406 St Jacques St,
Phone: (514) 875-3896
Chef Hats: 5
Restaurant Monarque in the financial district of Old Montreal hits all the marks when it comes to everything a restaurant should be. It offers a comfortable and exceptional dining experience in an immense space that is split between a casual brasserie and fine dining room. Opened in summer 2018, after a lengthy four-year wait, its theme and raison d’être were inspired by New York’s Gramercy Tavern. The name coined after the most imposing of butterflies “ the Monarch” named in honor of King William III of England who was better known as “ Prince Orange”.
It is apropos that restaurant Monarque logo is a butterfly, but the color scheme is also the main focal point of the restaurant décor. Set in hues of orange and black that are representative of this regal butterfly. These two colors can be found in both dining areas with burnt orange wooden tables and black leather banquettes and chairs. The space is chic and elegant. Split into three dining rooms, it holds approximately 175 seats. At the front of the house you will find the brasserie, with a long bar seating about 20 people and a lounge area with a seating capacity of 40 or more. The atmosphere here is more laid-back, with the menu offering popular local bites at cheaper prices. The brasserie is open from 11:30 am to 11pm and serves food all day during these hours, filling a niche in Old Montreal, where most restaurant close between lunch and dinner. The menu is short, with a number of classic dishes like steak frites, tartare, burrata, foie gras, bouillabaisse and chicken. They even have smoked meat sandwiches and serve drinks and cocktails without ordering food.
The best and finer point of Restaurant Monarque is the Salle à Manger located at the back of the restaurant once you have passed the bar section and glass floor to ceiling wine cellar. The elegant black leather banquettes, round tables and white table cloth service are reminiscent of a fine gentlemen club. The restaurant extends the length of St Jacques to St Antoine, and is one large connected space, but one must enter via St Jacques St.
Upon walking into Monarque to feel like you have entered a space that not only exudes importance but has been a well thought out plan from conception to finish. Everything here has rhyme and reason including service which is impeccable. This 80-seat dining room has banquettes and booths on either side and in the center of the room. The setting propels you back to a simpler time of classic restaurant of yore. It is as if you have stepped back circa 1950 and into the set from an episode of Mad Men. The fancy dining room focuses on a more upscale fare. They serve lunch from Tuesday to Friday and dinner Tuesday to Saturday, with an à la carte menu in four sections: cold appetizers (like raw items like oysters, ceviche and tartare, and hot appetizers- as cooked seafood, sweetbreads or quails, mains, and dessert. It is typical classical French fare with seasonal changes.
Designed by Alain Carle, the décor is modern yet pays homage to restaurant designs of decades past. Its shimmering mosaic floor tiles, Simon John lighting and custom-made Kennedy Scandinavian chairs in the style of Hans Wagner’s. The look is somewhat industrial but also iconic. There is lots of history in this building that dates as far back as 1845. It used to be the old Hotel Ottawa; over the years it has gone through many transformations but it lay empty for years.
Then along came Richard Bastien owner of Leméac in Outremont and son Jérémie, who decided to spear head their own project in this locale. The talented Jérémie Bastien, combines classic flavors with improved technique for off the wall results. As executive chef, he brings his diverse culinary background mastered at the likes of Nancy Oakes’ in San Francisco, Boulevard, Boneta in Vancouver, and at prominent Australian chef Neil Perry’s Rockpool restaurants and of course at Leméac. His partner Lisa Yu is the pastry chef. The sommelier is Olivier Fontaine also from Leméac, and Olivier Visentin as restaurant director.
Chef Antoine Baillargeon, occupies the brasserie side of things while Jérémie is the executive chef. You will find many French classics at Monarque and many local specialty local products from Quebec purveyors. Each dish beautifully presented and done to perfection. Service is professional, the wine list extensive and the markup modest. The menu evolves monthly and seasonally. With emphasis on locally sourced produce from companies like Cerf de Boileau for venison and Les Viandes Biologiques de Charlevoix, which may or may not stay on the menu. Accompaniments will change monthly and seasonally.
It has been been close to 10 months since I last visited Monarque. With the closure of most restaurants for the most part of this year, we will see what 2021 brings. Many of them are hanging by a thread and at this point we hope for their survival. That being said, a notable mention for Monarque is required before this year end. I enjoyed this restaurant immensely, hopefully I will do it justice remembering what I ate.
Our meal started with two glass of orange Casale, Trebbiano dei Colli della Toscana Centrale 2016 (Italie) for 14$. We shared two entrees a Crudo scallop ceviche with cucumber, verjus, samphire and gooseberry and Japanese radish and a Tuna Tartare with foie gras custard tapioca and microgreens. Both dishes were exceptional.
We were six diners and we each had our own dish. Some meals sampled were the Quail leg confit with a root vegetable rosette and a dollop of cream which was good but scarce in vegetable accompaniments. One leg of Quebec Lamb encrusted with grains with grilled navarin vegetables, and a pave of parmesan cheese, Filet Mignon side in a wine jus with a side of risotto and grilled ramp vegetables, Gaspésie Artic Char, gnocchi, parsley root, lobster mushrooms and sake kasu, Nova Scotia Icelandic cod and Scallops.
All portions were delicious but sparce. For dessert we had the Paris Brest and tart Tatin a la mode with coffee. One of the biggest and most delicious tart Tatin ever tasted in my life time. Paris Brest was also very good but according to our Parisian diner, so so.
Diner at Monarque was the most expensive meal I have had for one person in the last couple of years and it was partially shared. Notable mention Monarque is not cheap, especially the fine dining section. But service was the best and super professional. They treatment was royal. It leaves you feeling pretty special and very good. Worth the money.