On our last full day in Montreal, the plan was to walk in the snow and sub-freezing temperatures through Vieux-Montreal, to the Village neighborhood, then to the Cinemathèque Québecoise in the Quartier Latin. I only started minding the cold about an hour into the walk, when tea splashed on my coat, and the droplets froze in neat rows as they slid down the front. When we approached the Cinemathèque and saw that it was closed for the holidays, M. Cheesemonger and I realized we needed a new plan.
The day was saved by a visit to L’Express, a French brasserie with authentic Parisian style and ambiance. It came to us highly recommended, and we were not disappointed. The bustling dining room was full when we arrived, so we slid into two seats at the counter. From there, I could watch the waiters in their crisp white shirts and vests bring out traditional French fare like bone marrow, steak/frites, and steak tartare. The clatter of dishes, coffee machines, happy diners’ conversations, filled the air. I scanned the short menu, handwritten in French-style script, and chose to battle the cold with a sunchoke soup, a smoked arctic char. M. Cheesemonger went all out with a Montreal blond beer and a steaming pot au feu, a comforting stew with beef, carrots, cabbage, and marrow bone. “That’s what you needed, a warm restaurant and a good meal,” M. Cheesemonger teased me as my grumbling about the weather dissipated.
The restaurant is open until 2am, which makes it a favorite post-work hangout for the restaurant industry folks, I learned. If only I were a night owl!
If you decide to try L’Express for yourself, I highly recommend reserving a table in advance. It gets pretty crowded; we just got lucky with our counter spots. The restaurant phones were ringing off the hook during our lunch, so I imagine it’s not always easy to get a table.
Another note: During this restaurant tour of Montreal, I did notice that dining prices are considerably higher than in San Francisco, and diners are still expected to leave a 15-20% tip. Just something to note if you are planning your Montreal visit!
L’Express: 3927 St Denis St, Montreal, QC H2W 2M4, Canada