2050 Mansfield St/President Kennedy
Cost: $ 78.04 one person
Chef Hats : 4
In 2014, I had the privilege of dining at Daniel Vezina’s Laurie Raphael restaurant in Montreal. Then located downtown in Le Germain Hotel on the corner of Mansfield and President Kennedy. Laurie Raphael in Montreal was an off shoot of the sister restaurant in Quebec City, except it was run by Daniel Vezina’s son. I remember that evening vividly. The ambiance, the chef’s special menu at $ 75.00 and the exceptional service. It cemented the fact that as of one Quebec’s Top 10 chef’s there is a reason why he still remains as such. I savored every moment of that special evening and was sad to hear of it’s closing in 2018.
The building that housed Laurie Raphael and Le Germain Hotel was originally erected as an office tower in 1967 during Montreal’s Expo 67 as the new headquarters of Quebec’s order of engineers. Christiane Germain, co-president and co-founder of Groupe Germain Hotels, bought the office tower in 1999 and converted it into one of Montreal’s first boutique hotels. It was her family’s third hotel in their campaign to have about 20 hotels across Canada by 2020. They now own 18, under the banner of the Germain name, ALT Hotels and Escad. After 19 years, Le Germain Hotel in downtown Montreal began a $ 30 million dollar face lift to not only renovate the restaurant and lobby but expanding the hotel by adding six floors to its 11-storey structure. They extended the second floor out beyond the building’s original blue print to create a restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on busy Rue Mansfield, and the length of President Kennedy Avenue.
The interior was designed by Atelier Zebulon Perron, who pays homage to not only Montreal’s Expo ‘67 retro roots and its status of becoming an International city. The newly renovated Le Germain and Le Boulvardier restaurant are stunning. Visible in the décor and in every aspect of the hotel from the rooms, to the lobby and dining spaces, you will notice the homage that is paid either through the wallpaper or style of furniture. The brightly lit bathrooms are finished with newspaper pages that describe many of the city’s highlights during Canada’s centennial year, Expo 67 and the Montreal Canadiens.
The overall space is elegant, modern yet not pretentious. It definitely has the boutique hotel vibe in its quaintness and comfort. Le Flâneur Bar Lounge located in the lobby of the hotel is an ideal place for a local patrons and hotel guests alike to mingle and to enjoy a drink. The décor is retro contemporary and in keeping with the overall theme. It’s a welcoming blend of concrete, rich woods, leather banquettes, mirrors, glass and marble. It offers a variety of cocktails, wine, beer and champagne with an oyster bar and light meals.
Above the Flâneur Bar and up the staircase is Le Boulevardier; it is the hotel’s new restaurant that replaces Laurie Raphael. Also specializing in classic French cuisine with a Quebec influence on local products and revival of sorts on the classic 1960 dishes of Auguste Escoffier and Parisian brasseries and bistros. Its focus is fresh, local fare, with an emphasis on lots of seafood. But you will always be able to find favorites like steak frites, cassoulet, lamb, rabbit, and of course foie gras. It has a French-inspired wine list, reinvented retro cocktails, and a good selection of hard liquor.
The kitchen is manned by Executive chef David Pellizzari. He brings years of experience working in kitchens since the 1990s. He honed his talent in Ontario and Vancouver and eventually in Montreal at Le Réservoir under the direction of Chef Dany Bolduc, chef at Buvette Chez Simone, and Lili.Co. He won Eater Magazine’s Best New Restaurant in his first year there. David and Lili.Co were part of the prestigious Visa Infinite Dining Series alongside Normand Laprise (Toqué!), CharlesAntoine Crête (Montréal Plaza), and Derek Dammann (Maison Publique). David’s creativity has led to his recipes being published in the cookbook Cuisine de mon enfance and the guide Where Chefs Eat.
Le Boulvardier is like a shining jewel. It has an open kitchen, another bar and a large dining room, which sat empty this evening except for two other guests. The ambiance is young, fresh, and hip. All done in hues of orange, tan, wood and leather banquettes. It is appealing to the eyes and senses even for a hotel restaurant, but with an extra air “je ne sais quoi”.
The night we visited the restaurant, Montreal was coming out of the first Covid lockdown. I got there a little early and waited at the hotel bar at one of the tables for my friends to arrive. Instead of getting a paper menu, the waiter showed me a QR code scan on plastic menu and asked me to use my phone to view what they were serving. I ordered a rose wine Called Mas de Lavail, from Terre D ‘ardoise Cotes Catalanes 2018 for $ 18.00. Perfect for July 4th weekend. We got to chatting a little about the 4-month lockdown and he explained how the hotel was used for first responders and nurses at a near by hospital who could not go home to their families. I felt safe knowing they were taking all the necessary precautions, by having staff wear masks and visors and in place of peanuts hand sanitizer could be found tables scattered here and there. As my friends arrived, we made way up the lobby stairs to Le Boulvardier. We were greeted by a young waitress wearing a visor and given menus to peruse. I was happy to see the changes to the restaurant and how it looked so much bigger than I had remembered. I loved the changes in décor and style, it felt spacious and brighter and the view was nice.
Our waitresses were very hospitable and we quickly ordered our appetizers. We decided to order, a daily green salad with cubes of squash, cranberries, sunflower seeds and a honey mustard vinaigrette. It was a good blend of sweet with the squash and cranberries and just the right texture of the crunchiness. It was refreshingly flavorful and light. Lulu had the Roasted Carrots salad with smoked date puree, marinated fennel and almonds. A little on the sweet side because of the date puree, but nonetheless original and tasty.
Our other friends had the Salmon Tartare with marinated cucumber served with two baguette crisps. It was delicious and also very refreshing with the cucumber.
For our main meals, we had Bavette with Frites, this came served with shallots in butter jus and French fries in a cocotte. We found the Bavette to be a little tough, but nonetheless good. The only complaint the bottom which must have sat in the juice for far too long looked pale and soggy. The fries were large crispy potatoes that were satisfying and filling.
Other items sampled was the Tuna Tataki Niçoise Style which our friend found to his liking and the Icelandic code which was absolutely delicious. It came served with potatoes, oyster sauce and caviar and pistachios nuts.
The service was hospitable and professional, conversation interesting and centered around life in times of Covid. We had no dessert as we were full but managed to sneak in an espresso and chat a little about what we did to pass the time. For our first time out, Le Boulvardier was a much-needed distraction and we were very happy with our choice as it hit all the marks in terms of ambiance, décor, hospitality and good food. Keep up the good work, worth a definite return.
Till then a few recipes to tie you over.
Le Boulvardier Cocktail
1 1/4 ounces bourbon (or rye)
1 ounce Campari
1-ounce sweet vermouth
Garnish: orange twist
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
Garnish with an orange twist.
Smoked Tuna Tartare
1lb smoked salmon or raw salmon
1/3 c. green onions
1 tbsp marinated ginger chopped
3 tbsp soya sauce-Kikkoman brand
1 tsp. wasabi
Juice of lime or lemon
3 tbsp sesame seeds toasted
8 Won Ton wrappers-Keep 4 for extra.
Peanut oil for frying
Garnish cilantro sprig
In a bowl combine first 6 ingredients listed. Cover & Refrigerate for 1-hr.
Make won Ton Crisps by frying in oil. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
With emporte piece layer tuna mix on 1fried won ton crisps.
Drizzle with sesame oil and top with roasted sesame seeds.
Serve immediately. You can also serve with toasted baguette crisps.
One Comment Add yours
Once all this is over and I can cross the border, perhaps I’ll give this a try!