Jessica Seaton, Toast’s co-founder and Managing Director provides an incomplete guide to Montreal – one of the locations for our autumn/winter 2013 photo shoot in Canada. Photography by Nicholas James Seaton.
Dominion Square Tavern, 1243 Metcalfe, Montreal, H3B 2V5 – t. 514.564.5056, tavernedominion.com
If by any chance you happen to feel an urgent need for a Mint Julep at the end of a long day’s sightseeing in Montreal, then the Dominion Square Tavern (photo above) is the place to go. On shelves above the long mirrors behind bar are ranged glittering bottle after bottle after bottle: a fine, imaginative and fully comprehensive array of scotch, gin, vodka, bitters and a myriad other ingredients, all more than suitable to serve the best mixologist’s dreams.
The interior itself is a faithful and sparkling re-creation of the original 1927 building by the current owners, who also own the Whisky Café on St Laurent Boulevard. The terrazzo floor and chandelier are original, as are the colourful Canadian coats of arms that dominate the walls.
Although we didn’t get a chance to sample the food, I have heard that the French/English menu designed by Eric Dupuis nestles fish and chips alongside duck confit. Very Montreal.
Bota Spa – Sur L’Eau, Old Port of Montreal, Corner of Commune and McGill, Montreal – t. 514.284.0333, botabota.ca
Whoever had the idea of situating a spa on a refurbished steamer right amongst the atmospheric old port of Montreal was some sort of genius.
The old port buildings loom over the still water and gently decompose in the most picturesque way. On our visit the weather was glorious with clear skies and temperatures in the mid to high 20’s. What better than to lounge on one of the soft bean bags or be immersed in a hot tub under a gushing spout whilst gazing at the new moon soaring over still water?
In addition to the hot tubs, steam rooms and saunas – called the ‘water circuit’ which winds up, down and around the vessel – there is a comprehensive selection of excellent treatments and a café with a deliciously tempting menu.
Club Social, 180 St-Viateur Ouest, Montreal, Quebec, H2T 2L3 – t. 514.495.0114
The first thing you notice about Club Social (photo above), on a bright, warm morning early in May, is how it acts as a magnet for the coffee-loving residents of Montreal. Overflowing from the pavement tables outside, from the stools ranged along the open-windowed long side and at the several tables within the dark interior, are small and larger groups of enthusiastic and dedicated customers. A permanent queue snakes to the open door, whilst the intriguingly named Jay Lucifero, and his helpers, serve up cups of the very best coffee.
But there is more intrigue about Club Social. Originally a men’s only gambling club, it was nurtured by Jay’s father and brother into a new life as a coffee shop and bar. It retains an echo from this time – you have to pay a yearly $25 membership fee for you, and a guest, to drink alcohol here.
But bring two – or more – to drink the delicious, secret blend of coffee for no membership fee at all.
St-Viateur Bagel, 263 Saint-Viateur W., Montreal, H2V 1Y1 – t. 514.276.8044, stviateurbagel.com
I have never been a particular fan of bagels, but the freshly baked sesame seed versions I ate at St-Viateur Bagel – tired after many hours of jet-lagged walking – turned me into a devoted follower. There is no other way to eat them, layered with smoked salmon and dipped into cream cheese, in the window of the bakery, whilst studying the expansive wall of press cuttings documenting the history of this Montreal landmark.
We had selected St-Viateur Bagel from a number of other competitors in the Mile End area. Bagels are a Montreal institution and are different here to the ones you may eat in places such as New York. They are boiled in honey-sweetened water and thus are both denser and more melting – with a bigger hole in the middle.
At St Viateur you cannot fail to be seduced by the way the soft, just boiled, bagels are subdued and crisped by the large wood fired oven and finally parade in glossy, stately manner down the conveyor at the end of their journey.
Just writing this makes me hungry for one again.
Next week: An Incomplete Guide to Montreal Part II.