We spent last week in Montreal, visiting friends and old haunts, and taking the first downtime we’ve had since December. It was the relaxing & refreshing trip we needed, I think.
After the long drive to Montreal, with a brief stop at the Kingston Brewing Company along the way, we arrived at a familiar home base: the Hotel Nelligan. We dropped our stuff, got cleaned up, and then took a swing at dinner. Lindsay had done a bit of digging on the way into town and found Monarque; while they didn’t have reservations left, we took a chance and showed up. Luckily for us, there were two seats at the bar. Our meal was super tasty, and we liked the vibe. Here’s what we ate & drank:
- Ocean trout tartare w/ smoked sour cream, mimosa garnish, trout caviar
- Grilled Octopus w/ fattoush, labneh, dukkha, chermoula
- A glass of Domaine Laroche, Les Butteaux, Chablis 1er Cru 2020 for me, and a Queen Bee cocktail (gin botanist, lillet, lacto-fermented mango & chili honey, lemon, orange blossom) for Lindsay
- Main (shared)
- House-made Thai sausage w/crunchy vegetables salad, peanut, nuoc cham
- A bottle of François Mikulski 2019 Meursault
- Milk chocolate panna cotta w/ hojicha tea, caramel
- A glass of Madeira for me, and Port for Lindsay
After a pretty healthy lie-in (it was a VERY comfy bed!) I went downstairs for some breakfast while Lindsay relaxed. We had a lazy morning until heading out for brunch at Le Cartet around the corner and eating our fill. Lindsay had eggs benny served on an English muffin, orange hollandaise sauce, duck confit and onion compote with red wine, spinach, roasted potatoes with salted herbs, and greens. I had brioche French toast with apple butter, caramelized walnuts, chocolate crumble, chocolate mug cake, caramelized apples, salted caramel custard, and fruit salad. We walked it off along the waterfront, sat on the promenade du Vieux Port, and enjoyed the warm weather.
After relaxing for a few hours back in the room (I watched the new episode of The Boys) we went downstairs to the wine bar for a drink (okay, fine, we had a bottle of Viognier) before heading to dinner at Marcella, a new Italian place just down the street from the hotel. It was bustling and loud and had great music on the speakers. Our cocktails were good and the sausage and fennel salad were tasty. Everything was really great…until the pasta. We split the carbonara, and it was just so disappointing. My theory is that, because it was just before the kitchen closed, a line chef slapped it together or re-warmed it. Or something. It was bad. Overall the night was a good one, but that wasn’t a good note to go out on. (Also, we ordered a bottle of Barolo, with which I sometimes struggle.)
- Italo Fizz: Bombay Gin, Martini Bitters, lemon juice, simple syrup, soda, Pastis
- Smoky Old Fashioned: Bulleit Bourbon, Jack’s Bourbon Cherries, Angostura Citrus
Bitters, Jack’s Bourbon Cherry Syrup
- Homemade Italian sausage, rapini sautéed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil
- Fennel salad with endives, mandarin, and citrus vinaigrette
- Chitarra Carbonara
It was hard to believe we’d only been in Montreal 36 hours. I’d definitely achieved a relaxation level I’d not felt in some time.
After some breakfast downstairs, we walked out of Old Montreal for the first time on this trip, meeting our friend N outside the not-yet-open (despite what the hours on their website and their door say) L’Ideal before plan B-ing our way around the corner to the cafe Saint Henri for some coffee and co-work time. We did eventually make our way back to L’Ideal — again, after some confusion about the hours — but settled in and enjoyed some funky wine. We chatted for a few hours, enjoying the fresh air, even if it was infested with so much pollen it looked like a mild snowstorm. Once good and chill, we walked home and crashed at the hotel.
For dinner we’d booked in at Nora Gray. We didn’t rally get the full experience as Lindsay suddenly felt very sick and we had to cut the evening in half, but I really enjoyed what we did have:
- Homemade focaccia, pepperoncini, La Villana olive oil
- QC lobster, asparagus, pickled ramp, brown butter crumble
- Bottle of P. Frick 2018 “Auxerrois” Crémant d’Alsace
- Fettucine, calamari, pancetta, spicy tomato sauce, chive
- Capunti, fresh peas, lamb sausage, mint, piave
- Grilled pork chop, zucchini, sunflower seed, fennel pollen
- A glass of Rosso dell’Emilia 2017 “Le Marcone”
Would definitely go back if/when all parties were up for it.
After yet another good sleep, I popped downstairs for breakfast while Lindsay tried to exorcise whatever demon possessed her body the night before. We kept the morning pretty relaxed, overall, watching an episode of Gaslit in bed while Lindsay nibbled gingerly on a croissant. Eventually we went out for a walk along the water, stopping in a park to admire a fountain and squeal at some cute ducks.
Eventually we got hungry, and went round the corner to Pub BreWskey. We opted to sit inside, but later regretted it. I had a salad and a fruit smoothie sour; Lindsay had mac & cheese and a grisette. I needed to eat some vegetables, and she needed to eat something, so we both did well, I think. After another walk & sit by the river, and a nice flat white from Aloha, we went back to the hotel to relax a little more before dinner.
Dinner #4 was at old favourite Maison Publique. It’s not far from where Lindsay used to live, so we went every time I was in town. Four years away didn’t diminish our affection for the place, nor had the food suffered — the meal was absolutely delicious.
- Mozzarella with radish and pesto
- Duck hearts in a spicy diavola sauce
- Smelts grilled in lemon, butter, capers, tarragon
- Ravioli with ricotta, garlic
- Halibut in a cream sauce
- glasses of a Mâcon Chardonnay
- a bottle of Chardonnay from Jura, very funky and different but delicious with our meal
- pot de crème
- strawberry tart
- glasses of red wine (Lindsay) and Jurançon (Dan)
Time to leave our hotel, and Old Montreal. As the week got closer to the big F1 weekend, it was becoming nearly intolerable anyway. After a quick lunch at Mandy’s we jumped in the car and drove to a new neighbourhood. N lent us their apartment for a few days, and we got ourselves settled in just ahead of the huge rainstorm which battered Montreal on Thursday, In between downpours we managed to skip over to one of our old favourite beer bars, Brouhaha. We had some tasty pints (me: a brown and a session IPA; Lindsay: a sour and a rauchbier; Finchy: lager) and a flatbread pizza, and timed our escape for another lull in the rain.
Later that night we met up with N= J at Brouillon Café-Buvette for a pre-dinner drink. We’d originally planned to visit somewhere outside of the city, but the biblical rain would have made that pretty miserable, so N smartly booked us in for a late dinner at Pichai. Luckily it had been on my list of places to try, not just because it was on the Canada’s Best 100 list, but because they’re known to have a great wine selection — which, it turns out, was curated by Nora Grey’s sommelier. It turned out to be an exceptional choice — what a wonderful meal.
- Veal tongue
- Fried rice w/ scallops
- Green papaya salad w/ peanuts & dried shrimp
- Fish balls in sweet chili sauce
- Grilled hangar steak w/ rice powder, herbs, lemon
- Sauteed Argentinian shrimp, green beans, chili, basil
- Wine bottles (note: their list isn’t online and I didn’t take good notes/pictures, so this is all I remember)
- Pierre Frick Muscat Sec
- Giardino Gaia orange wine
I went out in the morning to get coffee and pastries from a local place called Miche & Carré. The croissants and my capp were good; sadly Lindsay’s Americano was not.
Eventually N + J met us here, and we jumped in the car for a day trip out to see La Fondation Grantham. We were there in part to see an exhibition called Exhibition Troubled Garden: Study for Migratory Roots:
The Iranian-Canadian multidisciplinary artist Anahita Norouzi is interested in displacement issues related to notions such as statelessness and hybridity. For two years, in collaboration with the Biodiversity Research Centre of the Université de Montréal, she is developing a research/creation project on the ecological, cultural and social dimensions of migration issues from the perspective of non-native plants that have appeared in Quebec as an extension of the migratory flows of populations. Curator: Bénédicte Ramade. [source]
We were also there to see the building itself, tucked into the landscape and old forest, with a river running lazily by. We found trails afterward, and got some fresh air and walking in before the mosquitoes found us.
On the way back to Montreal we were hungry, so we pulled off the highway and visited Cantine Chez Dave & Dan in Saint-Liboire, a box on the side of the road which served up delicious hamburgers and chicken burgers and enough fries to kill a horse. We piled back in the car and did our best to stay awake as we drove back in to Montreal traffic, narrowly missing rush hour and another thunderstorm. We decided not to tempt fate, as we’d done the day before, and just stayed in.
Not much to Saturday: packing, one last coffee with N as we handed their apartment back to them, and a drive home. We fought one last brutal rainstorm on the way out of town, but the rest of the drive was pretty easy. We even stopped in Cornwall and fulfilled Lindsay’s nostalgic wish for an East Side Mario’s lunch.
We came home to a Kramer who yelled at us for a couple of minutes but pretty quickly became an affection monster. Not a bad welcoming party, really.
A week where we did little but sleep in, dine out, drink well, and see friends did us a world of good. As much as I love vacations where we experience something new and fill our brains with different, this was what we needed right now.