This is the very last of my reports from our trip to Montreal in late October. While I’ve presented the rest of those meals in chronological order, this one is a break in the sequence. You see, we stopped in at this wonderful bakery on the way back to our hotel from a day of gorging at the Jean-Talon market—having finished there with a large order of poutine covered in foie gras-laced gravy—and a few hours before our dinner at Joe Beef. Don’t judge. Or if you do, consider that we walked all the way back from Au Kouign-Amann to our hotel downtown. At any rate, to go to Montreal and not eat at a boulangerie/patisserie would be both stupid and impossible to resist doing: there are literally seventeen of them on every street; and Au Kouign-Amann was one that was recommended by almost everyone who knows Montreal.
As you would expect, they are most famous for the pastry/cake that gives them their name, the Breton kouign-amann. This is not to say that this is the only thing worth eating here. As we were not exactly hungry, however, we restricted ourselves to the kouign-amann and one other pastry (this we were told was a Danish, though it didn’t look like the pastry usually sold by that name in the US—please look at the picture below). As I’ve said before, I am very far from being an expert on European pastries and nor have I had a lot of kouign-amann in my life. And so I cannot tell you if these were truly excellent examples of their genres. I can tell you that we both liked them very much. I can also tell you that the coffee the missus got to go with her share was middling and that if you are a tea drinker you should not expect to find decent tea—in this area, sadly, Montreal is no better than your average American city.
If you read up on Au Kouign-Amann you will see many mentions of how difficult it is to get a table. This is because they have very few tables. It’s really a place to pick up pastries to go. As we were there in the late afternoon on a drizzly and windy Saturday in late October, we got lucky: one of the tables opened up just as we got there and the few people ahead of us in line were not eating in. It’s a quaint space, and you have good views of the bakers at work in the back. You order at the counter. The selection is not vast: the idea, I suppose, is to do a few things and do them all very well. The evidence of the couple of things we ate suggests that they succeed.
I am not an authority on European pastries and I am also not an authority on Montreal’s boulangeries and patisseries. For all I know, there are many other as good or better. I am not going to tell you, therefore, that Au Kouign-Amann is a place you must visit when you’re in Montreal. I will tell you, however, that you will not be sorry if you do visit it.
And that’s true for Montreal as a whole as well. I have now visited this beautiful city twice in two years, both times in less than perfect seasons—once at the end of March and once at the end of October—and I cannot wait to come back again. It won’t be in 2017—we’re spending three months in England on work in the spring and I will likely go home to India in the winter for a few weeks—but I hope to talk the missus into returning again in 2018. The next time we’ll get an apartment, stay for a week, shop at Jean-Talon and cook as much as we eat out. That’s the dream anyway.