Renoir at the Sofitel Hotel
1155 Sherbrooke St. W. /Stanley
Chef Hats: 4
It is not often that I will review hotel restaurants or any type of buffet restaurants on my blog. Unless I believe that they’re truly of an exceptional nature and really worth a try. Then I will recommend them. I do admit that the Sofitel Hotel has a history with me and a soft spot in my heart. Ok, for all you dirty minds out there, get it out of the gutter. It is not like that at all! I don’t hang out in many Montreal hotels unless is for a business meetings or weekend brunching.
The story goes, in 2002 during our traditional family Christmas lunch at the in laws, my sister in law, an Interior Designer by trade and I were discussing her latest project. She was re-designing a 16th storey office tower located on Sherbrooke St. West and the corner Stanley Street. The building formerly housed the Air Liquid building and was Real Estate mogul David Azrieli latest venture. She had the difficult task to incorporate some restored artifacts and decor from William Van Horne Mansion which was demolished in 1973 into the new lobby and restaurant of Sofitel Hotel. The task proved difficult as her style is very contemporary with Art Deco influences. Hence, the two bronze chandeliers and fireplace now adorn the lobby and the Renoir restaurant. The stained glass mural hangs in the lobby and some impressive wood doors grace the Presidential suite. I had the luxury a short time afterwards through an associate of mine while doing some event planning to visit the suites at the Sofitel and lunch at the bar. I could see my sister-in-law’s influence throughout the hotel and it made me proud. Today, I don’t pass up the opportunity to revisit The Sofitel and eat at Renoir whenever I can and this was just the case this weekend when I was invited to celebrate my new sister in law birthday brunch at Renoir.
Twelve years after my initial visit, I was wondering if the hotel had stood the test of time and still looked fresh as the first time I visited. I remarked that things still remain status quo at the Sofitel and not much has changed. A large display of flowers and the famous mural still adorn the lobby area. The lounge and fireplace area still have the same seating arrangements, glass showcases and carpets. The massive steel staircase leading to second floor remains intact and unchanged as the first day. The only visible changes that I perceived on this visit was the restaurant terrace which now boasts large red umbrella’s, tables , comfortable chairs and lots of potted plants. It has become 12 years later, a great and popular spot to relax after work and enjoy some fine outdoor dining or simply drinks on a hot summer day.
The Sunday buffet is impressive. To some the hefty price tag of $49.00 per person is not. But you are getting quality here. If you do not like spending money, then head down the street to the local Chez Cora!
The Executive Chef at the Sofitel is Olivier Perret. His trademark is healthy gourmet dishes to satisfy any palate. Renoir has also recently inherited a new Pastry chef Roland Del Monte who has won accolades in France. After moving to Montreal in 2009, he worked at places like Europea and two Relais & Chateaux hotels in Quebec.
His experience and expertise was very evident in the quality of the pastries at the Renoir this particular morning. The mastery behind the desserts is exceptional, each pastry, each verrine is a work of art. Great eye candy! Beautifully pieced together and each ingredients finely paired. I sampled a mango fruit /mascarpone verrine topped with granola, a limoncello tart and a mini napoleon. Each better than the other and I could have kept eating, if I was not completely sated.
The buffet has some of the old favorites to any brunch, scrambled eggs, Eggs Benedict, omelets made on the spot, sausages and bacon, potatoes. A crowd pleaser for any type of eater. For the preverbial foodie what surprised me was the elaborate but tasteful food display of fine quality items not found in many typical buffets in the city. Example ,Fresh oysters in a shell and I mean fresh. I do not eat clams, mussels or oysters, as I previously mentioned in my articles due to an outbreak in 1980’s. At Renoir I got an appreciation for them and will start trying them in other finer eating establishments.
Also on the menu was Salmon made in every combination and permutation you can find; smoked, poached and in a mousse. Caviar and blinis, pickled herring, salads and vegetables of all sorts, fiddleheads (in season), Pates and rillettes of all sorts, different types of crostini with cream cheese and prosciutto and more, deli meats and cheese platters galore, and fruit to cleanse the palette; set up on a separate table in the center of the buffet area. Everything was well decorated with flowers in a minimalistic organized setting. But the piece de non-resistance has to be the dessert table. I was in total euphoria and in awe. Not only was the display showcase attractive but the desserts were outstanding in taste. This can be said of all the items on the menu , nothing was generic, but of premium quality.
My only disappointment was the service lacked considerably. We had a bus boy fill up our water glasses and coffee cups, we were never asked if we wanted mimosa, wine or anything else for that matter. I never saw our waiter for the duration of the meal. At the end, when requested by my father in law who was footing the bill, he made an appearance and handed over the addition.
Nonetheless, the experience was a positive one and definitely worth a try. The heated terrace is gorgeous with its potted plants, sun umbrellas and lounge seating area, perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I highly recommend the Sofitel, if you want to experience the downtown hotel dining scene . These days only a handful of good places remain on this strip and the rest are very typical, run of the mill and lack the quality or caliber of Renoir.