Summer food 2011 revisited La Belle Patate Esquimalt

La Belle Patate - often imitated but only the truly great Poutine in VictoriaAs fond as I am for the great cafe culture, of which Victoria, B.C. is truly blessed,
there are some real restaurant gems in Victoria and it is not so much the food (because the food is important unto itself) but it is the heart and soul of the people that create and work these restaurants that bring magic to the table.

Mathieu (Matty) Lott, owner and creator of La Belle Patate is at 1215 Esquimalt Road in Esquimalt. He knows his potatoes, his cheese curds, his customers and he loves all of them in equal measure.

Andrea, Matty and I sit in the pleasant August sun on the sidewalk patio, full of happy folks tucking into their poutine, burgers and smoked meat sandwiches.
What strikes me is the warmth and ease that Matty exhibits among his staff and appreciative clientele. At a youthful 36, Matty is coming up on 4 years in the business – 4 wonderful years – success measured in bags of potatoes, bushels of cheese curds and smiles… and an endless procession of smiles of customers. He knows them all.

The poutine formula has been good for Matty and La Belle Patate. Poutine is a dish of French fries, topped with a thick vegetable gravy and a covering of Island made cheese curds. We always order a “small” between the two of us – and two all-dressed “Steamie” hot dogs – crazy comfort food – steamed hot dogs (and buns) loaded down with pickled cabbage (saurkraut) and mustard. Brilliant. Pure love.

Matty was recently contacted by the good folks at Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives…” – and Matty has conflicted feelings about the extra exposure. “It is a mixed blessing… in 3 years, we are going full out… 1200 pounds of potatoes a week! That kind of exposure could double our traffic… and right now we are in a perfect place!”

Having Matty join Andrea and me on the sidewalk patio for what seemed like 15 minutes was brilliant. Next time I am doing an audio recording. I could listen to Matty talk potatoes and his loyal customers for an hour.

Back to the reality of his poutine: It’s the real thing. I noted to Matty that I have a fairly good following on Facebook and Twitter (as well as all the devoted readers on the blog and coffeecrew website). There is lots of chatter about poutine, almost daily in fact. And here is the thing – La Belle Patate is the only city poutine that I can take seriously. Sure you can get some freaky gourmet treatment of poutine in a fancy restaurant in the Victoria area – and among some other joints that mean well – but La Belle Patate is the only game in town.

We sip on our iced tea, polish off our last gravy dressed fries and exchange warm handshakes with Matty – he is in a happy place doing what he loves best – making happy people happier and creating poutine converts on an almost daily basis.

Food is love. No kidding.

La Belle Patate is located at 1215 Esquimalt Road a half-block past the Civic Center and Esquimalt’s original strip mall. Bon apetit!