Montreal – the largest French-speaking city in North America is a cultural junction — and its dizzying array of food choices from, from poutine to fine international cuisine, reflects that, in fact they boast the most amount of restaurants per capita in Canada! From spending a week here scouting out all the best places to eat, here are five fabulous eateries you really must try before you leave…
This was easily one of my most favourite places in Montreal. As well as being a wonderful and elegant space with large windows that allow huge swaths of natural light, and an abundance of hanging lush green foliage layered over a fabulous backdrop of wood and raw materials, it also perfectly captures the French spirit of the city. Started by a group of talented entrepreneurs, Cafe Parvis is a place that could easily be found on a square in Paris for example, and the menu – which serves up exceptional coffee and a fine array of European style pastries reinforces this. A favourite of both locals and Instagrammers from all over the globe – and with good reason – just one visit and I guarantee you’ll be drawn into its magical atmosphere just like I was! Make sure you try their very healthy Kombucha Tea which is supposed to amazing for digestion!
This was a place I stumbled upon when exploring the trendy Mont-Royal district. Poutine is one of the most famous dishes in the Quebec province – a warming, calorific dish of chunky French fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy offering perfect comfort food during the long chilly winters. Hippi Poutine, a family restaurant run by a couple originally from Brittany, France specialises in unique twists on the traditional dish from a Greek version (with feta cheese) to a vegetarian poutine to tofu alternatives to the cheese and homemade, gluten-free gravy sans meat. Being a non-meat eater this place meant that I didn’t have to leave Montreal without sampling their famous dishes. The tasty, varied and hearty dishes were served up in a cosy, friendly slightly alternative atmosphere and they also served all kinds of burger options too. A fabulous place for an alternative lunch or for a casual dinner.
This is the place to come if you’re any special healthy diet or if you’re just in need of a bit of a detox. Located on the gentrified Old Port, a newly trendy place where swish Champagne bars sit side-by-side with holistic spas. This was easily one of my my favourite areas and I loved its sociable laid-back vibe, it’s a place where weary office workers from the nearby financial district head to relax and unwind, have fun and dine in exceptional newly established eateries. Velish is most definitely one of these exceptional eateries. As well as enjoying views over the port and river and funky branding to boot, it serves up a colourful variety of freshly made plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free options. Choose from superfood-loaded smoothies, cold-brewed coffees, home-made soups and guilt-less gourmet vegan salads. After a few courses in this fabulous place you’ll leave happy, relaxed and feeling a hell of a lot more cleansed than when you first arrived!
Chambre à Part
For more upmarket fayre, then I’d recommend Chambre à Part, a trendy and newly opened restaurant located in the very cool Latin quarter – one of the city’s main nightlife districts. For starters the decor is just fabulous – think striking and electric with perfectly worn green metal chairs, a mix of large and small tables on a backdrop of bare brick walls, delicately flowered wallpapers and lamps of all varieties. It’s at once elegantly and visually inviting and a place you’re very unlikely to forget in a hurry. The menu, designed by chef Jean-Baptiste Marchand comes in three sections, cold, hot and a few accompaniments. The wine list is all organic and the portions are small, immaculately presented and one of my favourite touches…served on mismatched plates! Divine!
Fairmount Bagel Shop
And last but not least you’ll need to add Fairmount Bagel Shop to your Montreal foodie itinerary. North American’s take their bagels extremely seriously and this place proves it. A true Montreal Institution, it’s a delightfully old-school establishment located in Mile End the hipster district which is dotted all over with too-cool-for-school craft beer microbreweries, vintage bookstores, record shops and fun, offbeat places to eat. As well as serving up a large variety of flavoured (and plain) bagels rolled by hand and baked in a wood-fired oven. They are also endearingly embroiled in a battle with their arch-rivals St.Viateur on whose bagels are the most delicious. This is known locally as the ‘Bagel Wars’. Having a sampled a bagel from both, I honestly wouldn’t like to say which one serves up the best-baked goods, but I loved the story about the friendly rivalry of the shops – it shows what wonderfully feisty characters the owners are, and surely that’s just what every city needs!
Getting to Montreal
I flew from London Gatwick to Montreal with Air Transat (prices start from £346 return). Canadian Affair also offers UK to Montreal packages, check out their website for more information and great deals.