry not my section."

While the service is impeccable, it's the food that makes a visit to Chez Michel a special occasion.

With appetizers such as Chevre Salad with goat cheese, Portobello Mushrooms in a warm balsamic vinaigrette or grilled eggplant with goat cheese and creamy pesto, it's hard to make a choice.

I settled on baked Brie with caramelized onions and Cumberland sauce and although pricey at $13.50, I wasn't disappointed.

The slightly tart sauce was a perfect complement to the creamy, just warm, Brie and the heaping of perfectly prepared onions.

For a main course, I chose the Supreme de Poulet - a chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and spinach served with a sundried tomato cream sauce. Although the portion of the artistically arranged vegetables was small, everything was so delicious it was worth the $20.50 cost.

If you go, remember to save some French bread for dipping in the fantastic sauces that Michel whips up in the kitchen. Michel says this is a French custom that actually compliments the chef.

My husband, John, chose the special of the day, Angus beefsteak with a mushroom sauce so good that he too couldn't resist dipping his bread.

For dessert I had my favourite Crème Brulee and I can honestly say no one makes it better than Michel.

The Masselins opened at their new location on Oct. 13 and have been thrilled with the response.

"People here are so friendly, they stick their heads round the door and say 'welcome to Creemore,' it's so nice,'' said Eleanor.

The people of Creemore have also been patronizing the new restaurant in the midst.

"It's been incredibly busy. We are very happy,'' said Michel.

A three-course dinner for two including tax and tip and two glasses of house wine - a Remy Pannier from France or a Niagara region wine - can run $130 or more, but for a special occasion it's worth splashing out. Or if you can eat earlier, Chez Michel offers a set three-course meal from 5:30 to 6: 30 p.m. for $35.

Chez Michel is open 11:30 to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9p.m. Wednesday to Sunday, closed Mondays and Tuesday.

Note: From Irish Mountain B&B Chez Michel is about 70 KMs away or about a 1 hour drive.


For reservations call 1-705-466-3331

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Irish Mountain Bed and Breakfast
R.R.#1 Meaford, Ontario, Canada
N4L 1W5
Tel: 1-519-538-2803
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