The transformation of L’Orignal’s historic Riverest into a waterfront destination is nearing completion, with the new restaurant expected to open in early June.

“We want people to have an experience,” says André Chabot, co-owner of Riverest along with his partner Alexandra Quester. “Whether that’s a culinary experience, or in the tasting of the different drinks we are going to have, the marina, or simply having a picnic and eating on the grass.”

Champlain Township Council approved the Riverest site plan agreement at its regular monthly meeting on May 11. All that remains are final inspections and the restaurant is expected be ready to greet diners by the first or second week of June.

The owners are excited for the opening of the restaurant and the L’Orignal Marina, which will be managed by Riverest Inc. under a five-year leasing agreement with the township.

Chabot and Quester purchased the Riverest bi-centennial stone house, along with an adjoining property, with an eye to developing it and the existing L’Orignal Marina into a tourism centre in the village. The bi-centennial stone home – built by the Marston family in 1833 – is located on top of the hill at the end of Wharf Street, in the heart of downtown L’Orignal, and provides breathtaking views of the L’Orignal marina, the Ottawa River, La Rouge beach and the Laurentian Mountains.

Local producers, vegan dishes will be featured

A high-end and ever-changing menu at Riverest will offer steak, seafood, pasta and other favorites, but will also feature vegetarian and vegan dishes for those who wish to avoid meat in their diet. Quester hopes the delicious vegetarian creations will also inspire meat lovers to try something new.

“What I would love is that someone tries something vegetarian and loves it,” says Quester.

Riverest recently brought professional chef Colin Marshall on board, who plans to use primarily produce and meat from local producers to create special dishes for Riverest diners.

“I really want to bring market-fresh seasonal ingredients to the area – locally sourced and sustainable,” says the young chef, who fine-tuned his craft working at Montreal’s famed Tuck Shop restaurant under renowned chef Theo Lerikos, whom Marshall describes as his mentor.

Marshall has met with owners of local organic farms in the region, and has also visited farmers’ markets. He says the variety of local produce has already begun to inspire menu plans.

“We have such wonderful local producers in this area,” says Marshall, mentioning Trillium Meadows, Mariposa and Kirkview farms.

“The Vankleek Hill Farmers’ Market is great – it’s small, it’s local, and has some amazing producers who are doing particular varieties,” Marshall enthuses, adding his menu choices are inspired by what he discovers. “That’s how I tend to create my menus – from what I see at the market.”

“It’s a place where you are going to come and discover things you may not have tasted before,” Chabot explains. “Flavour is definitely a big part of what we’re doing.”

Chabot and Quester are 50-50 partners in the project. For the most part Chabot will oversee operations, while Quester will manage the L’Orignal Marina.

A biologist by trade, Quester has done a great deal of aquatic research and work, and says the opportunity to manage a marina and be connected to the water is very exciting. The Austrian native also has experience in the tourism business.

“I love that this brings it all together – I have the water, the people I can spend time with,” Quester beams, as she looks out over the L’Orignal Marina.

Nancy Napolitano will be greeting customers at the new restaurant as its front-of-house manager. A veteran of the Montreal restaurant industry, Napolitano met Marshall when both were working at Tuck Shop and the two have been a couple ever since. Marshall had mentioned in his initial interview with Quester and Chabot that his girlfriend had restaurant experience and they decided to speak with her as well.

“We realized right away that both of them liked to work together and Nancy was very, very qualified,” Chabot says. “She brought something to the table that we were missing and it just came full circle.”

“Together we’re giving them a chance to create their own thing.”

Beverages a big part of experience

Napolitano has been working hard over the past weeks sourcing out different tastes of both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages.

“I want to make sure people are exploring interesting options as to what they drink – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages” explains Napolitano, who notes many people have chosen to forego alcohol with their meals. “A lot of people end up not drinking anymore, so it’s interesting to look at different drink options which can cater to a nice dinner, but do not contain alcohol.”

Riverest’s menu will consist of fine dining in the evening hours, with a simpler menu offered during the day. The owners will adjust the menu as customers provide feedback and to allow for seasonal items and specials.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic ends, plans are to host Sunday brunches from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each week.

“Every day here is going to be family day, but the Sunday brunches in particular are going to be aimed at the family,” Chabot says, adding he expects diners to respond to the new restaurant and its menu. “I think people are ready for good food.”

Anyone seeking more information on Riverest can visit the facility’s website and Facebook page.

Chef Colin Marshall with partner Nancy Napolitano, who will serve as Riverest’s Front-of-House Manager. Photo by Reid Masson