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Nick Lees: Q Cigar Room combines fine dining with a unique smoking experience

If a friend hadn’t coaxed Quentin Gardiner into smoking a Cuban cigar 12 years ago, Edmonton would today not have the only cigar lounge west of Quebec.

“My cigar that day was a Cuban Cohiba Siglo VI that was long, robust and complex,” says the accountant.

“I’ve been a cigar enthusiast since that first smoke.”

Gardiner interested friends in the “tranquility and camaraderie” of cigar smoking and together last August they opened the $2.2-million Q Cigar Room.

“The River Cree Development Corp. was constructing freestanding buildings east of the casino. We approached them about opening a cigar room,” says Greg Nash, a friend of Gardiner’s and president of Seagate Contract Management, which constructed Q.

“The band was very receptive to our idea and it has been a pleasure to work with them. First Nation land is the only place we could get permission to open a cigar room.”

Gardiner had always enjoyed visiting cigar lounges throughout the U.S and decided many people had the wrong idea about smoking cigars in them.

“Cigars are not meant to be inhaled and consist of pure tobacco,” he says.

“It’s well documented cigarettes have some 600 additives, which are principally designed to make them more addictive.

“Cigars are not addictive and Q is attracting customers who want to simply socialize over a drink and enjoy great food.”

“We also use a state of the art ventilation system with air pressure pushing smoke immediately up and out through specially designed air outlets.”

No doubt Winston Churchill, the British wartime prime minister and probably the world’s best-known cigar enthusiast, would love the work of Wolski Design Group’s Chris Greene, given free rein to design the Q Cigar Room.

“I hadn’t even smoked a cigarette before I went with our team to Las Vegas last November to check out cigar establishments,” says Greene.

“I thought if I am going to design a cigar bar, I had to understand the culture.

“I found smoking a cigar calmed me down and enhanced conversation. It’s not a hurried activity. You have to commit some 60-to-90 minutes to smoke a cigar.”

Green has created a space with comfy, old-world charm and elegance combined with a splash of new, sexy glamour.

A long bar features wood, bronze and copper detail, while custom tables are made from oak-stained planks sourced from a tobacco factory.

Decoration includes paintings of many of the world’s wild animals smoking a cigar.

“I made a collage of the animals and had them professionally painted,” said Greene.

Spanish cedar and high-level humidification were musts in the walk-in humidor.

A surprise is a year-round heated 1,100 sq.-ft. patio with a $100,000 retractable roof. Guests are warmed by propane and natural gas fire-pits and enjoy live entertainment on weekends, or watch a game on large HD televisions.

“It’s impossible not to feel comfortable here in lush surroundings and smoking a cigar,” says Anum Pavlin, one of several women who belong to the bar’s 35-member VIP club.

She smokes the bar’s cigars from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua and reports her impressions in her cigar blog.

Club membership is $149-per-month and includes a locked drawer in the walk-in humidor, a break in food and cigar prices and a monthly VIP night.

“Members often bring in their cigars from recent travels,” says Q’s general manager Marc Derome. “Unfortunately, some cigars carry bugs and we must freeze everyone’s cigars, and we clean and inspect the humidor frequently.”

He oversees constant, varied rotation of cigar types, which sell from $20 to more than $100. He is also responsible for finding and keeping in stock an abundance of spirits chosen to pair well with cigars.

“Our clientele slowly increases every month,” says Gardiner, whose wife Tanis enjoys bar supervising two nights a week.

“We are fast building a reputation for good food among customers not necessarily looking for a cigar experience.”

Responsible for that is Indian-born executive-chef Sohail Shaikh, who has worked in India’s Hotel Mumbai and as the Edmonton Oilers’ executive chef.

“Sharp flavours are best-suited to cigar smoking,” he says. “Strong cheese, falafel or a charcuterie board are ideal.”

But an increasing number of diners come to enjoy a fine dining experience and seek out the chef’s duck confit, pan-seared salmon and cumin couscous or the Q Kangaroo Burger.

Says Gardiner: “We mainly attract the mature, hip, professional crowd, whether they come to enjoy a cigar, the food or the relaxing atmosphere.

“But we encourage everyone. We have a ladies’ night once a month, and military and first responders get 25 per cent off their bills on Mondays.”

His favourite cigar is an Andalusian Bull, which he says has flavours of caramel, leather and a “tingle” of mixed chocolate.

“Connoisseurs compare cigars the way wine enthusiasts compare wine,” says Gardiner, who enjoys three cigars a week.


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