Once the mercury drops below zero, hibernation sets in and carb-craving generally skyrockets. Many Montrealers can pride themselves on having skin thick enough to deal with wind and frost on a night out, but this is when Netflix ‘n’ chill becomes our national pastime and it’s tempting to put delivery on speed dial.
In an effort to encourage you all to strap your boots on, slip into an extra layer (or two) and climb out of your apartment scum-caves, here’s a list of gastronomic destinations that justify trudging through lower temperatures:
(1638 Notre-Dame W.)
In November last year, Griffintown was graced with this new project from the folks at Olive & Gourmando. Foxy secures itself a place on this list for its emphasis on open fire cuisine, headed by chef Leigh Roper (formerly of Vin Papillon and Joe Beef). With maximum occupancy numbering in at 68 seats — be sure to reserve your table — it’s a well-designed spot to hunker down and warm up. Picture chickens sizzling on a spit over a bed of Foxy-brand hardwood charcoal behind the line, while flatbreads sporting varied fired toppings are baked in a wood oven; cozy in more ways than one. Be sure to order from their small salad selection, as it too does well to employ wintry options like grilled beet and coleslaw hivernale.
Definitely a great spot to bring a group, have a stupendous time for a reasonable price and it’s only a couple hops, skips and jumps from Georges-Vanier metro.
Props go to this downtown gem for its food, refined service and décor that makes a diner feel like they’re in Wes Anderson film set in a haute-culture cabin. There are few things as seasonally satisfying as piercing their Breton-style oven-baked galette made with Quebec cheese, plucking at a plate of smoked herring, following it up with a slice of their chorizo cake and finally digging into either their braised pork shank ossobuco or pappardelle, which can (there’s two house versions) creatively employ crispy morsels of chicken skin in lieu of bacon. All told, it’s a menu that can be heavy on the stomach and provides more than enough fuel for days. Also recommended: Spring for one of the rejuvenating cocktails they sling with herbal extracts.
Chef Mark Cohen’s Brit-centric contributions to the Montreal food scene are indelible for, among many reasons, how they approach this season (or any season for that matter). This is the high time for seafood, dark leafy greens and root vegetables, and a glance at Lawrence’s menus for lunch or dinner are miles away from disappointment considering how they use these offerings. Bonus points go to how Lawrence serves up the deep, robust tastes of lesser-eaten regions of any given animal; the heady, bloody taste of hearts or the tang of kidneys, for example. Not to mention their brunch menu, which remains a Mile End staple for all of the above, plus their take on the Full English Breakfast and kedgeree, a tossing of flaked fish, rice, butter and herbs. Their prices verge on the level of special occasions, but are fair, given the quality.
Alongside Lawrence, MP is definitely one of the pricier options on this list, but it’s worth its weight in, well, weight. When it comes our common propensity towards heavier foodstuffs in the winter, chef Derek Dammann’s approach to English gastropub fare with strictly Canadian ingredients leaves no stone of satisfaction unturned. This Jamie Oliver-financed resto even feels warm as you dine, given the amiable staff and burgundy walls. It’s difficult to pinpoint specific menu options with MP, as it changes frequently enough, but there’s no better time to go than now for a glass of Canuck wine and a gooey slice of Welsh rarebit, followed by one of their tantalizing takes on duck, rabbit, lamb or beef. That said, vegetarians beware, as you’ll be hard-pressed to find something on the menu that doesn’t contain something’s flesh.
Pied de Cochon’s Cabane à Sucre
PdC’s headquarters have acted as a culinary landmark in MTL for a long, long time. You may very well be part of the camp that’s fine with vicariously chowing down there through Anthony Bourdain, all from the comfort of your own home. A surprising number of my peers, however, aren’t aware of their biannual sugar shack events. Reservations are, yes, intensely competitive, but there’s a good reason why food fanatics lose sleep over securing their spot. This is an über-buffet of inspiration, creation, execution and lavish presentation.
For the judicious sum of $63.50 per adult (tax and services not included), PdC offers an incredible range of rich and heavy dishes and drinks that changes every session. Served in such amazing quantity, you’ll need to reserve a shelf of your fridge for leftovers that can wait until you’ve risen from the resulting food coma. All told, the next date for reservations is April 1, so prepare to make the mad dash to the table. ■