Forks Baddeck, a small community on Cape Breton Island, is home to The Bite House, one of Nova Scotia’s hottest restaurants. Most of the ingredients chef and owner Bryan Picard uses for his seasonal, nine-course tasting menu are foraged, grown or produced either in his own kitchen garden or by nearby farmers.

Each year, the restaurant runs from the first week of May to the first week of December, and, when bookings open each January, the slots are gone within minutes. “It’s nuts,” says Picard. “The food’s good, but we’re not doing Michelin-starred cuisine. People just like the original concept.”

Talking to Picard, it’s clear he doesn’t give himself enough credit, but his talent shines through every carefully presented and delicious dish that comes out of his kitchen. Originally from New Brunswick, Picard worked at restaurants in Montreal before moving back to the Maritimes. He spent summers in the region and winters working at Michelin starred restaurants in Europe.

The Bite House is now set for its seventh season, and part of the reason it’s so hard to get a booking is that the dining room is tiny—the restaurant, set in a hundred-year-old farmhouse, has just 12 seats. The seating does grow to 16 in the summer, when it’s warm enough to seat guests in the screened porch.

“It’s just me and two [servers], and my dad,” says Picard. “It’s pretty intimate.”

What is your culinary philosophy?

It all starts with quality, seasonal, organically grown produce that I get here on the island. There are incredible flavours to work with. Local farmers supply my meat and produce. People will turn up at the door or message me when they have interesting produce to sell.

Tell us about one of your recent favourite dishes.

On my current menu, we have a cold dish of salted tuna, which is lightly cured, with an emulsion of toasted sunflower seeds, pear vinegar, oil, maple and salt, served with crunchy Hakurei turnips and salad burnet, topped with crushed sunflower seeds. It’s very earthy and fresh, complementing the flavour of the fish.

What’s one constant on your menu?

Our bread, made by my dad, which everyone gets really excited about. It’s a fluffy rye sourdough with flax seeds. We serve it with a tangy buttermilk butter and sprinkled with crunchy, sweet bee pollen.

Why do people rave about your desserts so much on Instagram?

Desserts really excite me. I play with more savoury flavours, so they’re not just all sugar. People always go, “Oh, my!” over the presentation.

How does it feel to be so in demand?

It’s pretty surreal. I cook 60 hours a week, and it’s just me in the kitchen. It sometimes feels like a lot of pressure, but mostly I feel lucky to be able to do this. It started as a way to pay the mortgage, and now people even come up from the States just to eat here.

Fact: Picard grows 30 varieties of herbs in his kitchen garden, including apple mint, orange thyme, woodruff and winter savory.


The Bite House: At a Glance

Price

$85 per person.

Book

Reservations for May to early December start in January.

Decor

Rustic farmhouse chic with local art and antique farming tools— some uncovered while renovating the property— on the walls.

Drinks

Vodka and gin cocktails include fresh juices, such as rhubarb fizz and grape. Or, try one of the Nova Scotian ciders, beers or natural wines.

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