Montreal: Vieux Port

I’ve been to montreal for business several times but this past trip was the first time I spent a weekend in the French Canadian capital and the first time I made it down to the old port.  I’ve always heard rave reviews about both the restaurants and the architecture in Montreal, and that downtown was surely not the place to experience either and so I made some time on this visit, to Old Montreal.

I don’t know much about the architectural history of Montreal, but the strong double colonization influence is unavoidable. mansard roofs sit next to gothic-revivalist towers throughout the city. Even the American Skyscraper wave can be seen in the business districts. What I love about Montreal’s architecture and, I believe, what it shows about their culture and pride in their heritage, is how well it combines the new with the old. Centuries old buildings everywhere have been gutted to update interior infrastructure but the original character of the site is preserved and honored.  This style is so en vogue right now, watching the Green Building and sustainable architecture waves wash over every industry, but Montreal has been infusing multiple cultures into its government, its language and its traditions for centuries. So the ability to enfold the historic charm of classic buildings into the crisp, cool modern aesthetic of the new should perhaps come as no surprise.

As darkness fell and the streets of the Old Port, filled with hungry patrons strolling Rue St Paul for a trendy bite or stopping to watch street artists paint colorful city scenes, I snapped my favorite examples of Montreal’s restaurant designs

Apollo: an old rectory turned very trendy, gastronomic experience

Apollo seemed to be pushing the “global clientele” a bit much but I did love the building juxtaposed with the very modern branding and junk metal sculpture out front.

Great material contrast at Garde Manger, famous for their lobster poutine

love the contrast of materials in this window view. old stripped wood, black metal, candle light and an overgrown-chic explosion of greenery.  Nothing quite tops the fortuitousness of the utility access door just outside the entrance alerting visitors of Bright New Ideas (shown at top).

Old sign in the foyer of a trendy rooftop bar

I'm a huge fan of the (at least partially) hand written chalkboard menu. It just makes me want to run inside and take a seat by the fire.

love the graphic on this charming boulangerie, Olive + Gourmando

This adorable, and very trendy boulangerie came up over and over in my research but I was never able to catch it when it was open. The inside is a lovely combination of old french country furniture with modern twists on recipes and sourcing practices. …not to mention graphics.

Bocata won my attendance for the night. I can't pretend the long horns above the door didn't play a part, it may have been my increasing hunger as well.

I stopped and had dinner at Bocata, loving the large open windows, gothic style chandelier and, of course, the long horns above the door. I couldn’t have been more pleased when I walked in to find a menu based on small-plates, most of which were sourced from local farmers.  I sat at the bar, which was a lovely old, knobbly piece of polished wood, and watched the bartender create complicated cocktails filled with fresh fruit stored in pretty mason jars along the counter.

cocktail garnishes prepared fresh nightly at Bocata

Only just visible in the back is the old meat slicer that the bartender is also tasked with running to slice translucent-thin shavings of prosciutto for several of the dishes.

After a nice chat with the bartender/manager about the restaurant and what line of work brought me to the city I traded a fresh cucumber cocktail for a promise to come back again before I left, which I did. And it was just as good the second time.

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