Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Travels with Lonely Planet: Canada

 

By Sarah Richards

Salt Lake Tribune

Article Last Updated:03/29/2008 12:36:47 PM MDT

 

My favorite time of the year in Montreal is spring. As the powerful hands of winter release their tight grip on the city, its bright, cheery spirit emerges from the cold, bleak gray of winter. After months of being cooped up indoors, Montrealers wake from their slumber and roam the streets like hungry bears. The warm sunshine and sweet smells of croissants and roasting coffee bring them to Montreal's infamous sidewalk cafes.

 

The Quebecois have a refined nose for high-grade espresso, one that has been honed with a passion for fine wines. It is a city to be honored for keeping out the coffee-chain blight that has scarred the landscape of most of the world's major cities. Of course, you'll find a fair share of Tim Hortons and Starbucks dotting the city's central commercial drags such as Rue St. Catherine and Rue St. Laurent, but independent cafes and groovy baristas emanating from the heart of alternative Montreal - the Plateau Mont-Royal - have kept the chain spread at bay.

Life is slow in Montreal. Surrender to the laissez-faire lifestyle and you're halfway to becoming a local. It was within this relaxed state that I found myself quite happily drifting from cafe to cafe, searching for the ideal cup of coffee. Was I looking for a straight-up shot of jolting Italian espresso, or was my goal a perfectly frothy cafe au lait? Or were my West Coast roots secretly searching for the ideal brewed American coffee, preferably Fair Trade?

For full-strength espresso, an Italian hit is Caffe Italia (6840 Boul. Saint-Laurent; espresso $1.50; 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.), which hides phenomenal beans under the guise of a humdrum décor. And since it's in the heart of Little Italy, your coffee beverage of choice comes with a view into the lives of the locals who frequent this coffee bar in droves.

Shots of espresso go down as smooth as butter in Cafe Olimpico (124 Rue Saint-Viateur; espresso $1.50; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.), which is popular with Mile End locals. No more than a hole in the wall, this hangout is low on chic but huge on quality and charisma.

Although less traditional (think less soccer paraphernalia and more slick upholstery and trendy artwork), Caffe ArtJava (837 Ave. Mont-Royal Est; espresso $1.95; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) is rumored to have the best cappuccino in the whole city. Behind the beautiful foam play the notes of an espresso symphony, resonating with rich hues, creamy texture and bold flavor, while the surface is etched with an intricate leaf pattern.

For the ideal steaming bowl of cafe au lait, you need a completely different sort of place - checkered tablecloths flapping in the wind, with a table overlooking charming and winding staircases. La Croissanterie Figaro (5200 Rue Hutchison; cafe au lait $3; 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.) fit the bill, both with its inviting décor inside, reminiscent of a Parisian bistro, and the ivy-covered outdoor patio, providing ample ambience to accompany the heavenly combination of chocolatine (chocolate croissant) and cafe au lait.

On those days when your sweet tooth needs more attention, indulge in the sheer decadence that is Juliette et Chocolat (1615 Rue Saint-Denis; espresso $2.25). Try a selection of exotic truffles (the ones with red wine and lavender are particularly enticing) or a pot au chocolat, washed down with a shot of rich espresso for an unforgettable caffeine kick.

And as for a fairly traded, brewed cup of joe? Cafe Santropol (3990 Rue Saint-Urbain; coffee $2.50; 11:30 a.m. to midnight), a friendly cooperative cafe, does it with a twist - the rim of the mug is colorfully decorated with slices of strawberries and honeydew melon. Come here for dreamy soy lattes, herbal teas and a tranquil back garden.

Where to stay

* Slick, post-modern Opus Hotel (10 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest; 514-843-6000; 866-744-6346; http://www.opushotel.com) is smack dab in the center of the downtown action.

* To get a little more north, into the hipster hood, rent an apartment-style room at Anne ma soeur Anne (4119 Rue Sanit-Denis; 514-281-3187; 877-281-3187; http://www.annemasoeuranne.com), and overlook the picturesque storefronts and sidewalk cafes of Saint-Denis. Rooms here start at $70.

 

Where to eat

* To explore another one of life's greatest vices, try wine bar BU (5245 Boul. Saint-Laurent; 514-276-0249; http://www.bu-mtl.com), whose extraordinary wine list accompanies a relatively traditional menu of Italian slow cooking.

* Assumed by many to be the finest dining experience in Montreal, Toque! (900 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle; 514-499-2084; http://www.restaurant-toque.com) blends innovative gastronomic experimentation with tried-and-tested traditional French culinary art, erupting in a fusion Quebec cuisine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...
adblock_message_value
adblock_accept_btn_value