Wednesday, 30 April 2014

April Round Up

Pho Bac 97
I went for lunch on a weekend, walking down the main, through a pretty seedy area and out the other side to Chinatown.  There's 1 block with a lot of great noodle restaurants, need to go back and try Nudo and Pho bang New York.

I mistakenly ordered a bowl of pho with tripe in it, I tried but I just can't get to grips with the consistency.  Pretty certain I'm not alone in that so won't beat myself up.  I left the tripe but the beef, the noodles, broth and accompaniments were exactly what I needed.  Available in 3 sizes, I went medium and it's pretty big.  The prawn summer rolls were great too.  Free green tea is given on arrival.  Really liked it and will be back.  Lots of people came and went, it's very popular, relaxed and great for a quick cheap bite to eat, I paid $13.

Hof Kelsten
I've been here a couple of times, it's primarily a bakery selling loaves, pastries and good coffee but they also have a sandwich and soup menu, and on weekends a few brunch selections on a handwritten menu.  I really liked my Challah French toast with bacon, poached egg and maple syrup.  Really really good.  I want to get back down there and try the salmon sandwich and matzo soup of which I hear very good things.

Osteria Venti
Early in the month, I dragged some work buddies round the corner from work to this trattoria on St Paul.  Pasta dishes were the highlight, they have an enormous chalkboard listing cheeses and charcuterie, I've just realised I lied completely in my last post claiming not to have had any local cheese in Montreal, I have had cheese, we shared the cheeseboard for afters here.  Can't have been that great, I completely forgot.  We shared the charcuterie board to start, the focaccia with olive oil was excellent.

My squid ink seafood pasta was really lovely, massive massive prawn.  Can't remember how much we paid, wasn't expensive, drank a couple of bottles of decent red.  Pasta was the highlight.

Lawrence (brunch)
I've mentioned these guys before, they are responsible for the best sandwich I've ever eaten.  I went for brunch with a monster hangover and they sorted me out.  I had the full english and a pot of tea.  There was even bubble and squeak!  Only gripe is the bowl type plate which makes it hard to manouvre things around and that there wasn't a hash brown, because their presence is always welcome.  Can't wait to get back there for dinner.  Brunch was less than $20, no booze.

Pho Bac 97
1016 Boulevard St-Laurent 

Pho Bac 97 on Urbanspoon 

Hof Kelsten
4524 Saint Laurent Blvd  

Hof Kelsten on Urbanspoon

Osteria Venti
372 St-Paul Ouest
Old Montreal

Osteria Venti on Urbanspoon

5201 Blvd St-Laurent

Lawrence on Urbanspoon
p.s. A really really great thing about Montreal is that late night eating is encouraged.  Many establishments offering a special late menu post 10pm, it's bloody brilliant.  They're also trialing some bars opening until 6am this summer, excellent timing!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Les 400 Coups

One of the places in Montreal that I've been most keen to visit is Les 400 Coups in the Old Port area.  Fellow blogger reports of meals there promised a good evening, many claiming this to be the home of the best desserts in the city.  So, I booked Sarah and I a table there for Friday night.

Admittedly a little tipsy when we arrived, we couldn't resist a couple of kir royales to get us started, props for the use of a local cassis equivalent.   The food began with some bread, we were later served a second lot.  Nice salty butter, lot to be deduced about a place by the quality of their bread and their generosity with it.

We asked for the recommended dishes and mostly went for the waiter's suggestions.  My starter was the oyster and leeks ($20).  Dishes are described by their key ingredients, keeping things simple. I like that in a menu.


Like my recent meal at Story in London, the theme is delicate and pretty presentation.  The oysters, free of their shells, and served cold (the whole dish was cold actually) and sprinkled with hazelnuts, also present were slices of apple and balsam fir which google tells me is a tree.  Ha.  Must have been used in the sauce.  I was surprised that it was all cold but it was fresh and flavours were clean. 

Sarah's starter was probably the more successful of the 2, the boudin blanc ($15) with kohlrabi, tarragon and raspberry.  I went out on my own and selected the pork main course, the waiter suggesting the fish dishes are their most popular.

I was really glad I did this actually, the suckling pig ($30) from a local farm was my favourite dish of the night.  Served with cherries, radish, celeriac puree and gale jus (I don't know what this means but it was nice, bit more of it wouldn't have gone amiss) the pork was served in fillet and croquette form.  There was some kale dotted on there too.  Very good.

Sarah's artic char ($27) would have been my second choice served with rye, fennel, honey mushrooms and sea buckthorn.  So far so good, but not wow.

We'd gone with the waiter's recommended white, glass each, to accompany the mains.  Another Chardonnay blend, they like those here.  To accompany the desserts we had a glass each of Macvin du Jura, Domaine de la Renardiere ($14).  It was dark, fruity and rich, almost like a sherry.  We had a couple of glasses each.  

I have to confess, I was disappointed with dessert.  I had super high hopes, which is always setting myself up for disappointment and I ordered badly.   I was blindsided by the mention of pistachio which was actually barely discernible.  I ordered the kalingo dark chocolate and cocoa meringue ($10).

The green bits were tarragon heavy and fresh tasting, the rhubarb sorbet was lovely, but I don't like fruit and chocolate in combination, idiot!  Sarah's Lemon cream ($10) with almonds, honey, ginger foam and lemon sorbet was more up my street.

I do really like their style though, the vibe in the room is nice, there's a long bar running down one side with the kitchen at the rear.  I would definitely come back.  I still haven't had any cheese in a restaurant here yet, madness!  Keen to try some local ones.  Service was also lovely, very knowledgeable.  Best meal I've had here so far, we paid about $170/£90 each.

Les 400 Coups
400 Notre Dame Est
Old Montreal

Les 400 Coups on Urbanspoon

p.s we had a front window table and there were loads of cats and dogs lurking about outside the place, at one point we engaged in a lengthy stare out with one of the cats, we won. 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Le Local

It was my colleague Julien's birthday and I so wanted to help him arrange his birthday dinner, without one single motive other than to make sure he had a good night.  Honestly.  I didn't intend to highjack the evening and drag a bunch of my new colleagues along to a restaurant that I wanted to visit, not at all.  But, as luck would have it, somewhere I suggested was selected and off we went to Le Local for dinner and cocktails.  What are the chances?!

I started things off with a gin martini, a very good way to judge the quality of a place, it was fine, not Zetter standard but ok.  What was great were the 3 bottles of Cháteauneuf Du Pape we shared.

My starter was right up my street, and I really struggled to pick between their signature dish (below) and their chef's starter of the day which was scallops.  I've decided the way to approach eating in Montreal these first couple of months, is to ask the Canadians what I should be eating.  Usually I pretty much know what to order before I even set foot in a place and am afraid to receive bad advise, here I'm a bit lost, despite doing a lot of research but I am giving people the benefit of the doubt.

So I ignored the scallop suggestion and went for the panko crumbed egg with golden beets, bacon and goatscheese ($13).  I have a thing about runny eggs so this was pretty much bang on, you can't see the bacon, but it was that thick smokey American style bacon that's crunchy and brilliant.  Ooh the menu also cited truffle oil as a component, but I had trouble discerning any.

My main was pretty gross to be honest.  It's maple syrup season, and I think the sugar in the air went to my head, because I ordered the braised beef with Jack Daniels maple sauce and butternut squash puree ($26).  The whole thing was waaaaay to sweet, the pickled apple wasn't even close to cutting through the sugaryness, I couldn't finish it.  Oh and I hate Jack Daniels, #lostit

We all shared the chef's treats board ($9) which is more like petit fours than pudding but there were some nice things on there, the burnt marshmallow and the blondie were my faves.  They were stingy with the bread, founcing around with a big basket of it and tonging (not tonguing) out a paltry little slice per person.  At Holder it's pretty much all you can eat, more of that please people.

This wasn't a particularly memorable meal, but I've already returned for lunch, they do a good set menu.  Salad as a starter is a thing on set lunch menus it seems, which always seems like a bit of a cop out to me.  Their soups are nice though.  It's almost Terrasse season and they have a nice outside area once it's warm, this is a vital selling point when there is snow on the ground for half the year.

Le Local
700 Rue William
Old Montreal

Le Local on Urbanspoon

p.s tartare is a huge deal here, literally everywhere, on every menu in several forms.  I'm avoiding it because, for some reason, I find this extremely annoying.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


I helped a friend move house last weekend and after drinking a lot of champagne to celebrate, we head to a nearby restaurant (local also to the office which handy, should I wish to return).  We went to L'Orignal, moose in French, happily it was on my list of must visit restaurants.

It seemed weirdly quiet for a Friday, something I put down to the bank hols but in actual fact it was because the Habs were playing, that's Montreal's hockey team, they're in the play offs, I feel so Canadian right now, it's actually very exciting, and the Montreal Canadiens are smashing it.  Yay.  Anyway, food. 

I asked what I should try and was told the smoked duck ($17) is the one.  So I did as I was told and was fairly happy with the meat itself, though the skin could have been a little crispier.  The cold accompaniments were a bit lazy in my opinion, a salad, some beans on top of the meat, some mustard seeds and pickles, not much skill anywhere besides the meat.  Lovely duck though. 

I was much happier about the following 2 courses, the lamb shank with broccoli and parpadelle ($33) was virtually faultless, I would have liked more pasta, but I really ought to eat less carbs, so really they've done me a favour.  

For dessert we shared the deconstructed tiramisu, I gave it my usual "urgh - I don't even want dessert" but this really impressed.  Crunchy coffee soaked biscuits, coffee granita and floral topped mascarpone, it looked and tasted the part.  I do hate the fonceness of a deconstructed dessert but this was genuinely a treat.  I don't suppose I should be surprised.

They have a rather nice bar area too.  The whole place feels kind of wood cabiny and cosy, the menu is heavily meaty and it all just works.  I'll be back.  One minor gripe, I told the waiter I didn't like Chardonnay, and he gave us a chardonnay blend, I'm actually allergic to Chardonnay (I get all sniffley) but he felt bad and I should have said.  I lived to tell the tale and drank more Chardonnay on Saturday.  Virtually a convert.

479 Rue St-Alexis
Old Montreal

L'Orignal on Urbanspoon

p.s. I've not decided what to do with the blog name yet, might change it, after my London trip in June.  Stay with me.