Le Richmond377 Richmond St. (near William St.) Montréal, Québec H3T 1J9 Phone: 514-508-8749 Web site: lerichmond.com Cuisine Type: Northern Italian Price range: Entreés $10-$24; Main Meal -$23-$60; desserts $10-$13. Serves Lunch table d’hôte, three courses: $25 & Sunday Brunch Chef Hats: 2 out of 4 $$$-$$$$ –Cost =$ 148 before tax and tip
Everyone knows that Griffintown is experiencing a sort of neighbourhood gentrification lately with its multitude of new condo developments, and a rehab of many of the existing industrial lofts turning into anything from film and entertainment venues to studios and new cool urban restaurants. There is also a new hotel which is part of the ALT group and much more to come that we have yet to discover.
One must look at the history of this area to see where it comes from. In the early 1800’s Griffintown was a neighborhood that was predominately inhabited by poor Irish unskilled industrial labours that worked in the local mills and factories. Best known as part of Point St Charles, Griffintown was named after Mary Griffin, a proprietor of a soap factory in the area at the time; she went on to become the first clerk of Bank of Montreal at its inception. Griffintown is soaked in history and stories, including that of murdered prostitute Mary Gallagher whose ghost walks William Street looking for her severed head, a metaphor for a community that has vanished like a ghost. In October 2012, the City of Montreal announced plans to revive Griffintown and since then it has slowly been transforming into a young urban professional playground of places to work and play. But I digress, as this is not the story here, but an anecdote to the real task at hand.
Enter Le Richmond, a Northern Italian inspired supper club type restaurant which officially opened its doors in November 2013 in a 100 year old plus industrial factory that has been renovated with timeless decor of the era. A large intimidating black and beige open space, housing a large square bar in the center of the room , steel industrial tables and red arm chairs, large bird-cage pendant chandeliers , a mezzanine that overlooks the restaurant and wall to wall windows covered in subdued champagne tones ceiling to floor Chartreuse drapes. Simply elegant! To boot behind the garage doors at the left of the restaurant is a large terrace that can hold 90 guests. This place will be not only bustling in summer when the barometer reaches scorching temperatures and people want to spend it outdoors, it will become THE place to hang out if you are among the super cool hip crowd of wannabees of the Montreal Jet set.
Having done my time in many of Montreal Super clubs, I was kind of looking forward to an evening of loud music, people watching and dancing on tables. Instead, the patrons that frequent Le Richmond (especially this evening) were mature, well to do people of all ages and walks of life, simply enjoying themselves, chatting and enjoying some good food. We saw one group of girls celebrating a bachelorette party and they were very tame compared to the downtown /St Laurent St. crowd. Very classy, is the word that comes to mind about the patrons who frequent Le Richmond. The Ferrari’s Lamborghini, Mercedes and BMW’s parked out front is another sign that the patrons here exude money. A far cry from Griffin town’s history of poverty and social decline.
My only very big qualm about the start of my evening is that even though there is valet service to park your car for you. If you choose to not pay the $ 10.00 valet fee and choose to find your own parking on the street like we did, you will have to pass a very seedy, still depressed and scary part of town. On my way there I had to bypass the sidewalk and literally walk in the street to get to Le Richmond due to the piles of garbage littered on the sidewalk from donations strewn in front of the Salvation Army depot right next door. A contradiction of sorts, but once inside you are amazed by the opulence and forget what part of town you’re in.
I really enjoyed Le Richmond, I felt a little intimidated when I first walked in. The portico area is accommodating enough for a few people, but the entrance near cloak room was tight. I was being bustled like a ping-pong ball as people flocked past me .The hostess took her time to take our coats and seat us, I was getting really impatient. Finally we got a corner table, next to the floor to ceiling glass wine storage cellar in a private corner, away from the action. But not the ideal place to sit if you want to be seen and want to get maximum effect of a supper club. I recommend the bar area as it is the focal point of this restaurant or even the mezzanine for a broader view and full spectrum for people watching.
Our waiter was accommodating and professional, but not much more. He left us to our own demise. We ordered wine by the glass a Pouilly Fusé for $ 13.00 and A Barberi D’asti -Ricossa for $9.00. The wine listed by the bottle are expensive here, there could have been so many more good wines listed from the Northern region of Italy at a cheaper price. I found selection to be limited and no recommendations were made by our waiter.
For starters we had the Mushroom Consommé-with Balsamic roasted cippolini and truffle oil infused crostini. My partner in crime Frenchie said that the soup reminded him of what his mother use to make in terms of consommé. I thought it had the right flavor and saltiness, but did not taste much of the truffle oil on the crostini.
I ordered Veal Carpaccio with Black pepper fennel seed crust, tomato sauce, truffle peaches, arugula sprouts and pecorino shavings of cheese. The veal carpaccio was very fatty and very pale in comparison to others I have tasted. No hint of fennel and barely crusted with black pepper. I did not see an inkling of tomato sauce or truffle peaches. I thought I had two very small miniscule pieces of olives as décor in my plate and did not recognize what it was at all, even the taste deceived me. The carpaccio did however contain shavings of cheese and arugula sprouts. No crostini or bread served as accompaniment to compliment this dish .Very very bland and tasteless. Not the way to go here.
For my Main meal I had the Pappardelle with Quebec Wild mushrooms. The taste was good and satisfying, portions not big.
Frenchie had the Mediterranean sea Bass with parsnip purée, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, and Ligurian olives. He enjoyed his dish more than I did mine. The sea bass was moist and perfectly cooked. The parsnip purée was too soft and liquid and did not hold together as it should have. The small artichoke pieces complimented the fish well with the bitterness of the olives, but again very small pieces to really enjoy to the full extent. No sign of any cherry tomatoes in the dish. Did the kitchen run out of produce, maybe because it was a late night dinner reservation, at 9:00 pm.
For dessert, Frenchie had the de- constructed tiramisu and I decided to cut my losses here and have a few limoncello’s as a digestif as the waiter so appropriately suggested.
All in all a good, ok experience but I am seriously wondering about the authencity of Le Richmond’s menu and its claim to Northern Italian food. First no sign of Polenta on the menu, even as a base to some of their meals, a big staple in Northern Italian cooking. Also, things like Buratta and Caprese salad are from the region of Naples and La Puglia, and should not have a place on the menu.
Paul Soucie and Luc Laroche from (Misto) have brought their specific skills and talent to this new hip hangout in haunted Griffintown. Soucie has worked in enough Italian kitchens like Pizzadelic, Romeo, and Spag & Co. to know a thing or two about authentic Italian cuisine. I feel that Le Richmond should be re branded, and not as a Northern Italian restaurant or Supper club, the expectation is just not there. The portions should also be a little larger for the cost of the food or prices should be lowered. By 11 pm, the place had emptied out, except for a few stragglers at the bar. Supper Club….. hmmm ….Where….what happened to those late nights, people dancing on tables till 4 am ,alcohol flowing… and loud music…I got none of this here. We left as well, disappointed, not that I wanted to dance on tables but it had been a while I did not go to a supper club and Frenchie too has missed out.
A little tipsy I stepped out on the curb and had to bypass the garbage on the sidewalk again, what a shame I thought, they really should do something about this…. But in the pile of re cycled garbage I thought I saw the head of what looked like Mary Gallagher, or just an illusion …too much limoncello.