Twenty-Four Hours of Luxury in The City of a Hundred Steeples
By: Brandon Sousa
This world-renowned Canadian city, with a passion for the arts, cuisine and the perfect lifestyle for bon vivants, was dubbed the City of a Hundred Steeples by great American writer Mark Twain. If you haven’t guessed the location by now, it’s the heart beat of French-Canada: Montreal.
Living well is easy when you’re in a city filled to the brim with culture, competitive chefs and all-round good taste.
The first thing you need to do in Montreal is pick the right accommodations. Location, style and luxury will lead you to the one of the newest, hottest hotels in the city, AC Hotel Montreal Centre-Ville.
Sitting in the heart of downtown on Boulevard René-Lévesque, it’s steps away from Quartier des Spectacles (entertainment district) and Chinatown, a short walk away from Old Montreal, and a short transit ride to Parc Jean-Drapeau (home to the infamous Picnik Électronik).
The interior of AC Hotel Montreal is designed with contemporary-European style in mind emphasizing natural light with floor-to-ceiling windows. There is a sophistication and a simplicity to the room design, allowing the furnishings, colours and layout complement each other for a room you’ll love. There is no separate bathroom in you room, but instead a sink area, a large walk-in shower stall and a toilet stall. By separating the bathroom’s pieces, it allows for multiple guests in a single room to function independently.
The hotel’s pool located on the 12th floor is something to be admired. It’s a 21-metre swimming pool with incredible views of the cityscape. Or if you’re interested in working on your tan, the large, wrap-around terrace has plenty of spots to remain in the sun’s view with lounge chairs for your exclusive use.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the AC Kitchen; suspended between the ground lobby and mezzanine level, it serves the best European-style breakfast I’ve had outside of Europe. Flaky croissants, savory egg tarts, Nespresso coffee and my absolute favourite, the Berkle slicer serving up artisanal La Quercia Prosciutto, start your morning right before tackling the city.
If you want to feel like you’ve done Montreal right, in the lap of luxury, then the AC Hotel will fit your tastes just fine.
Nearby is one of Montreal’s most iconic eateries, serving up what is known to be Canada’s most iconic dish, poutine. La Banquise may not be the kind of luxury restaurant that typically comes to mind, but there’s something to be said about a diner that knows how to be the gold standard of such a traditional dish like poutine. There are only two options on the menu that I swear by, The Classic Poutine (for those who have never taken their taste buds on this culinary adventure) and The Obelix (poutine topped with Montreal Smoked Meat). For the poutine connoisseur, there are multiple varieties that will push the boundaries of what you know to be poutine.
Other than poutine, there’s something that Montreal does really, really well, and that’s cocktails. If you’re looking for a bar that serves up high-quality and high-quantity cocktails made by passionate bartenders with great conversation, your first stop needs to be La Distillerie no. 1 in the Quartier Latin.
Their cocktail menu is organized into four categories: Powerful, Fresh, Fruity and Classic. For some of their cocktail varieties, you can choose between the 500mL or 1L mason jar version. With my affinity towards rum-based drinks, I was drawn to their Hurricane 2.0 (rum, passion fruit puree, lime juice, demerara syrup, homemade grenadine and orange juice).
Looking around La Distillerie, the crowd tends to be more visitors than locals. According to the bartenders, that sentiment reigns true but they just couldn’t tell you why. If you’re looking to do cocktails like a local, then venture over to Le Mal Nécessaire in Chinatown.
Down the stairs illuminated by a neon-green pineapple, is a Polynesian-style cocktail menu done in an urban-tiki bar theme. Sitting along the bar were regulars who worked at The Coldroom, which is how I knew I was at a local joint. For context, The Coldroom is a speakeasy-style bar in Montreal which serves luxury cocktails with the finest ingredients. A great option to visit if that’s the vibe you’re looking for, or venture to Cloakroom Bar, another speakeasy-style cocktail bar.
But back to our basement tiki bar in Chinatown, Le Mal Nécessaire, I struggled with their menu filled with incredible refreshing island-themed cocktails made with superior ingredients.
I ordered the Perfect Storm (rum, ginger beer, molasses, lime and black cherry) but I could’ve gone with the Argentinian Sour, the Ginseng Pisco Sour, Abacaxi Mai Tai, Mexican Bulldog or the Bitter Brazilian and have been transported any number of tropical destinations around the globe.
What I find super unique about Le Mal Nécessaire is that they’ve opted to scrap their kitchen and instead partner with the restaurant upstairs, Fung Shing Restaurant, to serve up great eats with their fine cocktails. Fung Shing has been around for over 35 years, making the sight of a waiter in a black bowtie at the bar with a bowl of noodle soup a welcomed addition to the experience.
If you’re looking to indulge yourself with luxury cuisine, there’s no better place than Canadian celebrity chef and restaurateur Chuck Hughes’ Le Bremner. Set below grade on Rue Saint Paul E, Le Bremner is only identified by its stairs and the word “Restaurant” above them. The 30-seat dining room is candlelit against the industrial interior design, while hipster-esk waitstaff float from table to table.
Despite it’s cool and comfortable atmosphere, this fine dining restaurant is nothing short of true luxury. My partner and I reviewed the wine list, starting off our evening with a bottle of Blanquette De Limoux, followed by ordering Italian sour dough bread, a Greek Lobster Salad, and the tuna tartar.
For our main, she ordered the Quebec halibut and I ordered the shrimp risotto; which, we had to shared since my mouth began to salivate as soon as the halibut hit the table. If we weren’t completely stuffed, we would have finished off our meal with the stack of five fat pancakes, topped with Pimm’s-spiked butter and served on a pool of liquid sucre à la crème. The table beside us came in just for the pancakes and left, indicating they are just that good. The menu is ever-changing, but always focused on fresh, quality dishes, getting exactly what you pay for (remember, fine dining prices).
Montreal is a city of many luxuries and with its ever-changing landscape of new restaurants, chefs, bars and bartenders raising the standard, it truly is a haven for the bon vivant.