The Sparrow Kitchen Staff Take Flight
By: Bhavna Patel
It’s been a regular week-end brunch joint for many Montrealers – be it for their unique English-themed menu or the trendy ambience. As the weeks pass though, many foodies are coming to the disappointing realisation that brunch is no longer being served at The Sparrow. “I’m not happy to hear about the news,” says Sandy Branco De Sousa, a frequent visitor to the gastro-pub, “they offered a variety of great dishes you normally wouldn’t find in other brunch spots.”
Open for the past 18 months, restaurant manager Ethan Wills admits the restaurant was doing well. “Lunch-time seats would fill up with local nearby residents, but when it came time for brunch, people from all over the city were showing up,” he says. Yet, The Sparrow ended its brunch service on Sunday, November 14. The five-member kitchen team, head chef and manager are all moving on. Having become an established Mile-End brunch spot, the question on many minds is – what happened and where to go for brunch next?
“We’re leaving on great terms,” explains Wills, “it’s just about two businesses having the opportunity to expand.” The bar and restaurant of the English pub were both being run separately. Food was only being served during the day and by night turned into a full-fledged bar. This dichotomy had its limitations on both parties.
With their highly successful restaurant experience, Wills and restaurant co-partner and head chef Marc Cohen thought the next logical move was to start up a new restaurant venture without any limitations. They will have the opportunity to focus on serving breakfast, lunch and dinner at the new restaurant.
Just a year ago though, the idea of starting up a full-fledged restaurant was inconceivable for Wills. When first offered The Sparrow Front of House managerial position, his expectations were miniscule. “The opportunity sort of came out of the blue – at the time it seemed like a low risk venture. We really had no expectations from it; we never anticipated it blossoming into a full-fledged restaurant,” Wills explains. The project snowballed into something much bigger than the duo anticipated.
Wills is an English Literature major from McGill University. He moved to New York soon after graduating and waited restaurants to make ends meet. When he returned to Montreal he continued working in restaurants as a fallback and met Marc Cohen along the way.
Cohen’s chef experience derives from the UK. He’s famously known for his work experience in a London-based restaurant run by celebrity-chef Gordon Ramsay. In Montreal, he’s also worked at the legendary Le Club Chasse et Peche.
Wills believes their backgrounds in fine dining is what made them successful as a team. He also admits that their limited food service hours made them work extra hard, “We paid extra attention to quality. One of the results of our situation being that we were only in service during the day was that we put everything that we had in doing the best brunch we could.”
They also got a lot of support from the industry. “In my Front of House role, you do end up primarily making connections with people on a personal level. We catered to a lot of restaurants and felt a lot of support in the city.”
The good news for regulars like De Sousa is that although brunch service has ended at The Sparrow, there will be a new spot to hit up just down the street on Fairmount and St-Laurent Boulevard. The manager reassures clients, that they can“[e]xpect the same quality and unique menu encountered at The Sparrow. But now diners will have the option to also enjoy our food in a night-time setting, perhaps with a wine or some cocktails if they like.”
The new venture is keeping the team on their toes but Wills wouldn’t have it any other way, “The entire process has been rewarding. It’s definitely challenging and keeps us busy, but still rewarding.” He aims to open their doors to the same brunch goodness sometime this December.
Note: Bhavna Patel is a local broadcast reporter as well as a contributor for Montreal Breakfast Review