There’s no place like Montreal to wine and dine on a beautiful night. Gordon Ramsay, the hot tempered TV chef that stole our hearts as he crushed young chefs’ dreams on Hell’s Kitchen, knew of Montreal’s foodie reputation when he decided to open his first restaurant here.
In its first months of business, Laurier BBQ had already made a name for itself amongst Montrealers. Sure, having a world class chef such as Ramsay to create the entire menu is indeed a bonus, but the restaurant’s location on one of the most charming streets in our city makes it a real winner.
Laurier Avenue caught my attention ever since I was old enough to enjoy the subtle beauty it had to offer. Canada is a country that has been greatly influenced by American civilization. Laurier, however, has kept the European influence and charm its roots had to offer and a walk down this street makes you feel like you’re strolling along the streets of Paris.
I was therefore thrilled when I heard that Ramsay was opening a restaurant on this street. When I first went, it was a cold night and Laurier was well-lit by old-fashioned street lamps, making it a perfect evening for a hot meal in a cozy, small restaurant.
When you enter Laurier BBQ, do not expect grand decorations worthy of a castle. I was surprised by the simplicity of the decor. To be honest, it looked like a high-class cabane Ã sucre. The old-fashioned walls were purposefully scraped to create a rustic look. The plain white and low ceilings are reminiscent of a 19th century tavern. The wooden tables and high stools lit by rugged oil lamps produce a comforting atmosphere. The only extremely modern artifact in Laurier BBQ was a flat screen TV at the bar where customers could enjoy Quebec’s finest lager while watching the hockey game.
With this decor, Ramsay was able to do something special. He captured the Quebec culture in the days worthy of La Nouvelle France. To us Quebecers, this is intriguing but also rather flattering. Even more so due to the fact that he managed to accomplish this with the menu.
We are used to seeing international cuisines all over our city. Italian, Greek and Chinese restaurants are swarming every street corner imaginable. However, we fail to realize that Quebec culture has delicious cuisine that is far too underrated and underappreciated internationally.
Ramsay managed to take extremely simple dishes such as Quebec’s famous poutine platter or Montreal’s smoked meat plate and put a defining twist to them Ã la Ramsay. I was stunned by the simplicity of the menu. Ramsay’s international reputation had me expecting dishes that I had never even heard of.
However, his fresh ingredients and added expertise to Quebec’s national dish were mesmerizing. The smoked meat is, hands down, one of my favourite foods. I was shocked therefore to see creamy mac and cheese as a side dish, with a thick layer of coleslaw right in there between the meat. It was mouth watering.
Other surprises was the Quebec chicken sandwich Ã l’ancienne, topped off with nice, homemade gravy and decorated with boiling hot green peas. Every bite of the soaked bread separated by Ramsay’s soon-to-be famous chicken melted in my mouth. For a great final touch to the decor, a simple jar of pickles sits on every table waiting to be opened. Salty and crunchy, it’s the perfect entrÃ©e to the entrÃ©e.
If you still have room left after your main course, I encourage you to try the sugar pie. For all of you out there with an extreme case of sweet tooth, you will surely be satisfied after one bite of this pie. Stop on down to witness how this professional British chef captured our unique culture in a bite.
Laurier BBQ is located on 381 Laurier W., cross street Parc Avenue. Open Monday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.