Back to Montreal, and this time we’re in Old Montreal. Our meal previous to this on our trip in late October was dinner at Joe Beef. The plan had been to have a lazy morning to recover from that dinner and then go to the Museum of Fine Arts in the afternoon before dinner at Hotel Herman (review coming soon). But our Montrealer friends that we dined with at Joe Beef recommended that we spend time wandering around Old Montreal instead and that we begin the day with brunch at Olive et Gourmando. I’m very glad we listened to them. The food was very good indeed and was excellent fuel for a few hours of walking around the old city.
Olive et Gourmando is a Montreal institution at this point, especially for weekend brunch. They do not take reservations and so we had been warned that we might have to wait a while. And so seemed to be the case when we arrived. We were told the wait would be at least 25 minutes. The restaurant was jammed and there were quite a few people waiting, inside and out. As we’d worked up a bit of an appetite walking from our hotel, we decided to get some pastries from the counter while we waited. Fate smiled on us, however, and we were offered a table before we’d even paid for the pastries. The host told us that he would have the pastries, and the missus’ coffee, delivered to our table and off we went.
The table itself was a bar at the very rear of the restaurant. It was a little bit cramped (with the kitchen right behind) but we were glad to be there rather than in the scrum of the main dining room. And since we were right in front of a large window, with plants etc., it actually was a fair bit more tranquil there than anywhere else in the place. Now if you read up on the place you’ll see references to a confusing order process and having to pay at the cash register and unfriendly service. We encountered none of these things. Perhaps the process is different at weekend brunch but we were given an attractive printed menu and ordered and paid as we would at any sit-down restaurant. And despite how jammed they were for Sunday brunch, the service was perfectly hospitable, if not always perfectly smooth. I can’t imagine they’d be less friendly on weekdays when they’re probably less busy.
What did we eat? A croissant and another pastry from the counter—I’m not very good with European pastries; see if you can identify it from the slideshow. Both were very good, but despite having been ordered pretty much as we entered the restaurant, they arrived with the cooked food. I put this down to the madness of the weekend crowds. The missus got their oeuf coquette and it was very good indeed: a poached egg in a tomato sauce with feta, avocado, house-made chorizo and excellent grilled bread. I would have been happy eating all of this; but I was also very happy eating my tartine with excellent house-made ricotta, pickled slivers of asian pear, cucumber and nuts with a tangy, herbal dressing. And oh, you might also see complaints online about small portions—we didn’t find that to be the case either. The missus enjoyed her coffee; I am sorry to say that Montreal is no better than your average American city when it comes to options for tea: I drank water.
For pictures of the restaurant and the food, plus some scenes from elsewhere in old and new Montreal, launch the slideshow below; a few final thoughts are at the end.
I’m not much of a weekend bruncher but I quite enjoyed this meal. We were seated right next to the part of the open kitchen where hot sandwiches were being prepared and stacked ahead of time (there was a steady flow from these stacks to tables—they clearly know the demand), and if I got a chance to come back I’d want to try their Cuban sandwich and also the grilled cheese with raclette (assuming this weekend brunch menu stays pretty static). I can’t imagine coming back as a large group though—the waits for those tables must be particularly tough if you don’t get there early.
All of this came to $48 (USD) or so after tax and tip; not a cheap meal by any means but not bad for the quality. And, as I said, it was excellent fuel for the rest of the day. We started out walking around Old Montreal, where among other places, we visited the Notre-Dame basilica, which is a good place to go to if you want a reminder of why the Reformation was necessary. We then repaired to the Museum of Fine Arts where we took in the last day of an excellent Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition and “Focus: Perfection”, a quite comprehensive Mapplethorpe exhibition. Both highly recommended if they come to your town. Also interesting was a lot of work by contemporary Canadian artists we’d never heard of; in particular, three large paintings by Kent Monkman, the “Trilogy of St. Thomas”, that were satirical, moving, epic and finely observed all at once.
Good food, good art, a beautiful city: life could be a lot worse.