Montreal is a city that I have a strange relationship with. Given my (partial) French Canadian heritage, I always feel guilty that I don't know it better than I do. After all, it's right over there. A short one hour by plane or 4-5 hours by car or train from where I am in Toronto. It's a mini getaway no-brainer! I should visit more often, right? I should go, but I prioritize other places and things, which gives me the uneasy feeling of being some kind of negligent grandchild.....that is, if the grandparents in question were very fashionable and excelled at all things eating and drinking related.....which could also explain why I needed 2 weeks to recover after being there for 2 nights back in 2009). So, two things needed to be addressed. 1) I needed to just go there. After all, my husband and I were REALLY feeling the need for a getaway, however short. 2) I needed to ascertain if the eating and drinking and good times were really as great as I remembered them being, and had been told recently.
So, of we went to, and we were not disappointed. Here are some of the things of Montreal we fell for.
Rest + Recharge
First order of business after we booked our flights with Porter (because what's not to love about a 5 minute Uber trip to the airport from downtown Toronto) was to sort out where to stay. You might not think sleep would be a priority on such a short trip, but as we are new parents and our son was staying with Grandma.....yeah, big time. It had it on very good authority that Sofitel on The Golden Mile was very much the place for a luxurious and restful stay. Everything was on point: the service, the suite, the treats (see above) and definitely the beds! The comfiest of beds that were so difficult to get out of, but we were also there to explore the city. I'd stay there again without question the next time I'm in town.
Also filed under the category of R&R was our visit to Scandinave Spa Montreal. We actually started one of our days there with a couple's massage there, which set a great tone for the rest of the day. It felt very much like we had retreated into tranquil little cave and was overall a great experience.
Eat + Drink
Ok, don't judge. No bagels. No smoked meat. No poutine. But.....
One of the main things I was looking forward to was of course, experiencing the restaurants in Montreal. I wanted to maintain a balance of some older gems and bold new finds. Success! I even managed to sneak in some greens (the best-salad-ever Big Healthy Salad at Old Port classic Olive et Gourmando) which was unheard of during the debauchery that was the 2009 trip. Dinner at Le Vin Papillon on our first night was twinkly and romantic, not to mention indulgent. Really great wine list of course, and dishes like the meltingly delicious Jambon de la Petite Bourgogne with Avonlea Cheddar are fun to linger over. Ping Pong Club in Mile End was our destination for a nightcap later on, and the vibe was pretty great, and very laid-back. But I had been looking forward to the most was our Wednesday night dinner at Le Mousso.
So here's the thing: everyone I know seems to be really into food, and it seemed all of them had recommendations for Montreal. A lot of the same places were repeated over and over. So that's a win, right? But I'm a little competitive when it comes to making great finds or unearthing little treasures. I want to be the person that finds it and breaks the news to everyone, so I wanted to find a place my Toronto friends hadn't heard about or been to yet. No small task. But somehow we stumbled upon info about Le Mousso online, and I cross-referenced with a friend that is a native Montrealer that is very much in the know about these kinds of thing. He confirmed that it was a really hot and relatively new tasting menu type establishment that was not really on the radar for out of towners. He hadn't even gotten there yet! In fact he had a reservation for the week after I would be in town. Obviously, this appealed to my competitive "I found it first!" nature (I am, of course, aware I did not find Le Mousso, as if it were a new planet or solar system or some such thing. But you get the picture).
For starters, how pretty is THAT?
In a relatively short amount of time, Le Mousso has gained a huge following from Montreal diners (largely from word of mouth) and on Instagram - and given the images above (all taken during our meal by my husband Tobias Wang) it's not hard to see why. From both a flavour and plating perspective Chef Antonin Mousseau Rivard and his team create a tasting menu meal of 7 (or an optional 8) courses that are incredibly memorable. I don't want to tell you what to do, but let's just say I highly recommend that you include Le Mousso in your plans if you happen to be in Montreal.
One thing it seems you can always count on Montreal for is that there is always something interesting going on in terms of arts and culture. Imagine our happiness on our way back from dinner on a cold winter night to stumble upon this amazing installation at Place des Festivales. Although it ends January 31st, if you can, I highly suggest you check it out.
Whether your itinerary calls for a lot of fun, or a lot of rest and relaxation, Montreal has plenty to offer. You really should visit more oftern.