You may have heard about Hof Kelsten. In a short time, the legend has grown about the bread guy, Jeffrey Finkelstein. He is Montreal’s prodigal son, who has worked at some of the top restaurants around world. His list includes Toque, French Laundry, Per Se, and even El Bulli. Now back in Montreal he has been making bread over at Hof Kelsten and also has some other items that are a little more than just bread. Simply put Hof Kelsten does brunch. So one Saturday morning, the Montreal Food Divas were miraculously awake and not hungover so it seemed logical to do brunch. Now finding a spot that will impress the Divas is not always an easy task but we knew that Hof Kelsten would not disappoint.
The Montreal restaurant scene is constantly changing, with new places popping up and old places closing down. Wilfred sur Laurier is the new kid on the block, having opened at the end of fall. They quickly started making waves as having an impressive brunch. So how impressive is it you may ask? Since our first visit we have been back 3 other times.
The Montreal downtown core or the Golden Square Mile as some people like to call it is lacking quality brunch spots. You have a mix of chain and some scattered spots here and there but the area oddly enough needs development in terms of more quality places offering brunch. Now Café Parvis opened late last winter and did not do brunch at first but a few months after opening, they started offering brunch on the menu. Now if you don’t know where Café Parvis is, then head down to Mayor street and look for the funky little café next to Furco, duck in for a coffee and a bite and you will soon be adding it to your list of downtown places for go to.
Brunch only really happens twice a week and often it is between 10 and 3. Some places say 3 but the kitchen closes earlier so you run the risk of having to really think of where you want to go when you have a late brunch. Now when doing brunch with my friend and drink reviewer Jay Pendergrast the III, the discussion always is based on, can we make it in time? Sliding in just before the kitchen closes often results in them being out of an item or 2 on the menu or feeling rushed. Salle a manger is a place that will not rush you and on Sunday’s, serves brunch right up until dinner time which is ideal for those who have issue being ready before 2pm.
Manitoba (the restaurant, not the province), located somewhere between Little Italy and Park Extension, which some people have begun referring to as Mile Ex, has been on people’s lips for a little over a year. Now we had been to restaurant Manitoba before for their dinner service and we left very impressed after an incredible meal and really good service which left us curious about their brunch. I had high hopes for their dishes ,which if their dinner service was an indication, I was in for a treat with tasty and well-priced options.
A few months after its opening, we fell upon Sel Gras. Having read about it and its rather impressive crew working the kitchen, we have had this on our short list for some time. So with a friend coming in from out of town and a need to try something totally different it felt like the logical choice to give Sel Gras over in the Mile End a shot.
Eating healthy can sometimes be a complicated headache inducing mess, with so many options, ingredients, cooking styles, allergies, and views on what is deemed healthy, we often get lost in what healthy really is. Most recently the emphasis has focused on local, organic and responsible food. Supporting local farms, sourcing organic food produce and making responsible choices in what items used has many people talking and looking for places that do this. Many Montreal restaurants are doing this in some part with sourcing local produce, focusing on organic produce instead of some that may be genetically modified and even going as far as using certain fish so as to not contribute to overfishing. Food has an ethical component and having grown up in a family that focused on organic and healthy, this is something that is always in the back of my mind every time I take a bite. The tricky part is finding a spot that sources local organic food items and encourages eco responsibility. You have to go with word of mouth since there is no overarching organization that clearly hands out certification and you can do your research and see if the place you are eating at meets your criteria.
Araucaria – Mile end day long brunch
So a little back story: a little over a year ago, I was in a bar in Tokyo having drinks and overheard someone talking with a distinct Quebec accent. It turns out that that accent belonged to a Montrealer doing a pilgrimage to various bars and restaurants in Japan. When we got to talking of favourite places and he mentioned how he knew the people over at Tripes and Caviar and they were doing some creative stuff there. So, although a year later, we decided to check it out.
Over on Fleury street is La Bête à Pain – a bakery with a twist and making a name for itself among foodies as having an impressive brunch. This came on my radar a while ago but since it’s in an area I don’t end up in often, it took a while before I made it up here. There aren’t too many brunch spots up on Fleury, let alone many fancy ones, but the area is changing and in a few years you may not even recognize it from how it is now. Already, signs of gentrification are beginning, so let’s see how this shapes up.
Hochelaga Maisonneuve, or HOMA for short, is an interesting part of Montreal. Historically a working class neighborhood, it has recently started gentrifying. You will notice new condos popping up and many more cafes and restaurants that are not your usual greasy spoon. Although, HOMA manages to keep some of its working class flavour in its restaurants in the sense that you tend to get larger plates with decent value for what you pay. This is very welcome in a city where the $20 brunch is not that uncommon.