Maison Birks Café
1240 Place Phillips Square/St Catherine
Chef Hats: 4.5
Type of Cuisine: Tea Service
Cost: $ 26.50 per person
I always celebrate the holidays by doing one traditional outing in Montreal. This year we wanted to choose something memorable for the girls. Since they love tea we decided to take them to Maison Birks Café. We wanted to choose something of value or something they would not choose to do on their own. Included in that, a sort of lesson about Montreal’s historical past combined with something of the present that they would enjoy immensely. My parents used to do this with us and we always had the best of times and learned life’s lessons that stayed with us forever.
Last year, Frenchie had suggested we try Birks Café in the Birks Flagship Jewelry store in downtown Montreal for lunch after one of our downtown shopping sprees. I remember as a kid always being afraid to wonder into Birks as it seemed so opulent and foreign to me. I remember my aunt discussing how they had the finest things there and since the turn of the century it was the go to place for most of Montreal high society and aristocracy. Apparently they only shopped there for their finest accoutrements. I remember receiving a wedding gift from Birks in one of their prized blue boxes. I prized it for many years, till the box become old and tattered.
That is when we saw the Tea Service Menu and decided it was going to be a great idea. Birks is packed with history and class. I knew full well that Brains would love the historic aspect, and value of the building and Petit Pois would love everything about the experience. She is so dainty and delicate like a fine piece of jewellery and would fit right in among them. So we booked a Saturday afternoon for 3 o’clock tea service. Both of the girls had never been inside the Birks building on St. Catherine, even though they have passed in front of it a dozen times. Upon entering, they looked around timelessly in awe and entire splendor at the different ornate cherub moldings and marble flooring, mesmerized by the architecture and feeling of time past. Like a museum we looked around and read all the historical information that you can find at the back of the store in a virtual time capsule to Henry Birks and the era. The restaurant is situated on the mezzanine of the store a few marble steps up, in a space unlike the rest of the store it has a modern contemporary feel with its brown leather chairs and draped tablecloths, glass display counters of products and lit mural showcases.
Opened in September 2010, Birks Café by Europea is the brain child of Jerome Ferrer the executive Chef behind Europea, Restaurant Andiamo, Beaver Hall, Café Grévin and TV host Francis Reddy. Ferrer who was already established in France as a master chef with lots of experience behind him and lots and lots of accolades, made a bold move and invested in Quebec in 2001. Considered a grand Chef de Relais and Chateaux, a prestigious nomination and part of the grand tables du Monde. Chef Jerome ferrer is a force to reckon with and you can count that his establishment are a well thought out and oiled machine. I have only heard many good things about his restaurants. Birks Café is the only one I had the pleasure of going to as of yet. But my introduction was a good and satisfying one from the onset.
The afternoon Tea Service at Birks Café is served weekdays from 2:30 and 3 pm on weekends, it will set you back $ 26.50, not a steep price to pay for the quality, service and fantastic experience. We got the best seat in the house, the table in the private corner nook completely at the back for four amidst the displays of Blue Birk boxes .Special!
Included in the tea service is a choice of tea (pot) from Marriages Frères with milk and lemon, mini tea sandwiches with cucumber and shrimp, Finger appetizers of duck foie gras and chutney, and smoked salmon with Abitibi Temiscamingue Caviar, mini club sandwich with crispy prosciutto and scone, Devonshire cream and homemade jams, two dessert in a terrine (chocolate and raspberry and cream and apricots, and chocolates. We got about two each and it was more than satisfying.
We started by choosing our teas, Marco Polo, Russian Breakfast, Jasmine Mandarin and Earl Grey Imperial. We were brought our teas with big fanfare and an hourglass system that was explained to us on how to use, making the seeping method and infusions clear. Genial! The girls were totally impressed and so was I for that matter.
After a short wait our platters arrived with big fanfare and another explanation of the food. Two platters for four, filled with mini sandwiches, canapés, terrines, macaroons, scones and Devonshire cream, jam and chocolates.
The mini sandwiches and canapés were soft, fresh and the flavors inside delightful. The desserts were perfectly sweet and appetizing for the “sweet tooths” in our group. The macaroons heavenly, the scones were totally filling with all the Devonshire cream and jam and my teapot seemed endless. It was plenty enough to not have to order another pot, even though I would have enjoyed sampling another one. The terrines hit the mark but I couldn’t complete it, as I found it very sweet and filling. The girls marvelled at the array of choices and enjoyed everything to the last crumb. It was a different experience for them and a great history lesson as we discussed the landmark building and Montreal’s past and the places that had special relevance in our city’s that are now defunct. Our two hours passed quickly and we would have loved to linger but it was time to head back home to enjoy the rest of the holidays in another traditional sense.