La Champagnerie on St-Paul in Old Montreal opened just this May 2013. The Montreal Food Divas were invited to the opening event but sadly we could not make it. That being said, we were more than happy to review this new Montreal concept in a foodie heaven city that is always reinventing old concepts. The idea of a champagnerie was brought to Montreal from Barcelona, and we were ready to be wowed.Diva #1 and Sweet Pea decided to go out on a Saturday night for some drinks and tapas. Sweet Pea needed some cheering up and Diva #1 despises a world where her best friend is unhappy. One of our favourite haunts in Old Montreal did not have any room to seat us so we wandered around in the rain looking for a place with a bite to eat and some fun drinks. Remembering that the Divas had not yet gone to the newly opened La Champagnerie, Diva #1 and Sweet Pea started trekking down St-Paul in the rain, under a tiny umbrella, tripping over the cobblestones in our high heels, in search of this new fabulous place. Not champagne connoisseurs, we were intrigued with the idea of enjoying some bubbly and a light dinner. When we arrived there we were ready to eat each other because we were so hungry but in our usual way we made it inside unscathed.
We entered La Champagnerie and right away noticed the 1930s His Master’s Voice gramophone that greeted us at the door. A fan of vintage pieces, Diva #1 was pleased and wanted to take it home. At this point, the place wasn’t too busy for a Saturday night but as the night wore on it filled up. A waiter greeted us with a perfect Parisian accent and an amazing outfit that transported you back in time to the 1930s, complete with the old school hat; you felt like you were at one of Gatsby’s parties. La Champagnerie is a place to be fabulous and the Divas love being fab.
Not knowing enough about bubbly, our very helpful waiter with his perfect French helped us choose. He explained how La Champagnerie had a Canadian sparkling white wine on their list that was one of the first decent Canadian bubbly. Apparently Canada has not been doing well with their bubbly, certainly not as well as France with their champagne and Spain with their Cava. After all, it is not champagne unless it is from Champagne in France, so we settled on this Ontarian sparkling white wine. Such is the beauty of the drink…
We aren’t by any means experts but this was smooth, not excessively carbonated and beautifully dry. We had requested a dry option from our waiter and this drink hit the spot. If that is not exciting enough, La Champagnerie also has champagne cocktails that are made by using test tubes of different combinations that decorate the bar, they are called their “Kit à Bulles”. We once bought Mr. Wonderful some test tube shot glasses; it is nice to see that they are now what’s trendy in the Montreal drinking scene.
La Champagnerie has brought back the concept of sabering, meaning that they open their champagne bottles with a saber. A clean cut across the neck of the bottle separates the collar and the neck from the bottle. We wondered how many bottles did the bartenders have to whack at before perfecting the art of sabrage? We wish we were there to drink all of that bubbly…
Hearing that Chef Danny Smiles was in the kitchen, we were eager to order. We started our night with a dozen of their oysters, perfect with champagne.
Bubbly + Oysters = Diva heaven
They came with the usual red onion vinaigrette and in this case an in house horse radish mignonette. The oysters were meaty and voluptuous and we were soon intoxicated by the mix of bubbly and this aphrodisiac from under the sea. No regrets there! Diva #1 and Sweet Pea were soon gossiping about men, taking in the ambiance and enjoying ourselves tremendously.
Next up, an in house specialty that our waiter recommended; scallops served with fennel, apples and tossed in a champagne vinaigrette. There were three lightly grilled scallops that were tender and wonderfully paired with crunchy slices of green apple. The vinaigrette was delicious and we were soon licking the plate clean, happy that we had ordered this particular little tapas.
Along with the champagne scallops we were served the shrimp ceviche Guatemalteca which came in a little mason jar with crushed tomatoes, minced red onion, cilantro and mint. The cilantro and mint created a very refreshing meaty salsa type dish. Our only complaint was that though this tapas is sauce like it did not come with any bread. Thankfully, when we asked for bread the waiter brought us plenty of baguette crisps, but we were very surprised that this saucy tapas was not automatically served with bread. This tapas had a generous amount of shrimp and we would surely order it again.
Our next tapas was the arancini with goat cheese in an apricot purée. The five risotto balls were delicious and not overly fried although the goat cheese flavour was not too apparent. The arancini were creamy but we would have liked to taste the goat cheese more. The apricot purée was amazing and fresh when coupled with the fried arancini. So far, all of our tapas at La Champagnerie were very fresh tasting which went very well with our bubbly and the heat of the night. The menu options that we tasted were very impressive and you can tell that the menu was crafted to compliment your accompanied bubbly.
We were still feeling peckish and we were not sure if we wanted to delve into the desserts and try either their pannacotta with berry coulis or their chocolate dipped strawberries or order another tapas. In the end we were torn between the two mini lobster rolls or the poutine. Diva #1 was surprised to not see a pan seared foie gras on the menu but the poutine was advertised as being served with shredded maple flavoured pork, brie cheese and foie gras poultry velouté with cheese curds.
The foie gras was not prominent in their poutine, although our waiter had warned us that any foie gras aficionado would not be satisfied but the poutine itself was delicious. Truffle oil was the strongest tasting ingredient and it surprisingly was not even in the description of this menu item. The pork tasted sweet and the brie cheese mixed with the curds made the perfect cheesy combination for this poutine. We keep saying it over and over again, the Divas are not big fans of poutine but when you have gourmet poutines such as the one served at La Champagnerie you change your mind every time.
We would return to La Champagnerie for drinks, escargots and their charcuterie and cheese plates, all perfectly paired with some bubbly. The Divas are not champagne connoisseurs but we had a marvelous time. Our only surprise was that they did not have a terrace; champagne is coupled so well with hot summer nights, Gatsby style, but we hear that one may be in the works. So go to La Champagnerie if you are feeling fabulous and want to be transported to the 1930s at a time where drinking bubbly was as common as drinking water while music was blaring from a gramophone.
Our rating: Splendid
Tagged: 343 Rue Saint Paul, Arancini, Bar, Bar à Sabrage, Barcelona, Bubbly, Candied Nuts, Carnitas, Cava, Ceviche, Champagne, Champagne Saber, Charcuterie, Cheeses, Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, Cocktails, Danny Smiles, Escargots, Filet Mignon, Fish and Chips, H2Y 1H2, Kit à Bulles, La Champagnerie, La Champagnerie Montreal, La Champagnerie Old Montreal, La Champagnerie St-Paul, Late Night, Lobster Roll, Montreal, Montreal Champagne, Montreal Restaurant, Old Montreal, Old Montreal Bar, Old Port, oysters, Pannacotta, Poutine, Sabering, Sabrage, Scallops, Sparkling, Splendid, St-Paul, tapas, Tartare, Test Tubes