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Posts Tagged ‘downtown’

We met a friend for afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal. I was actually glad that they only had seatings left at 4:30pm, because that’s close enough to dinner time for me and I always found 2pm or so to be an odd time to eat such a large meal. Fortunately, the Palm Court, where they serve their tea, is straight ahead from the front entrance, so it was easy to find. It’s a surprisingly small space, so I’d imagine that during peak times it might be difficult to get a reservation for tea. The lounge area is decorated with sofas and luxury seats around coffee tables, which was nice. A fire burned in the fire place, light glittered off the chandeliers, and in addition to the palm fronds painted onto the high ceiling, there was indeed an actual little palm by the entrance. There was also a tray advertising the tea service, and I wondered at the fancy tea pot featured there, as we were served using serviceable plain white pots.

We selected our teas and received our own pots with our selected tea bags, which were refilled after a while with hot water. They did not have a decaf option. The tea refreshments were served on tiered dishes. I have to say that the scones – plain and cranberry – were the best so far I’ve experienced for afternoon tea. They were large, warm, light, and delicious. Perhaps we could have done with a little more of the jams, which included a delightful rose jam and current jam in addition to devonshire cream. Then came the tiny finger sandwiches, which while nicely seasoned and constructed, seemed to have been sitting around a little too long as the bread was a bit hardened and stale on top and a bit damp on the bottom…perhaps leftover from the first tea seating. My favourites were the tomato sandwich and the cucumber sandwich, though the egg salad sandwich and salmon sandwich were also good. The pastries, a selection of various things, could have been better, I think, but at that point in the meal we were all mostly full anyway. The carrot cupcake was dry and flavourless, the chocolate layer cake soaked in an orange liquor I didn’t care for, but the cream puffs were ok as was the round pound cake with the dome of cream and jelly. Odd that they did not provide us each with our own pastries, but instead had a selection so that we had to divvy them up ourselves or split them so that we could try each.

Overall, this was my second favourite afternoon tea experience in Montreal. The ambiance and decor were quite satisfying for the whole business of afternoon tea. The scones were the best, the finger sandwiches pretty good, and the pastries disappointing. The price was the most expensive thus far for afternoon tea, at $32/person before taxes and gratuity. It’s hard to find the number to call to make reservations – I found it by looking it up on a blog – and there’s virtually no information on it on the hotel website. Service was somewhat perfunctory, though I suppose with afternoon tea your main need is refilling the tea pot and cream pitcher.

1228 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest and Rue Drummond

metro: Peel

Bus: 24

tel: (514) 842-4210 ext. 1222

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This is a small, simple French bistro serving two prix-fixe menus – the special and the  table d’hote. The special is a simple butter lettuce salad with walnuts, thin steak with mustard sauce, frites; the other menu will give you the same plus a soup and profiteroles for an extra $6.95, though I’ve never had room for all of that. My favourite dessert is the peche melba, which is a tall sundae goblet of buttery vanilla ice cream topped with canned peach halves, whipped cream, and toasted almond slivers. The traditional profiteroles are also good. Diners can look out the windows at passers-by in the bustling downtown area, or can look at themselves in the wall mirrors. We’ve never needed reservations.

2022 Rue Peel at Blvd. de Maisonneuve O.

metro: Peel

See my Sept. 2009 review here.

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There might be a quicker way to get to the food court underneath the Tour Scotia, but I usually enter through the revolving doors of the Scotia Bank skyscraper, walk straight through the open lobby of the bank, and take the small escalator down to the underground area.

There’s Asian stir fry-to-order, Arabic chicken shawarma (often called shish taouk in Montreal), burgers, and a Subway counter just around the corner. The food court gets very quiet during the summer, some shops even close down, but can be busy with long lines. Akli does shawarma and generous stew plates, and has coffee carafes filled with hot mint tea by the register. My juicy chicken shawarma included a lot of lettuce, hummus, and tomato and was wrapped in paper then heated in a panini press, which made it warm throughout but kept the pita soft. I don’t usually tip at counters, but there was a young kid helping out, so I dropped in a loonie. This is the sort of lunch food court that is convenient because of location and it’s right across the street from McGill.

Metro: McGill

Tour Scotia, 1000 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest and Rue Mansfield

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Perhaps it would be fairer if judgment were withheld until classes start again, but I don’t see myself going back to this tiny canteen. On-campus cafés tend to close or substantially downsize during the summer when students go home and faculty go travelling. It’s possible that the latter happened to this mini cafeteria. At least, one would hope that that was the case. When I stopped by at the start of July, all there was to eat were two watery self-serve soup kettles, some prepared sandwiches and individual cups of apple butter (to spread on what, one might ask?) and what looked to be a to-order sandwich counter. There may also have been coffee. Considering the size of the building, and that it is filled with doctors and medical students, the meagre offerings were very surprising.

Metro: Peel

3655 Promenade Sir William Osler and Rue Peel

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The Montreal Fine Arts Museum has an extensive collection and makes effective use of their modern spaces. It’s best not to try to cram everything into one exhaustive visit, but to repeatedly go back to view specific sections (a tip which I routinely forget and remember again around the Napolean floor). Even one pavilion could take multiple trips. And why not? The majority of the museum is free of charge, including audioguides; usually only the special large-scale exhibitions have entrance fees. Large crowds can form at the ticket counter for new and especially popular exhibits like the Tiffany exhibit and the recent Jean Paul Gaultier fashion exhibit. The special exhibits are well thought out and worth the fee. The Miles Davis exhibit last year was enormous and included multiple listening stations to experience music from various periods of his career. The current special exhibition features iconic pop art by Tom Wesselmann.

There are four multilevel pavilions. The stairs in the contemporary glass pyramid-shaped Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion are frustratingly shallow and better suited to a cascading water display than for walking, but they look nice. This pavilion is the only entrance to the museum, despite being spread out across the street. Medieval art is on the top floor, working down to contemporary art in the basement level and special exhibition level in between. There is a pleasant café for lunch on the second level.

The Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion is across the street, which distinguished columns and stone steps proclaim that it is a Museum, although one may only enter through the building across the street. Figurines, pottery, masks, and statues from around the world are displayed in this more traditional set up. The Liliane and David M. Stewart houses furniture and design items – decorative arts that perhaps might be seen in someone’s home. The Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion has all of the Quebec and Canadian art. Paintings, sculptures, and Inuit sculptures can be found at this newest pavilion of the museum.

By the Guy-Concordia metro or the Peel metro

1380 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest and Rue Crescent

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Floating solidly in the middle of McGill’s downtown campus, the Redpath Museum is everything one would expect from a classic Victorian museum. The grey stone exterior leads into a traditional Victorian museum interior. Inside, on hardwood floors, its exhibits are encased in uniform antique stained wood and glass cases. There’s a Grecian urn, a letter from Charles Darwin, and a prominently displayed skeleton of Dromaeosaurus albertensis, which while a relative of the better known Velociraptor, can almost be imagined as a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. Don’t all Victorian museums need a T-rex skeleton? It would be easy to envision a Victorian nanny browsing through the cases pushing a perambulator and ushering around charges wearing coordinated traveling clothes. A whole Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton probably wouldn’t have fit in the small museum, anyway (they do have a head somewhere).

The museum would probably be best appreciated by school-aged children, around the age when they become obsessed with dinosaurs and rock polishers. There are a number of signs emphasizing quiet behaviour and admonishing against running in the halls leaving children unattended, so it seems to be a popular destination for school-aged children. It is small and I was able to get through all three floors during my lunch hour. The exhibits are mostly minerals, sea shells, taxidermy, and bones. The ground level entrance hall is air conditioned, but the second and third levels had only strategically placed desk fans on a very warm spring day and was noticeably warmer and smellier thanks in part to the numerous taxidermy exhibits. It’s also a working research facility, and museum patrons walk by numerous offices in between the various exhibits.

Admission is free and the museum is open to the public.

Metro: McGill

859 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest and Rue McTavish (McGill University downtown campus)

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We have dinner here regularly due to its close proximity to McGill. We don’t need reservations when we go early, but the restaurant fills up especially on weekends.

This ethnically authentic, upscale resto has perhaps the best East Indian food downtown. It caters to all audiences – families, groups, business associates, and intimate pairs will all enjoy themselves – and the ornately presented bilingual menu has a pleasing selection. Dishes are presented on gorgeous copperware and diners eat on Taj plates. Service is exceptional. Subtle music allows diners to speak at normal volume. Minimalist Indian decor includes an erotic print on the back of the wine list.

I sometimes start with a freshly made cup of chai. We often order the tightly rolled pappadum and enjoy the tasty condiments served with it. We tend to skip the appetizers, and order a couple of the entrees to share instead. Some of my favorite dishes include the moist and tender lamb tikka, the Bombay curry shrimp, and the butter chicken. The mixed rice and various freshly made naans offer a nice complement; portions are just right. Super nutty kulfi and warm, homey gulab jamun finish off the meal.

Taj also offers a tasty mostly vegetarian lunch buffet during the week for $16. While more than one might usually spend for lunch, the food is just as good at lunch as it is at dinner, and there’s even gulab jamun! Somewhat noisy and bustling, but what good place isn’t at lunch time?

2077 Rue Stanley at Rue Sherbrooke O.

Metro: Peel

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