A few days of gastronomic overload in Montréal

montreal plaza

Deirdre Heekin pouring a magnum of Forardori the proper way

I can’t believe it took me so long to visit Montréal. Canada’s second largest city (with a population of 2 million, but double that in the metropolitan area), it’s a brilliant place to hang out for a few days. I merely scratched the surface, even though I went in hard to explore the food and drink hotspots in the city.


Straight from the airport I headed to Montreal Plaza, gate-crashing a post-tasting dinner with producers who’d taken part in Le Salon des Quilles that day. This featured some of the top names in natural wine, and I was seated next to Alice Feiring, the leading commentator on these wines. Pictured above: some of the bottles we enjoyed. Clockwise from top right, a brilliant Brasserie Dunham beer; Champ Divin Cuvée Stellaire 2106 Jura, a blend of Chardonnay and Savagnin with amazing precision;  Morei Teroldego 2015 from Foradori, which was thrillingly taut and dense; Pacina La Cerretina Toscano Bianco 2015, which is an amazingly well balanced, intense skin contact white; Brand Riesling Vom Berg 2016 from the Pfalz; and the strange Collective Anonyme Wine Punx Banyuls, which is intense and powerful and a bit crazy. The food here was excellent – really creative and delicious small plates.

The open kitchen at Pied de Cochon

The open kitchen at Pied de Cochon

After this, I headed over to meet Claude Arsenault (Norman Hardie) and MC Lauriault at Au Pied de Cochon, a very highly regarded restaurant that specialises in all sorts of rich, meaty fare. They’d eaten, as had I, so we drank wine and had a classic desert – pouding chômeur.


The wine? A really focused Alsace Riesling: the Kaefferkopf Grand Cru Le Cuvée de René 2013 from Binner. And then some Calvados. Next time I definitely want to eat here, but I need to be really hungry first, I’m told.


Feeling the evening still had some energy, we trekked over to Majestique for some more wine. In the early hours, we drank a delicious Bornard Savagnin from the Jura. I didn’t take notes.

Claude and MC at Majestique

Claude and MC at Majestique


A spot of late night Bornard (Jura)

The next day, lunch at L’Express was a highlight. I was feeling a bit sluggish, but this woke me up. This Montréal institution is a classic French-style bistro, and it is effortlessly perfect, with a really good old-school feel, honest, beautifully prepared food and a cracking wine list. With the food, a Boxler Sylvaner and also a beautiful Bojo Villages from Christoph Pacalet (2016) in all its smashable goodness.

Food at L'Express

Food at L’Express

This Boxler Sylvaner was beautiful - on the list at L'Express

This Boxler Sylvaner was beautiful – on the list at L’Express

Then it was beer time:



Reservoir is a brewpub, and they make a range of rather delicious beers, including some quirky things in bottles. We stopped here for a while and tried a few things. This would be a great lunch spot, but we were just drinking.

On Tuesday, after the climate change conference we lunched joyously and simply at Le Petit Alep.



The tasty Syrian/Armenian fare here is well matched with a great wine list, from which we tried two Alsace whites (Alsace was fast becoming a theme of this trip) and an astonishingly good Syrah. The Kreydenweiss Andlau Riesling was a tiny bit oxidative and volatile, but still enjoyable, and the Frick Sylvaner offered a lot of stony, mineral pleasure, without too much oxidative character. The star was the Hervé Souhaut Saint Joseph Les Cessieux 2014, which was the very essence of elegant Syrah. I love unpretentious, affordable restaurants with tasty food and good wine lists. We need more of them.

Dave McMillan and Vanya Filipovich, Vin Papillon/Joe Beef

David McMillan and Vanya Filipovic, Vin Papillon/Joe Beef

Then it was time to do the holy triumvirate of Joe Beef, Liverpool House and Le Vin Papillon, all on the same street and under the same ownership. This is Montreal pilgrimage territory, and it’s worth visiting the city just to hang out on this street! It was great to hang out with David McMillan and Vanya Filipovic. Vanya is the wine buyer, and also has her own import company with an epic list of producers: Les Vines Dame-Jeanne. We began at the wine bar, Le Vin Papillon, where we worked our way through a range of wines, including some really interesting Quebec wines from Pinard et Filles, and a lovely Californian Carignan from Martha Stoumann.

vin papillon montreal



David explained how Quebec has one of the oldest wine cultures in North America: the port of Montreal is older than Manhattan. Samuel de Champlain, who established Quebec City in 1608 brought with him a large array of wines and spirits: his food registers include Bergerac, Jurançon, hams, white alcohols from Alsace and more.


We then headed over to Joe Beef for an incredible dinner. This included the most remarkable fish pie I’ve experienced, among other beautifully flavoured treats, and was washed down with good wine and beer, including a bottle of Selosse Initiale.



Slowed down by this onslaught of deliciousness, but not finished, we went to the third establishment, Liverpool House, where we drank a bottle of Touraine Gamay from Gregory Leclerc.


I need to get back to Montréal soon. It’s a city with European sensibilities in North America. A rare-ish thing.

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