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20 Essential Spots to Visit in Montreal

From the best restaurant openings to contemporary art venues, here’s how to make the most of your stay in the city.

THE BEST NEW RESTAURANTS

Agrikol

Agrikol

Photo: Alexis Hobbs

Thumping kompa beats form the ideal base layer for a mix-your-own ti’ ponch service: Barbancourt agricole rum with fresh-pressed cane juice, cane syrup and plentiful lime. Power couples from Toronto’s Black Hoof restaurant empire and Montreal rock band Arcade Fire are behind the raucous Haitian charm of this hyper-colourful, art-piece-filled space in the Gay Village. Pour another ti’ ponch, and dig into hearty plates of fried malanga-root accras, stewed oxtail and tender slow-cooked pumpkin in coconut sauce. Named one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2016 by Air Canada enRoute magazine.

1844, rue Amherst, Montréal, agrikol.ca

 

Candide
In a serene reconditioned church rectory in Little Burgundy, chef John Winter Russell crafts thoughtful seasonal dishes: grilled radishes with smoked buttermilk cream and grated venison jerky; creamy Pont Blanc cheese layered between leaves of a grilled head of young lettuce, sprinkled with camellia chips and doused with lovage purée. On tables constructed from old church pews, sommelier Emily Campeau showcases a demi-sec Vouvray with a heavenly dessert of strawberries and sweet clover cream.

551, rue Saint-Martin, Montréal, 514-447-2717, restaurantcandide.com

 

Foxy, #5 - Canada's Best New Restaurants 2016

Foxy

Photo: Courtesy of Foxy

Dyan Solomon and Éric Girard of Old Montreal lunchtime institution Olive + Gourmando tackle dinner in this Griffintown hot spot that looks like a fashion spread and smells like a fireplace. Puffed flatbread, topped with oyster mushrooms and truffled pecorino cheese, grows blistered after a run-in with the wood-burning oven, while a deboned sea bass reaches crispy-skinned perfection on the wood-fired grill. The buzz is perpetuated by cocktails like the Greentouch, with green Chartreuse, lime and fresh cilantro.

1638, rue Notre-Dame O., Montréal, 514-925-7007, foxy.restaurant

 

 

Le Fantôme, #8 - Canada's Best New Restaurants 2016
This candlelit Griffintown hideaway, run by chef Jason Morris and GM Kabir Kapoor, is decorated with paintings by Morris’ great-grandfather. The market cooking, featuring such whimsical dishes as beet salad with hazelnut pralines and shaved summer truffle, is available as a short- or long-format tasting menu and pairs with an Old World-focused wine list. You can (and should) add the PBJFG, a signature sandwich of peanut butter, strawberry jam and foie gras terrine on toasted brioche.

1832, rue William, Montréal, 514-846-1832, restofantome.com

 

Hvor

Hvor

Photo: Courtesy of Hvor

The Scandinavian minimalism that informs the clean-lined decor of this Griffintown address also inspires the cooking of chef S’Arto-Chartier Otis. He offers an ever-evolving surprise menu of three or five courses; one might be sweetbreads with herb cavatelli and mushroom quenelle. The restaurant’s name comes from the Danish word for “where,” and although smoked sturgeon beneath thin-sliced hearts of palm is sourced from afar, the coriander in its bright green sauce is grown on the upstairs terrace.

1414, rue Notre-Dame O., Montréal, 514-937-2001, hvor.ca

 

Hoogan & Beaufort
Once a factory for building tanks and train cars, this striking room in the Angus Yards is filled with hexagonal pendant lights and the scent of campfire cooking. Chef Marc-André Jetté, formerly of Les 400 Coups, grills octopus over live flames, plating tender chunks atop tangy yogurt infused with the sweetness of roasted red pepper. Unique Old World pours, including a rosé from the Macedonia region of Greece, are complemented by large-format beers from the likes of Microbrasserie Le Castor.

4095, rue Beaufort, Montréal, 514-903-1233, hooganetbeaufort.com

 

Le Mousso

Le Mousso

Photo: Benedicte Brocard

Tasting menus exploit chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard’s creative side at this 50-seater in the Gay Village, housed in a 150-year-old former printing shop. A single hay-smoked potato is speared on a sharpened twig and buried in a bowl of hay, while sea urchin is whipped to fill a cuttlefish-ink pastry crust. Beverage pairings range from lively muscadet with the shrimp taco in a crisped pork collagen shell to a floral sake with cod and daikon in tomato dashi.

1023, rue Ontario E., Montréal, 438-384-7410, facebook.com/Le-Mousso-896950477044437

 

Montréal Plaza
Toqué! protégés Charles-Antoine Crête and Cheryl Johnson helm this time-hopping room on Plaza Saint-Hubert that mixes classic elegance with new culinary gestures. Dine on white tablecloths to the sounds of old-school hip hop while revisiting a drinks card that runs the gamut from a classic manhattan to a natural rosé from southern France. Chopped whelks in a ceramic escargot dish are gratinéed with fried Hof Kelsten bread crumbs and miso butter, while lobster with asparagus and morels wears a flaky vol-au-vent cap.

6230, rue St-Hubert, Montréal, 514-903-6230, montrealplaza.com

THE BEST CONTEMPORARY ART VENUES

DHC/ART

DHC/ART

Exhibit Joan Jonas (Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay)

Admission to this gallery – home to Phoebe Greenberg’s foundation, dedicated to contemporary art – is always free. DHC/ART brings Canadian artists to the world and welcomes some of the most celebrated talents in Europe and North America to its two small spaces on Rue Saint-Jean in Old Montreal.

451-465, rue Saint-Jean, Montréal, 514-849-3742, dhc-art.org

 

Arsenal
What was the city’s biggest industrial boatyard in 1857 is now 50,000 square feet filled with contemporary art, not to mention the new home of C2 Montreal – one of the world’s most creative business conferences. The area has everything to become an important Canadian hub of contemporary art with other galleries like Antoine Ertaskiran located right around the corner.

2020, rue William, Montréal, 514-931-9978, arsenalmontreal.com

 

Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal

Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal

Photo: Alexandre Perreault

Montreal’s small but powerful contemporary art space is no stuffy tourist museum. The permanent collection offers an impressive panorama of Quebec’s artistic history, dating back to the 1960s, while exhibitions highlight acclaimed artists from the four corners of the planet, like David Altmejd and Edmund Alleyn. The museum is open until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays.

185, rue Sainte-Catherine O., Montréal, 514-847-6226, macm.org

 

Phi Centre
Housed in a historic building built by John Ogilvy in 1861, the Phi Centre is now an artistic complex with a mission to make art accessible to as many people as possible and to foster artistic creativity through concerts, art exhibits, seminars and screenings. Look for screenings of international Cannes-awarded films, and browse pop-up shops offering clothing, accessories and jewellery made by up-and-coming designers.

407, rue Saint-Pierre, Montréal, 514-225-0525, phi-centre.com

THE TOP DESIGN-CONSCIOUS BOUTIQUES

Frank + Oak

Frank + Oak

Photo: Courtesy of Frank + Oak

Let the “Rue St-Viateur” sign in the window guide you to Frank + Oak, a clothing store founded by Montrealers Ethan Song and Hicham Ratnani. Spurred on by the success of their online store, the creative duo aim to provide customers with a real-world place to touch, feel and try on products from their self-described “modern-American-meets-classic-European” collections. The brand has recently launched its first womenswear collection and opened three other stores in the Greater Montreal area.

160, rue Saint-Viateur E., #105, Montréal, 438-384-0824, frankandoak.com

 

Papeterie Nota Bene
This stationery shop on Avenue du Parc carries hard-to-find brands like Rhodia and Maruman. Russell, the owner, is an important figure in the city’s artistic community; he has a collection of graphic design books on the second floor of his boutique and sells reconditioned vintage typewriters.

3416, av. du Parc, Montréal, 514-485-6587, nota-bene.ca

 

Boutique Vestibule

Boutique Vestibule

Photo: Courtesy of Boutique Vestibule

Upgrade your dinner party game at this bright boutique that carries everything from handprinted dish towels to country-style dishware and vintage-inspired glass bottles. Stock up on skin-care products by Rue de Marli before checking out.

5157, boul. Saint-Laurent, Montréal, 514-419-3868, boutiquevestibule.com

 

Want Apothecary
Located in upscale Westmount, this clothing and skin-care boutique has an art nouveau decor that feels fresh and modern, in keeping with the minimalist Swedish labels they carry, including Acne Studios and Comme des garçons. The showstopper is their in-house line of leather bags and purses, Want Les Essentiels, also sold abroad at Le Bon Marché in Paris and Harvey Nichols in London.

4960, rue Sherbrooke O., Montréal, 514-484-3555, wantapothecary.com

THE BEST HOTELS

Hotel William Gray

Hotel William Gray

Photo: Courtesy of Hotel William Gray

This fresh addition to Old Montreal’s hotel scene is all about blending new and old. Local streetwear boutique OTH has an outpost seamlessly integrated into the sleek living-room-style lobby so you can Shop Canadian labels like Naked & Famous and Raised by Wolves. You can also get a tourist-friendly neighbourhood sweatshirt from the limited edition William Gray line. Then, walk through to Café Olimpico, the second location of the Mile End institution established in 1970, for an espresso or a Perrier and Stappj, a hard-to-find Italian bitter soda.

421, rue Saint-Vincent, Montréal, 514-656-5600, hotelwilliamgray.com

 

Hôtel Le St-James
A favourite of the Rolling Stones, U2 and Madonna, Hôtel Le St-James is a classic Old Montreal property. With rates starting at around $400 a night, the 23 rooms and 37 suites feature exquisite vintage furnishings set against rock-star amenities like fine Frette linens and Bang & Olufsen sound systems. Even the dungeon-like (in a good way) spa is characteristically Old Montreal, with exposed stone and wrought iron.

355, rue Saint-Jacques, Montréal, 514-841-3111, hotellestjames.com

 

Hôtel Gault

Hôtel Gault

Photo: Courtesy of Hôtel Gault

Interiors at Hôtel Gault have a fresh industrial look, striking a perfect balance with the European romance of Old Montreal. The hotel’s 30 rooms enjoy high ceilings and large windows; walls are painted in soft tones, and bright furnishings inherited from the 1950s and ’60s provide sparks of colour. Weary travellers can benefit from the energy-renewing jet lag massage or relax and repair at the Valmont Beauty Lounge – located across the street – one of only a handful of spa retreats worldwide to be specially designed by Swiss anti-aging experts.

449, rue Sainte-Hélène, Montréal, 514-904-1616, hotelgault.com

 

Hôtel Saint-Paul
A classic example of Old Montreal’s beaux-arts architecture, with a sharp, simple design approach, Hôtel Saint-Paul has benefited from an elegant restoration. Bold metals and woods are found in each of the 119 rooms, with large windows welcoming natural light. The main entrance boasts a huge marble fireplace, a warm detail contrasting with the hotel’s more austere features.

355, rue McGill, Montréal, 514-380-2222, hotelstpaul.com

 

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