Categories
Arts

For a unique brunch experience, head to Le Balcon!

The Concordian was invited to attend a lively gospel brunch hosted by Le Balcon on February 26

Le Balcon is a cabaret located in the rustically beautiful St. James United Church in downtown Montreal. It offers dinner shows as well as gospel brunches.

The Concordian was invited to attend a gospel brunch on February 26th, featuring local band HOWzik. It was a dazzling experience that energized all the senses. 

When arriving, guests were escorted through the church to the Le Balcon area. As soon as one walks in, the amount of care and thought put into the space was evident. The interior design was splendid, with each piece of decor complementing the other nicely. Red lights illuminated beautiful stained glass windows, matching perfectly with red tablecloths and the stage’s red curtains. Eagle-eyed guests could spot “Le Balcon” faintly written in white letters on the thick curtains.The tables were decorated with black handkerchiefs and magnificent clear yellow rectangular candles. Several large black and white photos of the various artists that have performed at Le Balcon adorned the walls of the space. The interior design wasn’t the only thing that enhanced the experience, though: as guests dined, gospel music played in the background. 

Yogurt was served as an entrée. It contained blueberry jam, crispy granola, honey, and almonds. Afterwards, guests had a choice of crêpes or strata for their main meal. The strata contained egg and chorizo gratin, bread, aged cheddar, bell pepper, arugula, and herbed fingerling potatoes. In addition, there was a vegetarian version of this meal. The strata was described by another guest as savoury, fresh, light and refreshing but still filling. She added that the flavour combination was amazing and pesto added to the presentation. 

The other option, crêpes, were rolled with roasted apples, maple and salt flower caramel, and apple and spice jelly with crumble. They were delicious. The apple filling was smooth, tasty, fresh and juicy. The caramel added a kick. Overall, the flavour combination was mouthwatering. 

Along with the food, drinks such as mimosas and alcoholized coffee were available. 

After dinner came the main attraction: the band HOWzik. Before their set, the group introduced themselves and the history of gospel music. They told us we would be taken through the journey of gospel. They were right.

The group began with African songs such as, “Kumbaya” by Soweto Gospel Choir and “Nazo bondela yo” by Rosny Kayiba. The bands also presented on the history of the music they performed, stating they were ancestral songs from Africa that predated slavery. 

Afterwards, the group switched to a song dating from the period when enslaved Africans arrived in the Americas, called “Oh Freedom!”

The group then switched to a different era, in which the Christianization of enslaved people occurred and gospel music began to appear. The five songs performed in this phase were “Wade in the water we Dey,” “Très longtemps,” “Amazing grace,” “Let praises rise” and “Oh happy day.” The first two songs were performed before a break, which gave a chance for both the band and audience to relax and refresh. The last three songs were performed afterwards. 

Finally, the group performed three upbeat and uplifting original songs in French. These were “Cris de joie,” “Plus haut,” and “Apprends moi à t’aimer.” 

As the group sang, lights and visual effects enhanced the experience. Indeed, different coloured lights accompanied by dancing shapes projected on the walls around the stage served to further immerse the audience into the spectacle. Also, flashing  lights were used to add intensity. For example, during the “Nazo bondela yo” number, blue lights illuminated the stage and stained glass windows while white foliage-like shapes covered the walls. Given the slower pace of the song, the lights only flashed sparingly. In comparison, during the more upbeat “Yindule/Soki toko lingana” number, pink lights aggressively flashed while pink shapes, which occasionally turned white, covered the walls. Special effects perfectly matched the tones of the songs, as quieter more emotional tracks like “Wade in the Water we Dey” had fewer special effects while more upbeat songs like “Cris de joie” had more flashy effects. 

Another aspect that added to the immersive nature of the experience was the harmony between the band. The musicians and singers complemented each other perfectly. They even wore matching black outfits for the first part of the set. Then after the break, they wore matching white shirts and blue jeans. Harmony was not just found among their outfits, but also within their voices. Each singer also had a chance to shine. During different numbers, different singers took turns taking centre stage.

The band also energized the crowd by asking them to sing, clap, or dance along. For example, during the performance of “Wade in the Water we Dey,” the crowd was encouraged to sing along. This made the audience part of the performance which enhanced the experience. 

Overall, gospel brunches at Le Balcon are a perfect weekend morning activity for music lovers no matter their religious background. Every day, different artists perform at Le Balcon. Upcoming events include a Flamenco evening.

 

Visuals courtesy Sydney Gastaldo 

Categories
Ar(t)chives

Yum or Yikes: Arthurs Nosh Bar

Living in Montreal over the past three years has taught me a lot of things.

I can safely say that it introduced me to one thing that I will forever be grateful for—the concept of brunch. The trend of having brunch has grown dramatically over the past few years, as more and more Instagram influencers snap pictures of their scrumptious avocado toast or their bright-coloured açai bowls.

Being a self-proclaimed foodie, this kick-started my journey of looking for the best brunch place in Montreal. I would spend hours looking over Yelp reviews and scrolling through famous Montreal Instagram food blogs, jotting down the restaurants that piqued my interest and trying them out the next weekend. But that’s not how I discovered Arthurs Nosh Bar. As the famous expression goes: “actions speak louder than words,” and that’s exactly what lured me into trying this unique brunch place. 

As I walked down the streets of St-Henri on a blazing summer day, I noticed a long queue of people standing in front of a bright pink neon sign, impatiently waiting as the sun’s harsh rays beat down on them. Why were those people sacrificing their comfort and waiting this long merely for a brunch place, when there are plenty of others scattered across Montreal? I was intrigued. So I did exactly what they did, and stood in line for a full two hours before I was seated.  

Merely a 10-minute walk from Place-St-Henri metro station, the space is small and packed, but has a comfortable and inviting ambiance. Its white and green walls give you the summer vibe you’ve been yearning to experience all winter. It has an open kitchen, so you get to see the chefs prepare your food, which in turn makes you even hungrier. 

Ambiance: 3.7/5

Their menu offers Jewish classics, ranging from sandwiches, soups and traditional breakfast plates such as smoked salmon bagels and oatmeal. Some of their most notable dishes that I can truly vouch for include the McArthur, the Shak and the Moroccan toast. They also offer vegetarian dishes such as the gluten-free quinoa bowl, and vegan dishes such as the #KGMTL salad. 

On item on the menu, however, most definitely takes the prize: The Grand Slam. Only available on weekends, this dish is hands-down worth the wait. A crunchy, juicy, golden fried chicken thigh rests on top of two fluffy moist pancakes that instantly melt in your mouth as you pour some of their rich maple syrup on top. This is topped off with two slices of savoury beef bacon and a fried egg, complimenting the sweetness of the pancakes, and tying the whole dish together.

Food: 4.8/5 

Once you’re seated, it’s not too long before someone comes and takes your order. The food also arrives pretty quickly considering the vast number of people being served at once.

Service: 4.5/5 

The best part about this is that you get to leave with a belly full of delicious food, and your wallet won’t hate you for it! Their most expensive dish goes for $26, which is a dish for two. The average price point is around $15.

Price: 4.5/5

Photo by Huda Hafez

Categories
Student Life

Pista: Rosemont’s turquoise caffeine heaven

This trendy Rosemont café is the perfect blend of a cozy and classy experience

After visiting café Pista for the first time last week, I finally understood what all the hype was about. Upon entering the café on Beaubien Street in the Rosemont neighbourhood, I was met with a serene feeling I had never felt at any other café.

Sometimes, small neighbourhood cafés can feel a little too noisy, a little too crowded. At Pista, thanks to good acoustics and spaced out tables, the environment is quiet, welcoming and stress-free, even though there are usually many people.

Pista is located on the corner of Beaubien Street and Saint-Vallier Street. Photo by Danielle Gasher

I was served by a kind barista who recommended their most popular drink: the chai tea latté. It was delicious—creamy enough, with well-balanced sweetness. Pista’s service style adds to the laid-back feel. After ordering, the barista brings your hot beverage directly to your table. The coffee has a strong, nutty taste that seems to be quite common among numerous small cafés in the city.

The décor is an important part of the overall experience. While the space isn’t too big—approximately the size of a small Montreal apartment—it is well laid-out, with enough places to sit comfortably and study. The walls are a pale turquoise and covered with abstract artwork and a beautiful black-and-white Asian temple photograph next to the window. The ceiling is impressive, painted gold with church-like detailing. It brings together the modern and minimalistic aesthetic of the café, and the touch of antiqueness gives it added charm. The spot’s music is also a highlight. They play a lot of underground hip-hop and some jazzy tunes.

The spot sells classic café treats such as pastries, but also have a brunch and lunch menu. Photo by Danielle Gasher

The café is appropriate for study sessions, business lunches and coffee with friends. In the fall, the spot introduced a breakfast and lunch menu. The menu includes healthy options such as salads, soups and trendy breakfast classics like granola, poached eggs and avocado on toast, or toast with ricotta, honey, nuts and fruit. While affordable, the prices are not particularly low or student-friendly. The breakfast and lunch menu prices range from $3.50 for toast and jam to $12 for a smoked salmon bagel.

Pista could even be a go-to spot for a first date because of its laid-back vibe combined with its trendy and classy atmosphere and décor. At the same time, the long tables in the back are the perfect place to camp out for a few hours and get those readings done. All in all, I would highly recommend this unique café to all Concordia students seeking a classy and cozy place to study far from campus.

Café Pista

500 Beaubien Street East

Open weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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