Savouring the multicultural flavours of Montreal

So few days, so many great restaurants. A taste test of Montreal's incredible restaurant scene

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MONTREAL, Que. Jan. 12, 2017/ Troy Media/ – The Montreal food scene is as delightfully diverse as its multicultural inhabitants. Eighty languages are spoken in this city. And its celebrated gastronomic delights far exceed Montreal’s prized smoked meat at Schwartz’s Deli and its high-quality bagels at either St. Viateur Bagel or the Fairmount.

In fact, Montreal boasts the highest number of restaurants per capita in Canada. In North America, second only to New York City. The problem ‒ with a few days available to a casual visitor, how best to acquire an overview? The solution ‒ take the “Old Montreal Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour” that features not only historic landmarks but also favourite locales where Montrealers dine.

We start at 433 McGill St. at [popup url=”” height=”1000″ width=”1200″ scrollbars=”1″]Brit And Chips[/popup], reportedly Montreal’s best fish and chips shop. Our guide, Darren Shore, greets a motley North American contingent from Boston, Bar Harbour, Winnipeg and Niagara. He points out the Grand Trunk Railroad Building across the street, once owned by Charles Melville Hays, who perished aboard the doomed Titanic. He also explains what looks like a giant tuning fork sculpture, a contemporary demarcation of the historic fortress wall that once surrounded early Montreal where French navigator Samuel de Champlain set up a fur-trading post named Place Royale. And while Canada celebrates its 150th birthday this year, Montreal enjoys its 375th anniversary.

Inside the clean, bright Brit And Chips restaurant, we sample classic cod and chips. They also offer haddock, salmon, sole and hake. Prices are reasonable and the service is superb.

We hang a left on St. Paul St. and enter chef Helena Loureiro’s [popup url=”” height=”1000″ width=”1200″ scrollbars=”1″]Cantinho De Lisboa[/popup], a popular eat-in and take-out Portuguese market and café where we experience authentic caldo verde, Portuguese green soup, with a fresh garbanzo salad. Loureiro’s cookbook and colourful Portuguese ceramics are featured here, as well as freshly baked breads and pastries, artisanal charcuterie and cheese. Shelves are stocked with home-made gourmet items and unique condiments selected by Helena during her travels through Portugal. I notice the delectable pastéis de nata (custard).

More to the story: [popup url=”” height=”1000″ width=”1200″ scrollbars=”1″]Beautys Luncheonette a Montreal classic[/popup] by Mike Robinson

We take another left on St. Pierre and arrive at [popup url=”” height=”1000″ width=”1200″ scrollbars=”1″]Crew Labs Collective & Café[/popup], formerly Montreal’s historic Royal Bank. With its vaulted, ornate ceilings, it’s a convenient and exceptional place to meet and work. A coffee shop is set in front of the collective offices with private rooms to the left and right of the dining area ‒ available for rent at $25 per hour. I enjoy a delicious aioli spread sandwich along with a freshly brewed coffee. Tempting pastries and fruits are also available.

Around the corner on St. Jacques St., we head into [popup url=”” height=”1000″ width=”1200″ scrollbars=”1″]Cookie Stéfanie[/popup] for a gluten-free, moist carrot cake with a generous topping of homemade cream cheese icing on top. The neighboring former Imperial Bank of Commerce with its ornate, Corinthian columns visibly anchors the street.

Place D’Armes is our next stop, an historic square that features a monument to Paul de Chomedey, Montreal’s founder, the Notre-Dame Basilica, Saint-Sulpice Seminary, New York Life Building, Aldred Building, Bank of Montreal head office and 500 Place D’Armes.

This is a departure point for calèches offering romantic horse-drawn tours of Old Montreal. Darren informs us that church attendance has dropped off such that the Basilica’s primary funding consists of the $5 entrance fee from tourists. Here, famous Québeckers such as Céline Dion were married and VIPs such as Montreal Canadiens superstar Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau were given state funerals.

As we trek south parallel to the St. Lawrence River, across the water, we recognize the Montreal Biosphere, Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome. It was the U.S. pavilion at the 1967 World Fair or Expo 67. There is Habitat 67, the housing complex designed by Israeli/Canadian architect Moshe Safdie and, in contrast, a new item, Bota Bota, an up-scale spa on the riverfront.

Turning back on McGill Street, we arrive at [popup url=”” height=”1000″ width=”1200″ scrollbars=”1″]Bistro-Brasserie Les Soeurs Grises[/popup], a casual brewpub named after the Grey Nuns. I enjoy a local craft beer with cheese pairings. Darren tells us that Marguerite d’Youville, the founder, was accused of luring the poor with her cellar filled with alcohol. Nevertheless, “the drunk sisters” chose grey habits as a sign of humility.

Our last stop is [popup url=”” height=”1000″ width=”1200″ scrollbars=”1″]Soupe Soup[/popup], a bright, inviting lunch spot which offers locally sourced food inside a converted warehouse. In a relaxed atmosphere, we enjoyed a Québécois classic, “pudding chômeur,” irresistibly delicious and addictively habit-forming. Pudding chômeur (unemployment pudding or poor man’s pudding) was created by female factory workers during Québec’s Great Depression. Today, it’s served with maple syrup as a regional dessert, and it’s often offered at regional sugar shacks.

Beyond the eclectic food tour, we savoured a seven-course tasting menu at [popup url=”” height=”1000″ width=”1200″ scrollbars=”1″]Chez L’Épicier[/popup], a popular French restaurant gracing Old Montreal’s romantic narrow streets and fascinating shops. For the past 10 years, Chez L’Épicier’s chef, Laurent Godbout, has accumulated numerous culinary prizes and awards, and his creations served to us resembled miniature works of art.

The third course was my favourite ‒ Icelandic cod with celeriac risotto, rice milk emulsion, pine nuts and parmesan tile coupled with Sonoma County’s Hobo Wine Company’s 2014 Chardonnay. Our waiter and sommelier, Julian, impressed us with his spot-on choices of Niagara (Tawse), French, Californian and Québecois wine and cider pairings from an extensive wine menu.

We stayed for two nights at [popup url=”” height=”1000″ width=”1200″ scrollbars=”1″]l’Adresse du Centre-Ville[/popup] B&B, an 1875 home located in Montreal’s Latin Quarter, one of Trip Advisor’s top-10 rated Montreal B&Bs, within walking distance to Vieux Montreal and Place des Arts in the downtown area, where we took in an exceptional performance by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra featuring pianist, Denis Matsuev.

Our gracious hostess Nathalie served us Québecois style breakfasts ‒ coffee, juice, bread pudding with four tasty home-made condiments followed by scrambled eggs with sprouts and herbs. On our second day, we enjoyed tiny waffles with pure maple syrup and medallions of apple and fig.

We stayed another two comfortable nights at the [popup url=”” height=”1000″ width=”1200″ scrollbars=”1″]Marriott SpringHill Suites[/popup] in the heart of Old Montreal, where they served a daily delicious hot and cold complimentary breakfast.

This year, Montreal celebrates its historic founding with diverse, exciting events throughout the year. The food served here is the icing on its cake.

Mike was hosted on this trip.

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