In late September, Jessy and I planned a spontaneous weekend getaway to Quebec City – so spontaneous I didn’t even get a chance to write my usual “Booked!” post.
We picked up train tickets with Via Rail pretty easily, but the hotel situation for our two nights Quebec’s capital required a little more forethought.
After all, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is an iconic place to stay, and I very much wanted to check this historic property off my bucket list. At the same time, however, I had previously received recommendations from quite a few friends that the true “best place to stay” in Quebec City was a luxury boutique hotel known as Auberge Saint-Antoine, a proud member of the Relain & Châteaux brand of individually owned and operated luxury hotels and restaurants.
In the end, I decided to split the trip into two one-night stays, beginning with a night at the Auberge Saint-Antoine, booked via American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR), followed by a trip up the hill to stay in the city’s castle.
In This Post
Auberge Saint-Antoine – Location & Arrival
Auberge Saint-Antoine is located at the northern end of Old Quebec, just at the boundary where the city’s cobblestone streets along the hills begin to flatten out into the Old Port by the water’s edge.
From the Gare du Palais train station, it’s probably easiest to follow the waterfront and walk to the hotel along lower ground, although for some reason Jessy and I decided to take a scenic detour, hauling our luggage up the hillside, through the heart of Old Quebec, and back down again.
Eventually, we arrived at the hotel, which is housed within a set of three buildings that are linked on the inside, but with their exterior facades preserved. It felt a bit like stepping inside a museum, an old clubhouse, or perhaps one of those luxury condo blocks inside historic buildings that you often see these days.
Upon entering, we headed up a few steps to the bright and distinctively decorated lobby, and found the check-in desks on our right.
Auberge Saint-Antoine – Check-in
The check-in agent was quick to identify our Amex FHR booking, confirming with us the room rate of $380 for the night, as well as all of the associated benefits from booking through Amex FHR.
Since Auberge Saint-Antoine’s parent brand, Relais & Châteaux, doesn’t have a loyalty program that makes it easy to earn and redeem points at a good value, I view Amex FHR as the best way to book your stay here while receiving additional perks on par with being an elite member.
For what it’s worth, the Amex FHR rate of $380 was about $50 greater than the cheapest rate available directly via the hotel, but in exchange, we were entitled to the following benefits:
- Room upgrade, subject to availability
- Noon check-in, subject to availability
- Guaranteed 4pm late checkout
- Free breakfast for two
- A US$100 food and beverage credit to be used at the hotel
The front desk associate confirmed that we had been offered a two-category room upgrade to the Luxe Terrace Room. Unfortunately, despite my best attempts, a suite upgrade was not forthcoming, and to be honest I haven’t had much luck with Amex FHR or Virtuoso bookings thus far in terms of scoring a big upgrade to a suite.
After going over all of the other benefits, we were presented with the keys to Room 502 on the fifth floor, and made our way upstairs via the elevators.
Auberge Saint-Antoine – Luxe Terrace Room
The hotel’s guest room hallways are designed in a crisp, minimalist style, with various subtle elements, like the aged newsprint theme on the carpet or the artifact displays on the walls, paying homage to the hotel’s emphasis on the history of Quebec City.
In fact, I later learned that the construction process for Auberge Saint-Antoine was preceded by a large-scale archaeological dig on the site, which uncovered several artifacts dating as far back as 1600 that are now preserved in little display cases scattered around the hotel grounds.
In keeping with the theme, each room at the hotel is assigned a name and adorned with a small artifact within the room number sign. Ours was “the room of the highlands”, and along the way we passed by “the writer’s room”, “the tailor’s room”, etc.
As we entered, I was pleased to see that we had been granted an upgrade to one of the hotel’s more spacious guest rooms, complete with a large outdoor terrace.
To our delight, the king bed was an oasis of comfort in terms of sleep quality, surpassing most of the hotel beds I’ve recently encountered at Marriott or Hilton properties. Bed comfort is one of the factors that truly makes a difference when you’re paying for higher-end accommodations, and I’d whole-heartedly recommend the Auberge Saint-Antoine on that criterion alone.
The Luxe Terrace Room also came with a spacious work surface, as well as a small couch in the corner.
(While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the colour choices in the room, I could at least see how they combined into a unified identity, especially with a few artistic accents thrown in.)
Let’s take a look around the rest of the room’s interior before heading out to the terrace. Instead of the single rectangular wardrobe that you’d usually find in hotel rooms, this room instead made smarter use of the space by splitting things into a smaller closet for your garments, as well as a series of cabinets set within the walls for a fold-out ironing board and recycling bin.
That gave a lot more space to the pantry, which made the room feel more luxurious as a result. We loved the way that the coffee maker, kettle, and drinkware had been laid out here in the pantry, and the adorable design on the coffee mugs gave us a few brief moments of temptation to bring them home with us.
It must be said here that the Auberge Saint-Antoine didn’t go to the same great lengths as other hotels to implement special hygiene measures, or at least make an appearance of implementing special hygiene measures, during COVID-19.
For example, The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal had sealed its drinkware in plastic coverings while ensuring that the box of coffee and tea was taped shut after cleaning, but there was none of those measures to be found here.
I personally didn’t feel uncomfortable as long as I sanitized my hands regularly, but if you’re hesitant to stay at hotels during the current climate and really appreciate hotels that go above and beyond to demonstrate hygienic practices (even if some of it is “hygiene theatre”), it’s something to keep in mind.
Similar to the pantry, the bathroom also felt very luxurious despite not being the largest.
The bathroom floor was nicely heated, the design felt homely and comfortable, and the water pressure on all the taps was excellent. Whether it was taking a nice long bath or ducking in for a 20-second hand wash, I very much enjoyed spending time in here.
Finally, that brings us to the highlight of the room: the outdoor terrace overlooking Quebec’s Old Port, with commanding views of the fast-moving St. Lawrence River.
It was a very welcome added touch of luxury to our stay, allowing me to catch up on work in the sunshine or enjoy some stargazing at night (although the evenings got pretty cold during our stay), and in the end, I was very happy with my decision to book with Amex FHR and score a nice room upgrade in addition to all of the other perks.
Auberge Saint-Antoine – Breakfast
Let’s talk more about some of those perks.
The next morning, Jessy and I were treated to complimentary breakfast at Chez Muffy, the hotel’s in-house restaurant that also seems like a popular dining venue among locals.
Since the Auberge Saint-Antoine in fact consists of three separate but interlinked buildings, Chez Muffy’s interior look is a pretty significant departure from the rest of the hotel, resembling a historic warehouse setting complete with a lofted upper floor.
We took our seats in one of the central dining tables adjacent to a very aesthetically pleasing fireplace.
With breakfast included in our hotel rate, we were allowed to order absolutely anything we wanted from the breakfast menu in unlimited quantities. I opted for “Le Saint-Antoine”, a simple plate of eggs, bacon, and sausages with potato and cherry tomato salad, while Jessy chose the “Benedictine Eggs”.
It turns out there may have been a good reason why the dish wasn’t actually called “Eggs Benedict”, because, well… the English muffin was missing, and the poached eggs were served on toast instead.
As someone who loves Eggs Benedict, Jessy found that this particular helping fell short of her expectations – not only was the base of the dish mysteriously substituted, but she also found the poached eggs a little too watery.
For my part, the Le Saint-Antoine breakfast was pretty standard fare, and I enjoyed the creative flavours of the potato and cherry tomato salad.
Overall, I must say that I wasn’t totally blown away by the breakfast here at Chez Muffy, although my expectations were certainly set pretty high based on the rave reviews that the restaurant gets for the farm-to-table French-Canadian fare it serves for dinner.
At least the fruit juices were tasty and refreshing, while the lattes to finish off the meal were smooth and satisfying.
Auberge Saint-Antoine – Dining & Bar
As part of booking with Amex FHR, we had a US$100 food and beverage credit to spend at the hotel.
Since breakfast was already covered, and we chose to visit one of Quebec City’s famous poutine spots for dinner instead on our first night, that meant that Jessy and I would have the pleasure of sampling US$100 worth of drinks at the bar in order to use up the credit.
The Saint-Antoine’s lobby cafe and bar, appropriately named Artifact, is one of the most visually pleasing spaces of its kind that I’ve ever seen. Beautiful, thoughtfully designed spaces like these are one of my favourite reasons to skip the cookie-cutter feel of the big hotel chains and stay at a nice boutique hotel once in a while.
While the bar itself looked stunning, Jessy and I cozied up in one of Artifact’s most intimate spots: a library nook of sorts, complete with a slow-burning fireplace. There was even a set of curtains here that could be drawn to make it our own private spot for relaxing by the fire with some drinks in hand.
Since we had a large credit to spend, I treated myself to some fresh oysters, and Jessy and I each made our way through the rather adventurous cocktail list to sample whatever sounded interesting to us.
Three rounds of cocktails absolutely did the trick, and since the bar staff happened to forget to bill us for one of the rounds, we left the remainder of the credit as a tip instead.
It’s worth noting that the Auberge Saint-Antoine would convert the US$100 credit to only $120 (CAD) upon settling the bill at checkout, even though we had spent $131 based on the true FX rate.
No worries – a quick email to American Express Travel rectified the situation, and I received the $11 credit back on the credit card within a few days’ time.
Auberge Saint-Antoine – Other Facilities
As a hotel steeped in the history of Quebec, the Saint-Antoine’s public areas are elegantly appointed, taking every opportunity to showcase its close connection to the city’s roots.
Many parts of the hotel resemble a museum, especially this large exhibit of the many archaeological items that were uncovered on the site during the hotel’s construction.
In terms of other notable features, the gym and wellness centre are accessed via a narrow hallway opposite the guest room elevators. I didn’t get a chance to go for a workout on this trip, but the hotel staff was happy to let me take a look around.
The hallway actually leads to a larger separate wing of the building, where you’ll find a gym that’s well-equipped, if somewhat makeshift in design, as well as a spa with several treatment rooms.
Even though we were entitled to 4pm late checkout by booking with Amex FHR, Jessy and I decided we didn’t need to keep the room until the afternoon, completing our checkout at around noon and storing our belongings at the front desk before heading out to the Montmorency Falls for the day.
While the Château Frontenac will always be Old Quebec’s most iconic address, Auberge Saint-Antoine is widely regarded as one of Quebec City’s best boutique hotels and an excellent choice for a low-key yet luxurious stay at a convenient location.
Even though I’ll usually seek out my preferred Marriott brand of hotels along my travels so that I can earn and redeem points, I do relish the occasional stay at an independent boutique property just to mix things up a bit, and I’m very glad that I chose to book the Auberge Saint-Antoine through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts – at a relatively high price point, it must be said, but at decent value given the perks we received.
The Luxe Terrace Room was well-appointed in every way, including a spacious terrace that we wouldn’t have gotten if we hadn’t booked through Amex FHR.
Meanwhile, the Artifact bar and the hotel’s public spaces were exceedingly pleasant, and the only complaint – a round of breakfast that fell slightly below expectations – was merely a footnote compared to the hotel’s overall excellence.
On our way out, I overheard another couple saying to their check-in associate: “Yeah, we’re staying here for four nights, and then moving over to the Château Frontenac for just one night.” And after trying out both properties for myself, I’d probably agree with that assessment, and I’ll share why in the upcoming review of the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac.