The tradition continues. Over the past seven years, I’ve made a habit of taking advantage of Thanksgiving weekend to head down to Montreal for a quick visit home. Since moving to Ontario back in 2005, I’ve returned home every three months or so to spend time with my folks and friends.
It’s easy to get caught up in a certain routine from trip to trip, visiting the same reliable places. For the sake of keeping up with the times so to speak, I try, as much as possible, to at least venture out to one new place per visit. With that in mind, friend and freelance reporter Vincent, suggested we explore boulevard Saint-Laurent and its surroundings through Rosemont, the Mile Ex and Mile End.
Here are some the place that we visited.
Café – Atelier – Showroom
71, rue Saint-Viateur est
Hungry and looking for mid century furnishings? If you answered yes to one of the two, the Brooklyn is sure to tickle your fancy. When entering the Brooklyn, you’re welcomed by a series of colourful retro folding chairs. Inside, smiling staff serve up delicious coffee, pastries and a Mediterranean inspired menu.
We took advantage of the tasting platter in order to savour all what the café had to offer. This included: a Spanish tortilla served with avjar (a red pepper and eggplant relish) and mixed greens salad, smoked trout served with labneh, caper berries and mint. We also enjoyed some barbecue-smoked veal served with tomato salad. The meal was capped off with a platter of baba ganoush, muhammara, walnut tzaziki and picked olives and mushrooms. The best way to describe the meal: fresh.
The space in the back of the café is dedicated the owner’s passion for vintage home furnishings. Her collection includes, among others, Scandinavian designed kitchen accessories, an Expo 67 mosaic or even teak furniture, just to name a few.
The Brooklyn proves to be a pleasant midday stop.
9, rue Fairmount Est
A short stroll south on Saint-Laurent from where we were, took us to Café Sardine, a restaurant with what seemed like a delightful savoury menu… But we were there to indulge our sweet tooth. Just like Toronto, Montreal is also experiencing a doughnut renaissance. According to Vincent, Café Sardine makes quite the good doughnut. It was only natural taht we give them a try. Displayed in a bright red Mastercraft toolbox, they are baked fresh daily.
On that day, Café Sardine was serving up smoke and sugar, chocolate orange and mint and bourbon. We opted for the latter two. The chocolate and orange was OK. The doughnut itself was tastier than the icing. The mint and bourbon doughnut was delicious. The glaze and the minty taste made for a great afternoon snack.
Big in Japan Bar
Located at the corner of Saint-Laurent and Rachel, on can easily walk right past the Big in Japan Bar. The red door, with the tiny inscription of the word “Bar”, Japanese characters and hours of operation are the lone signs of this elegant Montreal hangout.
The interior impresses with the large angular counter that extends throughout the bar. Tea lights lit by fuel stored under the counter punctuate seating. Dark velvet curtains surround the space creating a wonderful setting for meeting up with friends post work or to kick off the weekend.
Owned by the same person of the behind the Big in Japan, a restaurant located south on Saint-Laurent, the Big in Japan Bar offers an extensive cocktail menu. Whiskey bottles are suspended on the ceiling adding to the décor. The bar also offers a snack menu.
5295, avenue du Parc
A recent addition to the Mile End, this new bar has yet to bear an official name. It simply goes by its address: 5295. This laid-back bar takes the visitor on a trip to a 1950s, Hemingwayesque Havana complete with tropical plants and wood and wicker furniture. At the other end of the room, the visitor goes on another journey, this time in a makeshift Moroccan souk with lanterns and bright colors.
5295 offers a great cocktail selection prepared by perfectionist bar staff that take great pride in mixing up the concoction of your choice.
Notre Dame des Quilles
32, Beaubien Est
I started off my Saturday evening with my friends Jennifer, Vincent-Gabriel and Vincent at Notre Dame des Quilles. This is a perfect neighbourhood hangout where one can sip on suds on the cheap (pints were 4 $ before 7 P.M. and 5 $ after). If hungry, there is a short snack menu focused on comfort food. Items such as small bowl of mac and cheese, fishcakes or a trusty plate of chips served with house made pickled veggies and dip hit the spot just right.
The fun thing is you can also get a bit of bowling in; after all, this place is called Notre Dame des Quilles (quilles being the French word for bowling). The bar has two small bowling alleys where we all tried our best to hit a strike or two. Some of us obviously more luck than others, but regardless, it was all about having a good time. If I lived in the neighbourhood, this place would most likely be my home alley
From the casual and laid-back atmosphere of Notre Dame des Quilles we headed south on Saint-Laurent to the elegant Hotel Herman. The first thing one notices when setting foot in the restaurant is the welcoming U shaped bar in the middle of the space. In the back, Hotel Herman staff members are cooking up a storm in open kitchen.
The menu is composed of some 16 appetizer sized platters that vary in price from 8 to 23$. The best way to to sample some of chef Marc-Alexandre Mercier’s culinary creations is by sharing a couple of dishes. Over the course of the evening, Jennifer, Vincent-Gabriel, Vincent and myself sampled the venison tartar served with mushrooms, Gaspésie Rock Crab with radish and watercress. We also shared some seared duck breast, seared halibut with celeriac and seared foe gras served on a bed creamy corn and brioche. Everything we tasted was quite good. All four of us were pleasantly surprised by the crab and particularly enjoyed the foie gras and halibut. The flavours and the refined presentation of all the dishes made every bite the most enjoyable.
We capped up our evening of laughs and catching up with some dessert. We all sampled the spiced pound cake topped with squash purée and root beer cream. We also got our chocolate fix with a Manjra chocolate terrine with marrow caramel and hazelnuts. Delish.
It was great to rediscover some interesting addresses in my hometown. What are your favourite spots to grab a bite or a drink in Montreal? Feel free to share them!