Montréal – Québec, Canada
BARS / CAFES:
- Chez L’Epicier – Epicerie-cum-café. Stocks high quality maple syrup, imported olive oil etc. Sells macarons and pastries and serves brunch and lunch daily (311 rue St-Paul Est / +1 514 878 2232).
- Cluny Artbar – Very cool canteen which services the area’s artists and digital experts housed within an old foundary. Great space with tall ceilings and huge windows the vibe is relaxed yet stylish in an urban, understated kind of way. Delish fresh salads and paninis, great homemade soups and fantastic pastries and desserts (257 rue Prince / t: +1 514 866 1213 / www.cluny.info/).
- Le Cartet – A brilliant place for brunch or lunch. Full of chattering creatives, the food is tasty and fresh and the space is bright, just opposite Hotel St-Paul (106 rue McGill / +1 514 871 8887).
- Olive and Gourmando – A great spot for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon cuppa in the old town. Delicious cheese croissants or toffee pecan tarts are a highlight as is the cheese board. Pastries and paninis etc are all served in baskets on a sheet of greaseproof paper so super-green (351 rue St-Paul Ouest / t: +1 514 350 1083 / www.oliveetgourmando.com).
- Pullman – A favourite Montreal hangout with perhaps the friendliest owners, bar staff and clientele in the city. Edgy design with exposed wall of old crackled paint and plaster exposing years and layers of old wallpaper. The seats in the huge window are the nicest with the upstairs area being best for a large group. Open glassed wine cellar shows off every conceivable size of wine glass hanging from met brackets which knowledgeable staff are happy to advise on. Tapas style snacks and dinner – toasted cheese sandwiches and mini bison burgers were top. Music was spot on – world lounge, the right beat and just the right sound level (3424 Avenue du Parc / t: +1 514 288 7779 / www.pullman-mtl.com).
- Hotel St Paul – The city’s first boutique hotel is still the swishest and certainly the best located situated in the old town and close to most of the main tourist spots (355 rue McGill / t: +1 514 380 2222 / www.hotelstpaul.com).
- Opus Hotel – Contemporary business style hotel located in downtown, with very reasonable packages and offers, equidistance from the old town and Outremont and Mile End (10 Sherbrooke Ouest / t: +1 514 843 6000 / www.www.opushotel.com).
- L’Express – Super-popular French brasserie, packed out with people queuing/being turned away. Very buzzy and atmospheric with red walls, good lighting, and a glamorous mirror running the length of the long, silver bar with stools. Good menu with obvious choices including venison ravioli with wine sauce and mushrooms, chevre chaud (mais pas assez chaud) and tartelette au citron (homemade tasting). Long list of wine. Service was fast, French, yet polite (3927 rue St-Denis / t: +1 514 845 5333 / www.restmontreal.com).
- Boris Bistro – Perfect for outdoor summer dining – lunch in the large garden has plenty of shade behind the rescued façade of an old building and at night the fairy lights and candles twinkle. Excellent steak tartare, pommes frites cooked in duck fat, soft goat’s cheese topped with an excellent, juicy caponata (465 rue McGill / t: +1 514 848 9575 / www.borisbistro.com).
- Joe Beef – Down in Atwater, the up and coming English-speaking district to the west of the old town. Small, intimate, oozing warmth thanks to tons of low-lit with candles. The daily changing seasonal and locally sourced menu is written up on the enormous blackboard that runs the length of the resto. Buzzy and convivial, with top music tunes including Duran Duran, Joy Division, Arcade Fire (of course), Marvin Gaye and The Cure. A mix of people but a largely creative, young bunch of people in groups. Some families, some bankers, some couples. The vibe is very Shoreditch and the service is extremely friendly. Only a couple of wines are offered by the glass but there is an extensive list of wines by the bottle across all price ranges. Portions are big, food is hearty, homemade and very tasty. Excellent tarte a la tomate with goats cheese, drizzled in pesto and served with hariconoirs and cucumber. Fresh, good quality oysters. Incredible lobster spaghetti and delicious spaghetti with girolles mushrooms served unusually with a fried egg on top and lots of parmesan cheese. Pot au chocolate crème came overloaded with small blackberries, slices of fig and Chantilly cream (2491 rue Notre-Dame Ouest / t: +1 514 935 6504 / www.joebeef.ca).
- Lemeac – On the Outremont/Mile End/Plateau border. Pretty, elegant brasserie with a long bar and stools. Outside terrasse in the summer is really nice. The menu is broad with a good three course set lunch or dinner menu, plus coffee or tea, offering fantastic value for money. Friendly, quick service. Simple salad comprising three styles of lettuce with a barely-there dressing was sublime: the natural flavours were intoxicatingly fresh and tasty. Wild mushroom omlette was light yet meaty and the goat’s cheese was deep fried, crispy, melting and atop a finely sliced apple and frisee lettuce salad. The pommes frites were cooked in beef dripping and peanut oil. Desserts were classic and very good (1045 Avenue Laurier Ouest / t: +1 514 270 0999 / www.restaurantlemeac.com).
- Le Club Chasse et Peche – The hype surrounding this place was astonishing and we didn’t think it could live up to it. The large wooden door, discreet signage and blacked out window added to the mystique and overall member’s club feeling. Inside, the front of house lady was super-friendly (of course) as she greeted us and led us to our table. Designed by the same local creative star who worked on the Pullman bar, the décor is dark, sexy yet invitingly warm. The vibe is grown up yet playful with upside down wine decanters hung as lampshades and art perfectly in tune with the look and feel. This is perhaps Montreal’s best restaurant but nevertheless it doesn’t mean hushed tones and whispering as with most grand restaurants in cities like London or Paris. The people here have fun while they eat some of the best food North America has to offer. The menu is concise: just six starters and seven main dishes to choose from. Melt in your mouth Kobe beef was perfectly executed, so much so that the diner couldn’t speak. Girolles mushroom tart came with vintage cheddar. A side of vegetables were innovatively prepared and exquisitely presented: onion puree with two small onions; cauliflower cheese with pine nuts; roasted red and yellow peppers and cherry tomatoes; miniature brussel sprouts and sauted potatoes. Desserts: Montreal berry strudel in a perfectly flaky and light pastry was a standout choice; New York cheesecake with summer fruits and milk ice cream was delish. The restaurant’s wine list is concise, especially by the glass, but perfectly balanced and matches the dishes in every way. Service was discreet, friendly and helpful (423 rue St-Claude / t: +1 514 861 1112 / www.leclubchasseetpeche.com).