Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- Local Time
From worth–the–splurge restaurants to chewy, honey–boiled bagels, Montreal’s legendary food scene is a serious draw. Ditto the cobblestoned historic quarter, craft–beer boom and myriad music festivals. Explore neighbourhoods like Mile–End, the Plateau and Mile–Ex to get a true feel for the local culture.
Where to stay
- Quaint hotel room at Hotel Gault in Montreal, Quebec, CanadaHôtel GaultFor the oversized French windows
- An emerald couch with plum cushions sits in the Hotel St Paul lounge in MontrealHotel St PaulFor the beaux-arts architecture
- Fairmont The Queen ElizabethFor the far-out business digs
- Stylish bed at the W Montreal in Montreal, Quebec, CanadaW MontrealFor the tailored experience
- The stylish lobby at Hotel William Gray in Old MontrealHotel William GrayFor the local flair
- Fully equipped, minimalist, loft-style suites at Boxotel, MontrealBoxotelFor the eco-friendly rooms
Eat & Drink
Gia Vin & Grill
The team behind Nora Gray and Elena once again demonstrates its unerring sense of what hip Montreal wants to eat, here with an irresistible menu centred on arrosticini (grilled skewered meat of the Abruzzo region of Italy). Yet, in this a converted cinder block building in the historic RCA complex, the antipasti (crunchy fish croquettes on a dill–scented yogurt aioli or fresh radishes nestled in a bed of both emulsified and toasted hazelnuts then drizzled with honey), pastas (garlic, mint and chili–spiked spinach bucatini) and natural wines are equally essential to the chill, happy buzz. Longlisted as part of Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2022.
If you manage to wrangle one of just four stools at this Little Italy grocery store, prepare yourself for super–slippery and explosive noodle bowls, which are bound to splatter as you hurry them into your mouth. Menus change at the whim of chef Anita Yue Ming Feng: we got chunks of tender braised beef, daikon and Chinese five spice in one dish, and silky shards of tofu, green peas, pickled mustard greens and Sichuan peppercorns in another. Throw in some cooling salads from the grocery side of the shop and a just–sweet–enough Japanese dessert from Pâtisserie Maru and, though it’s only lunchtime, you won’t be “Feng” (a.k.a. “faim,” French for hungry) for the rest of the day. Longlisted as part of Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2022.
The French name of the restaurant translates to “big, husky person,” and the two adjectives describe chef Simon Mathys’s outsized presence in the Quebec culinary landscape as well as his love for it. His passion for local ingredients is palpable in dishes like the thick, ruby–red slice of tomato from La Ferme des Quatre–Temps, adorned in herbs and flowers and resting in a pool of camelina oil. A pour of hot, fragrant smoked beef fat turns it into a salad with a sheen of cow – both fresh and elemental. Even the way Mathys acknowledges his entire staff on the menu is at one with this soulful and honest place. Longlisted as part of Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2022.
Chef Epepe Tukala Vuvu offers a gathering place for pan–African food and culture in this Villeray restaurant and shop. We start with a layered and subtly spiced Moroccan tagine with preserved lemon, green olives, and green bean purée, then dig into the Congolese ntaba, a grilled goat and plantain platter studded with pickled red onion and a purée of the citric, tangy Central African fruit safou. A sassy, colour–saturated mural features the chef’s two–year–old niece in oversized sunglasses and a tuque, with the skyline of Abidjan in the background. A soundtrack of sparkling Afrobeat, South African amapiano and Congolese rumba rounds out the experience. Longlisted as part of Canada's Best New Restaurants 2022.
With a shoutout to Bangkok’s storefront aluminum roller shutters and curry shop tiles, this new spot from the team behind Épicerie Pumpui exudes a retro magic pumped up by the dance and alt music soundtrack. A sweet, sour and herbaceous Laab Ped made with minced duck meat and duck hearts satisfies our craving for the electric flavours of Bangkok, while a dish of tender grilled veal tongue with a gentle nam jim tao jiao (fermented soy and garlic–tamarind dipping sauce) takes us to a mellow beachside resort. Cheerful service and the fine bubbles of a Chemin des Sept Turbo Brut cider add to the night’s sparkle. Longlisted as part of Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2022.
Elegant silverware rescued from the Fairmont the Queen Elizabeth redesign and blush linen tablecloths meet modern tubular lighting and playful splashes of pastel at this airy Old Montreal eatery, named #8 on Canada’s Best New Restaurants Top 10 list in 2019. The food is also a combo of modern riffs that play on a solid classical foundation: Housemade bucatini napped with a creamy cacio e pepe sauce glows the colour of lime sherbet thanks to an infusion of chlorophyll extracted from blanched spinach and parsley (a shower of black pepper with hints of sweet grapefruit, peach bitters and horseradish renders it sublime). Pairings – an aromatic, creamy Albert Mann 2016 pinot gris and a ravishing 2009 Cantomoro Tunia cab sauv from Tuscany – are (you guessed it) also a mix of the old and the new.
To see what’s making Montreal buzz, step into the electric Italian–modern comfort of Elena, a pizza and pasta restaurant from the Nora Gray team. Sit between a couture–cloaked Westmount family and a tattooed mother and son and chow down on fresh–off–the–boat British Columbia spot prawns; blistered, naturally leavened pizza showered with six kinds of mushrooms, celery root and taleggio; and handmade tagliatelle with a robust pork and beef ragù. The natural and biodynamic wine list is a liquid lecture on the purity, snap and vibrant acidity these wines can achieve. This is what it’s like to see a chef and her team at the top of their game.
Afro–Latino coastal beats and the smell of local radishes and shishito peppers on the grill are in the air. Suddenly the vegetables catch fire, but pas de problème. The chef gently blows out the blaze, and dinner at this Outremont wine bar in Montreal keeps rollicking on. The owners fused their love of Mediterranean flavours and the natural wines of Catalonia with a short menu featuring some Catalan classics: grilled octopus with patatas bravas, and grilled sausage with calçots (grilled spring onions) and romesco. Thick hunks of toasted bread are paved with an even thicker layer of housemade butter, then topped with pungent oil–cured Cantabrian anchovies. Tender pieces of Îles–de–la–Madeleine lobster and housemade spaghetti swim in butter under a shower of lemon zest – popping in the mouth with acidic bursts of ripe cherry tomatoes and a Tanca Els Ulls white from Celler del Cesc in Tarragona. Alma was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
Vin Mon Lapin
The green of potted plants dapples the white walls of this Little Italy oasis, where stellar natural wines play off layered flavours and textures. A dazzling salad of endive, caramelized pumpkin seeds, pickled elderberries and shaved foie gras matches with the creamy minerality of a Loire Valley Domaine du Haut–Planty muscadet, while aromatic Jerusalem artichoke bread topped with sunflower crumble finds a partner in a sunflower butter. You won’t mind the no–reservations wait project from the Vin Papillon team: Servers stop by with words of encouragement and magnum pours of pet nat, making you feel like the centre of the party.
The local sourcing gets five stars at this just–right–sized Park–Ex spot from Montreal’s Toqué team. Decorated with giant jars of preserved produce and a panoramic backlit photo of Kamouraska, it’s not as big and fancy as mama Toqué! but more refined (and exclamation point–less) than Brasserie T! Every element in the Nordic shrimp dish – the crustaceans, the radish, chili vinaigrette and garlic – sings of the sea or the soil. The salty, nutty, foraged wild parsley scattered over lacquered turnips and carrots hints at hidden depths. And the fish, sourced from the chef’s favourite Outaouais producer (who went from raising deer to fish after disease wiped out his herd), is served on a bed of braised mini–kale with a peach–mint dice. Beau Mont was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
Start your morning with a cappuccino made with Portland’s Heart Roaster beans, then head back in the evening, friends in tow. Wash down small plates, like the preserved chicken, with a selection from the natural–centric wine list, or a pint of the Ghost Farm IPA, from one of the co–owners’ craft–brew side project.
Le Petit Mousso
“We eat way too much of this!” our server with the long–stemmed rose tattooed beneath her collarbone tells us as she brings out sweet and spicy radishes from the chef’s farm with a hit of sea salt and a smear of housemade cultured butter flavoured with camomile. Two of the city’s most creative chef minds are at work here at the minimalist, more affordable little sister to Le Mousso. Shaved turnip slices filled with plump pieces of shrimp and emulsified turnip are bathed in fermented tomato water, alive and as electrically acidic as kombucha. Bright–green layers of blanched asparagus, head cheese and pickled knotweed combine to form a golden ratio of fat, crunch and fermentation. The only thing that can match the brightness of the menu? The organic and biodynamic wine list. Le Petit Mousso was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
For the DIY ice cream sandwiches: Nora Gray alums chef Mike Dalla Libera and former general manager Nick Rosati spin handmade, artisanal ice cream daily using milk sourced from Northern Quebec at this St–Henri hot spot. The crèmerie has a rotating selection of seasonal flavours (including vegan options), like cookie biscuit, ground cherries and vegan chocolate.
The Joe Beef gang has teamed up with Maison Publique, adding a sprawling, family–friendly space that feels like a restaurant inside a bright, summer–camp dining hall (pool table! foosball!). My summer camp never served ham butter (a 1:3 ham–trim–to–butter mix whipped to perfection), which I slathered on everything. Or soft, slow–cooked leeks dotted with smoked New Brunswick mussels (doused in olive oil and scattered with arugula) and paired with a raspberry–ginger Gutsy Kombucha (on tap) to bring out the mussels’ funkiness. And definitely not an impossibly moist half roast chicken, sitting on a pool of bagna càuda ringed with crispy roast potatoes, that sings with a grassy, mineral–driven 2017 Stefan Vetter Müller–Thurgau. McKiernan Luncheonette was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
This shop has been hand–rolling bagels and baking them in a wood–burning oven since 1957. Locals, tourists and celebrities alike (it’s got Celine Dion’s and William Shatner’s seal of approval) pop into the 24–hour bakery for a dozen to go or an on–the–spot carb fix after a night on the town.
Fresh pasta is boiling on the open–kitchen stovetop; Rick James funk is shaking the sound system and a crew of nine (headed by the ex–sous–chef at Toqué) are firing on all cylinders to keep up with a packed, 26–seat room. An amuse–bouche of pale–green asparagus mousse ringed with olive oil, basil sprouts and chive flowers arrives in a bar glass. Fat, round, tender orbs of tempura–fried doré (Quebec pike) come with an elevated tartar sauce striped with herb oil and garlanded with shaved fennel, capers and pickled red peppers. We wipe our plates clean with homemade focaccia that’s fermented slowly and topped with Maldon salt. Then the only thing that could make this moment better arrives: a smooth, slightly smoky biodynamic wild–ferment 2017 Matthias Hager Urgestein Grüner. Moccione was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
The Montreal roastery has three brick–and–mortar locations: a minimalist coffee shop created in collaboration with Rhoncus Design in the heart of the Plateau Mont–Royal, a flagship space in Mile–Ex and a café on the McGill campus. Pair your Dispatch brew with a selection of snacks prepared by local businesses, like vegan eatery Le Kitchen and Hof Kelsten bakery.
Fan–shaped art–deco marble–tiled floors. Acres of metal–topped bar. Giant pieces of meat displayed in the dry aging meat cellar like old–masters portraits. This sprawling, drop–dead–gorgeous Square Victoria resto–brasserie in Montreal has perfected the art of the gentle steer. Wouldn’t we rather have the Portuguese 2017 Curtimento Branco orange than the Greek retsina orange? And perhaps the foie–gras torchon over the beef tartare and sea urchin? (Yes on both counts: The elegant, peach–nosed wine brought out the best in the creamy foie and rhubarb.) When it comes time for dessert, we are gently nudged toward the fruit pavlova, a hulking triangle of not–too–sweet meringue and dollops of whipped cream, drizzled with a bracing seed–studded fruit coulis. Monarque was a contender for Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
What to Do
Part gallery and part boutique, this seriously stylish St–Henri store invites you to beautify your life with sleek streetwear and striking original works by up–and–coming artists.
Mount Royal Park
In the summer months, bring your kids on a gentle hike to the summit for unbeatable views of the city. Then, head towards Beaver Lake for an afternoon picnic and let your little ones roam freely. In the winter months, explore the mountain while cross–country skiing along its various trails, go for a skate on Beaver Lake or toboggan down the designated slopes nearby.
Shop fresh pieces from coveted brands across fashion, lifestyle, home, and self–care at this high–end Old Montreal emporium, which also hosts immersive installations and events. Drop in to browse or book a complimentary appointment with a personal stylist.
Head to the only club in Mile–End, order a Berghain cocktail (named after the famous Berlin nightclub), made with vodka and yerba mate, and show off your moves on the dance floor. Make sure to head there on Thursday for an evening of jazz and tarot.
Housed in a historic building built by John Ogilvy in 1861, the Phi Centre is a multi–disciplinary complex with a mission to make art accessible to as many people as possible. Look for screenings of international Cannes–awarded films and browse pop–up shops featuring products by up–and–coming designers.
Casa Del Popolo
Founded in 2000 by Godspeed You! Black Emperor bassist Mauro Pezzente and wife Kiva Stimac, the “House of the People” is a family–run vegetarian restaurant, bar, art gallery and music venue. Stop by in the afternoon for a vegetarian burrito and a pint of beer, then come back at night to catch up–and–coming local and touring musical acts perform on stage.