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Larrys

10 Jan

What is the ideal neighbourhood restaurant? Well… one imagines a small cozy place where you feel equally as comfortable just grabbing a drink and a snack or a full meal. A place that caters to all hours… not just a breakfast place or a dinner place. You want it to be accessible to everyone – somewhere you could see parents bring their kids on the weekend just as much as the young profession couple. And the food needs to great of course. Do such places exist? Well…. Mile End might have a good one based on my visits to Larrys.

Located in the old Cafe Sardine space on Fairmount, just east of the Main, Larrys is the little brother of the wonderful Lawrence restaurant just next door. I suppose you could call it a coffee shop by day and a wine bar by night but that strikes me somewhat as reductive and not truly indicative of what Larry’s offers. Larrys offers food options for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 8am to 1pm every day as well as a great selection of beer, cocktails and wine. The space is small but very warm and welcoming. I love the use of the accent wall in the back and the huge shelving unit behind the bar. Definitely has the feel of place you could stay in all day.

On our first visit, we went early so we went for the breakfast options. My girlfriend went with a combination of the breakfast muffin with a plate of smoked salmon. The breakfast muffin was a combination of apple, nuts, cinnamon, oatmeal and flour. A very hardy and satisfying muffin. The smoked salmon was equally enjoyable. Much thicker than your typical smoked salmon but still with that lovely texture and taste.

I myself went with the breakfast sandwich and a side-order of bubble and squeak. I have loved it when I ate at Lawrence for brunch and it continues to be excellent. A pork sausage patty with melted cheese, a over-easy egg, lettuce and dijon mustard on a english muffin. The bite of the dijon is a nice touch to the classic egg sausage sandwich. The bubble and squeak – a mixture of mashed potatoes and cabbage that has quickly become a personal favorite of mine – was nicely cooked and provided some hearty accompaniment to the sandwich.

The second time around, we were there for more of a brunch/lunch situation so ordered outside of the breakfast options. Hence, I ordered a corpse reviver – gin, lillet, amara, lemon and absinthe. It may have been 11 am at the time of order but no judging okay? Great balance and flavour – nice way to start the meal.

We still ordered the breakfast sandwich of course…. and it was still delicious. We also went with a plate of rillettes. Their butcher shop down the street has had great rillettes for years now so this was going to be a hit for sure. Great flavour and texture. Some people may find them too fatty but not me. Always excellent.

We then shared a trio of “lunch” dishes. First, roasted carrots with honey and muhamarah. The carrots were roasted perfectly and I loved the combination of the honey with the spicy but slightly sweet muhamarah. The fried potatoes were nicely golden and crispy. A touch of garlic and parsley came through and then you add a creamy mayo for dipping. An excellent side dish. The final dish was bulgur and pickled eggplant – a solid dish but probably the one that we enjoyed the least. Came across a little too vinegary from the pickled eggplant.

I love everything about Larrys. It helps that I love everything else that the group behind Lawrence does but still… there is something so wonderful about a place that can cater at all hours with a cuisine that is high quality and yet feels very homey and comfortable. If I lived in Mile End, I would definitely see Larrys as my neighbourhood hangout – the place to go for a drink, or a quick bit, or simply to get some work or enjoy a conversation with friends. Larrys nails the neighbourhood restaurant template perfectly.

Cheers!

Larrys
9 Fairmount Est

Larry’s Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Boulangerie Guillaume

17 Aug

When Hof Kelsten is closed for vacation, I need to find my bread fix somehow. For this summer, I decided to use the opportunity to try the other popular bakery close by to see how it stacks up, so I found myself at Boulangerie Guillaume a little further down the Main to try some different bread and goodies for a couple of weeks. The popular bakery, originally located on Fairmount, moved to a bigger location on St-Laurent and recently also took over the space next door where La Cucina used to be.

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The bakery is very modern and sleek in look with a huge display wall and a small seating area upstairs. They have also turned the old Cucina terrasse next door into a public outdoor space to sit and relax in. As with every bakery, the wonderful smell of fresh baked goods provides a wonderful fragrance as you wait to make your selections.

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Boulangerie Guillaume is very much a French bakery in nature and has a variety of breads and pastries available each day. Over the course of two weeks, I tried a few of their goods to get a sense of what they offer. First up, the first bread I tried – their demi-miche or country bread. A great crust on the outside. The interior was fluffy and nicely chewy. The rise was such that the air pockets were not too big. The bread had some heft to it with a slightly salty taste. Excellent bread.

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On my first visit, I also grabbed a few pastries. First was the white chocolate and vanilla champignon. Compared to the bread, this was more dense and rich while keeping the fluffy texture. The notes of vanilla and white chocolate were subtle but present.

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Second was a lemon and poppy mini-cake. Again a nice crust and a dense but fluffy interior. The lemon flavour came via pieces of confit lemon zest. As such, the flavour was nice when you bit into a piece of the zest but otherwise the cake felt bland.

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The following week, I tried a few different things. First a heavenly swiss cheese croissant roulé. The croissant itself was wonderfully flaky and buttery – everything that is good and bad (diet-wise anyway..) about croissants. The addition of the swiss cheese added a little sharpness.

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The apple turnover was also another hit. More flaky goodness from the turnover itself. The apple filling was smooth and sweet. I would have loved a little more inside given the size of the pastry personally.

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I also went for a different bread for round 2. I decided to try their sourdough bâtard, or torpedo loaf. Very similar texture wise to the country bread which would makes being also a sourdough. The torpedo loaf struck me as more sour in flavour though. Excellent bread once again.

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Guillaume certainly knows his bread. Both loafs were excellent and worthy of all the praise I had heard previously. The pastry were a little more hit and meh but you can see the quality there. Given the variety available, I would hesitate to try some others in the future. I am very envious of my old Plateau neighbourhood for having such amazing bakeries to enjoy. Just gives me more reasons to keep re-visiting!

Cheers!

Boulangerie Guillaume
5134 St-Laurent
514 507 3199

Boulangerie Guillaume Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Petite Maison (Brunch edition)

7 Jun

It had been a long time since I had tried a new brunch location so taking advantage of a recent beautiful spring day here in Montreal, my sister and I decided to go try a relatively new spot that I had heard good things about so far – Danny St Pierre’s Petite Maison.

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The long awaited Montreal project from Chef St Pierre is located in Mile End on Parc Avenue just north of St-Viateur. Its basement location is such that it is quite easy to walk by and miss it completely – we did as we were paying for parking! When you walk into the restaurant, the space is very clean and inviting. The use of white walls creates a much brighter space than you would expect from a basement. Simple decor accents and the stone foundation wall add some extra touches to the space. What is also not obvious when you enter is this room is not the whole space but simply the front of the house. A corridor brings you further back to the kitchen and another seating area. The divided rooms do create a more intimate feel though and help to reduce noise. Add some easy listening music and you have a nicely relaxed atmosphere for brunch.

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Petite Maison’s brunch setup is a fixed price menu – 24$ – which gets you a couple of entrees to share, your choice of a main dish and a couple of desserts to share again. A very reasonable price for the amount of food you get – I have not been that full after a brunch service in a very long time! A surprisingly good bang for your buck in that way. On top of the usual drink options, cocktails were available and I am never one to skip a good cocktail. I went with a Pimm’s Lemonade – a light refreshing drink for a brunch.

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Our first entree was duck rillettes served with onion confit, croutons, pickles and grain mustard. Fatty and rich texture as one would expect with duck. Strangely enough, the mix of the duck with the croutons and mustard – never pickles – created a very smoked meat-like flavour. The sweetness of the confit was a nice compliment to the rest of the dish.

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Our second entree was a watercress salad with green apple and nuts. A nice light healthy salad. Nice balance of acid and sweet with a bit of crunch with the nuts. A solid compliment to the previously rich dish.

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For a little extra, we also had the option of adding Chef St Pierre’s unique “Poutine Inversé” – poutine in croquettes. Very nice crunch to the outside and yeah….the initial hit you get is truly of a poutine. A cool way to present a classic Quebec dish in a different fashion. 6 wasn’t enough…. I could have eaten a basket of these babies!

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As a main dish, my sister went with the eggs Benedict with asparagus and shrimp. Classic eggs perfectly executed – the hollandaise looked thick at first but was surprisingly light in consistency which was a very pleasant discovery. The one weird element was that the shrimp in the dish were served cold which was a little strange in comparaison to the temperature of the rest of the dish. Otherwise, a very satisfactory dish that filled up tremendously – my sister was unable to finish it due to being too full!

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I ordered the pulled pork breakfast sandwich but through an error, I ended up with the fine herb omelette instead – not quite the same thing but the mistake was quickly resolved and we ended up with the extra dish on the house. The omelette, served with cream cheese and green onions folded in and some chicken fried potatoes on the side, was excellent. A soft pillowy texture but rich and flavourful. The combination of green onions and cream cheese added to the richness and brought some creaminess and sharpness. The potatoes were solid as well.

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The pulled pork sandwich came right after. Usually served with potatoes, we skipped that since they had come with the omelette. The savoury shredded pork was served over a hamburger bun with shredded cheese, arugula and a sunny side up egg. I loved the flavour of the pork. The egg made it pretty much impossible to eat as a sandwich without making a huge mess so I went open face instead. The one negative was the bun – just a un-toasted white bread hamburger bun. Given the quality of the rest of the meal, I expected something more. It was fine but just odd relative to everything else.

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Despite having pretty much no appetite anymore, we still had dessert to try. First was churros served with caramel sauce. Not served as hot you would expect but the texture was nice. The caramel sauce’s flavour was too burnt with my sister and I. The other dessert was the chocolate hazelnut torta. Also served cold, this cake was much denser than I expected but deliciously rich. Whole hazelnuts inside the sorta brought some crunch and really helped create that natural nutella flavour we all love.

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Petite Maison was a nice experience to try out – a worthy addition to Mile End. Other than the mistake on the order which they dealt with very smoothly, service was quick and attentive. The food, other than a few little issues, was on point and showed a nice level of technical prowess. La Petite Maison has dinner and lunch as well and this experience definitely has me wanted to come back and see Chef St Pierre and Co. have on tap in the evening – just another reason to visit one of my favorite hoods in the city.

Cheers!

Petite Maison
5589 Parc
514 303 1900

Petite Maison Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hotel Herman

25 Mar

Special occasions require special settings. For the night of my girlfriend’s birthday, I wanted a lovely and refined experience with good service and atmosphere…. that also needed to be open on Monday. Not that easy given Monday is typically the Montreal restaurant off day! Looking through my options, I came to one that I had neglected from my to-visit list for a long time…. so off we went back to my favourite neighbourhood Mile End to go pay a visit to Hotel Herman.

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Located on Saint-Laurent just south of Fairmount, Hotel Herman is a pretty unassuming restaurant from the outside and similarly inside. The space is focused around a beautiful U-shaped bar in the middle of the room. Small tables all around that and the open kitchen in the back so you can see the staff in action. No big visual flourishes on the walls. Lighting is low and the music is of the smooth jazz and soul variety so the general feeling of the room is relaxed but intimate. On this particular Monday, it was very quiet – much to the surprise of our waitress who stated that normally they get 70 people on Mondays but they only had 20 on this night! I can imagine the atmosphere being more energetic normally but this was very suitable for my girlfriend and I on this celebratory evening.

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Drink-wise, I was in the mood for a cocktail, so I went with their Penicilline – scotch, honey and ginger. A nicely balanced drink. The sweetness of the honey dulled the scotch enough for my girlfriend to find it enjoyable but still leaving me for the scotch smokiness that I love. We also had some lovely glasses of wine from countries I’ve never associated with wine – Czech Republic and Greece. My girlfriend originally ordered a different wine which, after our waitress served it, she came back less than 5 minutes later and switched it – stating she wasn’t happy with it. My girlfriend hadn’t really been bothered by it but much appreciation to a staff that cares enough about those details. Throughout the night, the staff was friendly and sharp. Attentive but not overbearing which can be easy on the nights where there is no one in the room.

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The dishes at Hotel Herman are of small-to-medium size with emphasis on doing ingredients in different ways on the plate. Our first starter was trout served in a gravlax-style with onions, beurre blanc and crispy seaweed. This first dish told me everything about what to expect from Hotel Herman – beautiful presentation, simple in terms of number of ingredients but so subtle, so refined and lovely flavours. The trout’s texture was beautiful – firm but still delicate enough to come apart without much effort. Lovely smoked flavour that wasn’t too salty despite its preparation – much to my girlfriend’s satisfaction due to her hatred of salt. The inclusion of the sweet onions and the beurre blanc were nice compliments to the fish.

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Our second dish was beet root served two ways with juniper berries and hay. Another beautiful dish visually although we were not blown away this time tasting it. Flavours were nice but not wowing truthfully. I did enjoy the crispy thinner strips of beet texturally but my girlfriend was not as pleased by it. We also got some of the housemate bread with butter. The bread had a nice crunchy crust but the interior was soft and dense.

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For our mains, we started with the venison heart tartare with a porcini emulsion, spruce and breadcrumbs. Probably one of my favourite tartares ever. The use of the venison heart creates a more gamey flavour and texture. Also less fatty to taste. The binding felt minimal so there wasn’t a gooey texture either to the tartare and the toasted breadcrumbs added a nice crunch to the mix. We ate this dish up pretty quickly. A huge hit for both of us.

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Our other main dish was the veal sweetbreads served with parsnip gnocchi and mustard. Another excellent dish from the kitchen. The sweetbreads were nicely cooked and still had all that fatty goodness I love with sweetbreads. The real surprise to me here though was the parsnips gnocchi. A cool way to incorporate parsnips, the gnocchi had that strong earthy flavour of the parsnip all while keeping the pillowy soft texture one seeks in gnocchi.

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Dessert wise, we decided to split the honey tart served with sour cream and sponge toffee. Nice crispy buttery tart shell on the outside, I really liked the use of sour cream to cut the sweetness from the honey filling. The sponge toffee adds an extra texturally element to the dish. A nice way to finish off the meal.

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Safe for one dish, Hotel Herman met my expectations. There is a reason that this restaurant has been one of the best ranked in Montreal for three years and has made Canada’s top 100. There is a level of attention and detail present here throughout the entire service that leaves you feeling that you are in good hands. Great service, simple but nice decor and excellent food – Hotel Herman is another great restaurant that gives Montreal a good name food-wise.

Cheers!

Hotel Herman
5171 Saint-Laurent
514 278 7000

Hôtel Herman Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cardinal Tea Room

18 Mar

Free time is somewhat of a luxury for my girlfriend and I. Now…admittedly it is pretty much by choice as we like to keep ourselves busy but regardless, when we have some – especially on a gorgeous weekend like the one we had relatively recently – I quickly enter into date mode. We need to take advantage of the opportunity – and I need to win some brownie points with the lady of course! Prior to being completely embarrassed by my performance on the skating rink down in the old port later that afternoon, I figured this was a great chance to go visit a place I had on my lists for a while now, the Cardinal Tea Room.

Somewhat secretly located on the second floor of the Sparrow bar on St-Laurent in Mile End, The Cardinal Tea Room is exactly that – a tea room in the typical British traditions, serving a variety of teas with sandwiches, pastry and salads to enjoy at the same time. Open from 11 to 7 only 4 days a week, it is not a place for a big hearty meal but for a nice relaxed light brunch, lunch or snack.

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First thing, this tea room is certainly a looker. A beautiful open two floor space anchored by a huge glass chandelier in the middle, the room is flooded with sunlights from the large windows to give it a warm and cozy feel. The key to the space though is the attention to detail and the inclusion of so much decoration to really give it that tea room feel. The jazzy music. The use of bookshelves, racquets, artwork, all the way down to the china and the handwritten painted signs. The entire space really feels like a proper British tea room without the kitsch. A lovely space to enjoy a lazy weekend.

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As we shared a tea kettle of Pai Mu Tan white tea, we decided to try a few items food wise. My girlfriend went for the open faced smoked trout sandwich. A generous portion of trout topped with some marinated onions and chives served over some cream cheese and some nice bread. A solid sandwich – light but still satisfying.

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On my end, I wanted something a little hearty so I went for the Ploughman’s lunch – a plate of cured meats, campagnard pate, sharp cheddar, a soft boiled egg, roasted beets, sliced apple and fruit chutney. Served with some bread, the plate was a nice mixture of items – individually solid but that really worked well together.

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Still feeling a little hungry and of course having a sweet tooth, we were also in the mood for some dessert. There is a daily Cardinal cake which in this instance was a ground poppy seed cake topped with some cream cheese icing. Texturally, we were surprised but the moist and smooth consistency. The icing was a little too sweet however.

We also tried the Eccles cake – essentially a puff pastry stuffed with currants and served (if so desired) with some sharp cheddar. I really enjoyed this one – the puff pastry was nice and flaky and the currants added a nice sweet bite to the dessert.

It took too long to visit Cardinal Tea Room but I’m really happy we did. A super nice and relaxed spot where I can definitely see visiting for a regular tea. I liked the options food wise and was definitely happy with the quality of items. Mile End continues to be one of my favourites areas in town and Cardinal Tea Room just reinforces that opinion. Now go enjoy some sunday tea!

Cheers!

Cardinal Tea Room
5326 Saint-Laurent
514 903 2877

Salon de Thé Cardinal Tea Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lawrence

10 Mar

A brief vacation abroad has gotten me behind on my postings so pardon the tardiness. For the event of Valentine’s Day, one seeks a restaurant where you can have a relaxed and intimate atmosphere and where you can almost guarantee a certain level of quality… especially if the restaurant is not one already known to your significant other. Sadly many restaurants succumb to the “special” St-Valentine’s day menu to accommodate the larger number of patrons they may expect. Personally that doesn’t fly for me so I wanted a place that had their usual menu and that wouldn’t be trying to push us out the door to get more people. In the end, I decided to take my girlfriend (such a strange word to write after all this time… haha) to my Mile End favourite, Lawrence. While I had never been for dinner as of yet, my brunch place of choice had been on my list for a while dinner-wise. I was pretty confident that this would be a good choice, so off we went for a hopefully lovely Saturday night.





From an atmosphere point of view, Lawrence hit it perfectly for dinner. The low lighting, the sparse yet comfy surroundings, the good but not intrusive music and most importantly, the impeccable service from end-to-end. Good attention from the entire service team and without any sense of pushing us out. Wonderful job by co-owner Sefi Amir and her team – perfect on a night such as Valentine’s day.

First up, we were treating to some of Lawrence’s wonderfully fresh bread (available at their butcher shop down the street) to go with some starting drinks. On this evening, I chose to go with the Bourdon Apple Cider. Loved the touch of rosemary to go with the combination of bourbon and apple.





For starters, I went with the salted duck breast with lentils, radishes and parmesan because I can’t say no to duck when it’s on the menu. A consistent theme with Lawrence when you scan the menu is how the combinations in the dishes seem slightly strange when you read them aloud. Thankfully however, the combinations work beautifully. In this case, the salty and fatty duck breast mixed so well with the freshness of the radishes, the sharpness of the parmesan and the lentils. Such a wonderful dish. The first bite pretty much confirmed that I had made the right choice for the night.



My girlfriend went with the octopus with chickpeas and coriander. Outside of the wonderfully tender octopus, the interesting part of this dish was the overall creaminess with the sauce which somehow didn’t overshadow the coriander and the chickpeas. Just another wonderfully fresh dish from the kitchen.



Main dish wise, Lawrence is strong on meats which I love… the fact that I greatly enjoy their butcher shop and understand the quality of meats they use made me very excited to see how they use their own products in the restaurant. My choice of the pork sirloin with sauerkraut, sage and leeks certainly lived up to my expectations. A beautiful piece of fatty pork, the acidic sauerkraut and the cooked down leeks all held together by a small sauce… just a great meaty dish. I loved this plate so much…. which makes the fact that my girlfriend’s choice was even better just blow my mind.



Pig’s offal (in this case – heart, tongue and liver) with clams and salt lemon and white beans. Just ridiculous in all the right ways. Beautiful pieces of offal cooked perfectly, the fresh clams, the rich broth, the hardiness of the beans… this dish was a perfect balance of all the elements one seeks in a dish. This is a dish who people who say they will never like offal and those who love it. If you can’t love this dish, you have a serious problem.



We still had some room for dessert so we went for a piece of marshmallow, chocolate and spice cake. The one relative negative of the night – I enjoyed all the components individually but something didn’t mesh properly together. Personally I think the texture of the marshmallow was the weak link for me.



So a slight negative to finish the evening but it didn’t matter frankly. Lawrence was the experience I had hoped for and the one I hoped my girlfriend would get to experience for her first time. It was great evening through and through. Props to Chef Cohen and the rest of the staff for the great meal. I was already a fan with brunch and their butcher shop. Dinner just confirmed how amazing Lawrence is and how I will continue to support the wonderful work they do. You should as well!

Cheers!

Lawrence
5201 Saint-Laurent
514 503 1070

Lawrence on Urbanspoon

Pizzeria Magpie

7 Sep

After a great experience at GEMA (see my previous post for that rundown), I got another hankering for a pizza the following weekend. I got some friends together and planned to head back for a second try when I discovered that they were closed for summer vacation. Darn….. well we still had a desire for pizza, so where to go? Thinking about places nearby, I had a flash and remembered Pizzeria Magpie, located across the street from Chez Serge bar in Mile End. One of those places I have had on my never-ending list for a while but kept forgetting about. We drove up hoping they had room for 4 on a Saturday night and luckily for us, they did.

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First thing I noticed walking in was the overall look and vibe. A small intimate space overall with the open window in the front to give a little terrasse feel, low lighting, a beautiful dark bar on the side, the blackboard menus and the ceramic-tiled pizza oven visible to all – Magpie gives off a relaxed cafe/bar feel but with enough intimacy to be a solid date place and enough “edge” to be a cool place to bring friends for a happy hour or late evening meal. Loved it completely – this place goes on the possible date locations list (whenever the heck that ever happens again… but that’s a story for another day).

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For starters, we grabbed some of their cocktails to get the evening started. My friends selected the Pimm’s Cup and the Magpie Caesar. The Pimm’s Cup, served with some mint and cucumber, had exactly the kind of citrus and spice flavours you look for. Very refreshing. As for the Caesar, it certainly looked impressive – especially with the steak spice used on the lip of the glass, however I hate Caesars (yes… another thing to add to the list) so I didn’t try it. My friend certainly enjoyed it though. In my case, I went for the Dark and Stormy – dark spiced rum mixed with the house made ginger soda. Very nice balance between the sweet rum and the ginger.

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Before the pizzas came, I just had to order some oysters. On this evening, Magpie had 3 varieties – Conway Royals, Gooseberry Bay and Tresor and I asked for the mix of all three. Served with fresh horseradish, lemon and lime wedges, a mignonette and some hot sauce, the oysters were all of good size and shucked perfectly. Nice start to the meal.

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But really, the key here is the pizza…Magpie is a pizzeria after all. There are 9 regular pizzas available as well as a special of the day. Since we were four people, we decided to order four different ones and share them in order to try as many as we could. Before we address the topping options, let’s talk dough – the foundation of the whole thing. Magpie, using that beautiful wood oven over in the corner, do it pretty well. Had I not been to GEMA about a week prior, I may have said it was best in Montreal. After that experience, I would say it is very good but just a level below the best. The crust has a good levity and chewiness to it with a decent crispiness on the bottom, however to get the crunch, we end up having some burnt spots on the pizzas. I wouldn’t have had an issue with it before but if we are going to compare the best pizza joints in Montreal, we are now at that point…

Anyway, the first one up was the special of the day – a gravlax pizza with onions, tomatoes and dill. A very creative option – the gravlax itself was delicious and quite plentiful on the pizza. The fresh dill, tomatoes and onions work well with gravlax normally so of course it would work on a pizza. Loved the overall quantity of topping as well. An excellent out-of-box option which in my opinion is worth keeping around as a regular option.

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Next up was the goat cheese pizza with pancetta, arugula, basil and tomato sauce. Due to photographer error, I don’t have a picture of this one to share but regardless you get the picture anyway. Great combination of the creamy goat cheese with the salty rich pancetta to elevate this one past the traditional Margherita. Excellent pizza.

The third one was the prosciutto pizza with arugula, cherry tomatoes, bocconcini and tomato sauce. Another solid pizza – any pizza with prosciutto is good by me – although personally I felt that there was way too much arugula over top of this pizza which kinda made it overly peppered.

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The final pizza was the Bianca – with roasted garlic, spicy capicollo, cherry tomatoes, bocconcini and herbs. This is one spicy pizza – a little too much for my liking personally. I was quite surprised at just how much the capicollo overpowered everything else on this pizza. I also would have enjoyed a bit more cheese on this one. Good but my least favourite of the four easily.

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Pizzeria Magpie is a solid entry in the Montreal pizza scene – and by far the best in Mile End in my eyes. The cocktail and oyster combo with the relaxed and intimate atmosphere make it a perfect place for a quick bite or drink before a larger meal – and that is without taking the pizzas into consideration. They also do weekend brunch now which intrigues me tremendously. Not my first choice for a pizza but close enough – both in quality and in location – for me to definitely be back in the near future.

Cheers!

Pizzeria Magpie
16 Maguire
514 507 2900

Pizzeria Magpie on Urbanspoon

Bishop and Bagg

14 Apr

The Burgundy Lion guys opened a new pub even closer to my apartment. That’s pretty much all I needed to hear in order to run over and check out Bishop and Bagg. Located in Mile End on the corner of Clark and St-Viateur where an Italian café used to be, this English pub is right along my regular spring/summer bike path to and from the Market, so this could get very hairy for me as the warm weather rolls around. I was very excited to see in what ways this spot would differ from the Lion which continues to be my favourite pub in town.

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Bishop and Bagg is a smaller, more intimate place when compared to the Burgundy Lion. Part of that is the smaller floor space so less people in the pub but also the overall vibe – there are no TVs and the music is more ambient compared to the Lion’s higher decibel count (which is the one thing that is starting to bother me about the Lion – now scratched off the possible date spot list as conversation is basically impossible). The use of dark burgundy colours, old framed pictures and the old school wood bar really give it an authentic British pub look – perhaps even more than the Lion itself.

The other interesting aspect of Bishop and Bagg is how they seek to mimic a true pub experience through the service – there are no waiters per se. Everything is done at the bar – you order all food and drinks through the barman via your table number and it is sent to you as ready. Each “round” is added to a table tab and then you divide up the damage later on. Definitely a different take for a pub and one that I am curious to see how well it works on busier nights (I will have to do my research…). Either way, it creates a more relaxed vibe that is enjoyable.

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The drink menu will be familiar to anyone who frequents the Burgundy Lion – same varieties of beer with a few different cocktails showcased here. Pleasant surprise when I walked in – my favourite bartender from the Lion has made the move over it would appear, so I knew the cocktails would be on point. My multiple Boulevardiers (Bourbon, Campari and Sweet Vermouth) proved I wasn’t mistaken.

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As for the food, it is certainly not what one would call classic pub cuisine but Bishop and Bagg doesn’t aim for that anyway. Their website states that this is a “pub with great food”, one that isn’t traditionally British but what they call country pub inspired. All right then. First, we grabbed some small snacks – hickory styx and some spiced nuts with rosemary. Nice snacking options to go with some drinks – I was particularly enjoying the spiced nuts which had the right hint of rosemary on top of the other spices going on. The hickory styx were a nice alternative to basic chips.

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As main dishes, we tried two different ones. First up, lamb kebabs served on pitas with some tzatziki sauce, lettuce and vegetables. Nice favours across the board here – the lamb was cooked properly, the sauce added nice creaminess without overpowering the rest of the dish and the vegetables were nice & fresh.

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The second dish was porchetta with grilled escarole and white beans. Loved this dish – the fattiness of the porchetta, one of my favourite meat preparations, paired with the grilled escarole, the white beans, some parsley and a little onion as well. If you had told me this is what I would be eating at a pub, I would have probably laughed at you. This dish would seem much more at home in a different setting but it totally works. Well done all around.

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Loved my initial visit to Bishop and Bagg. Great food, great drinks and an awesome atmosphere – I cannot wait to go back shortly, especially knowing terrasse weather is on its way and as such, that little terrasse will be open as will the garage door windows. I may not go to the Burgundy Lion as often this summer but no worries to the ownership group, I will still be a frequent customer… just elsewhere.

Cheers!

Bishop & Bagg
52 St-Viateur O.
(514) 277-4400

Bishop & Bagg on Urbanspoon

Hof Kelsten

12 Dec

Over the past few months, I had heard plenty about a bakery right on the edge of Mile End. A place started by a chef who, turns out, sells bread to many of the best restaurants in the city – Joe Beef, Toqué! and Nora Gray to name a few – something that I had never known and that completely blew my mind. The fact that all of these places look to Chef Jeff Finklestein for bread speaks volume about the quality of his product. His new bakery Hof Kelsten now allows us common folk to get a fresh loaf for ourselves.

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Hof Kelsten is located just off the corner of Saint-Laurent and Mont Royal in what I recalled being an old super club Videotron which was confirmed when I noticed that the overnight return slot in still present with the sticker above it. There is no sign outside and the interior is relatively sparse – unfinished wood counters, a white tile wall, concrete floor and a few spot to sit down. The only indication of the name is the green fluorescent lights shaped into Hof Kelsten above the counter. Behind the bread wall, you can see the large kitchen where all the work is done.

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Hof Kelsten offers a variety of bread and pastries with a few weekly specials such as Challah only available on Fridays. For my initial visit, I went with a loaf of their sourdough. Now I love sourdough bread – it is pretty much the only bread I eat when in the States as it is readily available there. I have never been able to find good sourdough to bring home here until now. This bread was great – beautiful crust, great flavour and perfect texture. I finally have sourdough bread in Montreal. Thank the heavens!

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For the bread alone, I will be coming back quite often from here on out but there is even more. They also have a sandwich menu and a number of other items with a strong Jewish influence. Grabbing lunch, I went with the brisket sandwich with a half portion of Matzo ball soup and some latkes. The brisket is served warm with sliced apples, red cabbage and beet slaw with what appeared to be a homemade thousand island dressing all on the house rye. Just a wonderful sandwich. I never would have thought of apples and thousand island dressing with brisket but the combination works extremely well.

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The Matzo soup was wonderful as well – great depth of flavour in the stock (and surprisingly not as salty as I expected), generous amount of chicken and vegetables in the soup and the matzo balls themselves were great. A perfect addition on a cold December as it was.

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The last item was the latkes – quite large individually. Great crust on them while maintaining a nice texture inside. The surprising plus was the dipping sauce – a nice sweet addition that offset the lack of actual apple sauce to use instead (Note that I’ve always been a apple sauce over sour cream guy).

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All in all, Hof Kelsten is a great bakery that lived up to all the praise I’ve heard and then some. The fact that I am only a quick bike or drive (or longish walk) away means that I have found my new “neighbourhood” bakery. Getting restaurant caliber bread on a weekly basis will be a beautiful thing and something that everyone near and far should run over for as quickly as they can.

Cheers!

Hof Kelsten
4524 Saint-Laurent

Hof Kelsten on Urbanspoon

Beauty’s Luncheonette

21 Oct

Certain restaurants in Montreal are what one would call institutions. As a local Montrealer, these are places that you should get to at some point because to miss them is to miss out on experiences that are part of what makes Montreal special when it comes to food. Schwartz’s, Moishes (eventually in my case), Laurier BBQ before the Ramsey fiasco, St-Viateur and/or Fairmount bagels (depending on where you side on that debate but that’s a story for another day), etc…. In the end, you may leave slightly underwhelmed because your experience couldn’t possibly match up to the hype but regardless, they are places that you must experience for yourself.

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Beauty’s is such a place. A staple of Montreal since 1942, they have been owned by the same family the whole time and have been serving up breakfast in Mile End ever since. Any day of the week you pass by, you will see a line-up outside. On this beautiful thanksgiving weekend, before heading to watch the Alouettes sadly get beat at Molson Stadium, I finally got my chance to visit Beauty’s with some friends for a little late breakfast.

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Beauty’s is known for their special – cream cheese, smoked salmon and onion on a bagel. However, I am not much of a fan of smoked salmon so I chose to go with the Beauty’s basic – two eggs, home fries, one meat with a bagel. A simple dish but one that must be spot on if you are worth your salt as a breakfast place. Very good overall. The home fries in particular were quite delicious.

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To that, we originally ordered some latkes and I took a Classico Beauty’s smoothie. However, they had run out of latkes by the way we got our order in. So just the smoothie would have to do. Strawberry, banana and orange juice – simple but classic. A nice thick consistency and very delicious. The perfect complement to a nice breakfast.

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Is it a earth shattering breakfast? Not exactly. But it is a Montreal landmark that serves a very good breakfast. The place looks exactly like what you think it would – a diner that has been going since 1942. It has a wonderful old fashion feel that I absolutely love – right down to the owner greeting you at the door and joking with you as you wait for your table. You may want something more unique or different for breakfast but that’s not Beauty’s and that’s fine. They simply do a damn fine breakfast as they have been doing since 1942. For that reason alone, you need to check it out. I waited way too long. You don’t have to make that same mistake.

Cheers!

Beauty’s Luncheonette
93 Mont-Royal West
514 849 8883

Beauty's on Urbanspoon

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