Oh Garde Manger, how we love you! Opened by Chuck Hughes, it is a celebrity restaurant with no sign on Francois-Xavier in Old Montreal; you just have to know it’s there. And everyone knows that it’s there… After a good dinner in the OldPort on a Thursday night, we can often be found wandering into Garde Manger for a few drinks and a good time. Always packed, it takes numerous tries to get a dinner reservation and usually, it is near impossible to get it for the day and time that you want. That is part of the mysticism of Garde! The Divas had been there for dinner, but Sweet Pea had not, and she was getting crabby. The restaurant is dark, loud and filled with 20 and 30 something year olds partying hard, a great night for someone who loves gourmet food, wants a good time, adores cocktails, dancing and craves an unforgettable night.
Our friend, Ms. Garde Manger got her name by living in the restaurant; we affectionately consider her part of the furniture. She goes every Thursday and Saturday night, although we suspect that she is there more often than she lets on. Her bestie, Whitey, does not share the same love of Garde and warns us every time that it is the last time that she is coming with us. So Diva#1 and Bellatrix convinced Whitey to once again go to Garde with Sweet Pea and Ms. Garde Manger. Vegan Vixen who was supposed to work until 11pm somehow conned her boss into letting her out early, and she too arrived in time for dinner, how delightful. So there we were, a group of 6 on a table of 4… thankfully Ms. Garde Manger got everyone in due to her fabulous connections.
There we were, reading the fabulous chalkboard menu and wondering what to order. Whitey had eaten, she was being stubborn because she “hates” Garde; she instead chose to drown her sorrows in alcohol. Of course what better way to start your night than to indulge in Garde Manger’s famous Bloody Caesar with clams and steak spice rimming the glass. Served in a very tall beer glass, this Bloody Caesar is fabulous, the steak spice adds a refreshing kick, it is perfectly spicy with what we suspected was fresh horseradish in the clamato, and the clams were just added perfection. Bellatrix also ordered one but gave Diva#1 her clams and was disturbed when she learnt that there was clam juice in clamato….so Diva #1 also drank her cocktail.
Ms. Garde Manger and Bellatrix both ordered the lobster poutine that Garde is famous for. Large chunks of lobster and squeaky cheese curds top thinly cut fries. If that isn’t decadent enough the gravy is actually a creamy lobster bisque. They both ordered the medium size because they knew that we would all dig in and it was still hard to finish because it is so rich. This is one of the infamous dishes at Garde that is almost always on the menu. You can choose to order a small, medium or large portion but we suggest ordering a small and trying a variety of dishes as opposed to filling up on this one alone. To be honest, we forgot how good this tasted!
Diva #1, Sweet Pea and Vegan Vixen were ordering together so we stuck with fish for Vegan Vixen’s sake. Either way Garde Manger is known for its grand seafood platter, and amazing seafood dishes so this was not solely for her sake, although Diva #1 likes to guilt her into thinking that. We decided to keep the appetizers raw that night so we started with the lobster and scallops ceviche with chervil. Fresh and light, it was a very interesting dish made with a light cream and topped with razor thin slices of radish. Homemade waffle style potato chips added a different crunch to the dish. It actually wasn’t really what we were expecting but it was a nice surprise.
Garde’s jerk crab was another seafood option of the night and we have had it in the past and loved it. But it is a tad messy for when we are pretending to be ladies, and the last time we ate this we smelled like jerk seasoning hours later. Bellatrix’s mate can attest to that, he was disgusted with us when he last picked us up from Garde Manger and we had eaten jerk crab. Yum!
We ordered oysters as a palate cleanser, and added three scallops after our waitress recommended them. We have had Sarah as our waitress many times; she always helps us choose the perfect dishes and comes quickly with our many orders of shots and cocktails. Sarah recommended that we get 6 of each type of oyster, which we did and they were magnificent and fresh. The oysters arrived with their cocktail sauce, Garde Manger Crown Salts’ sauce, Tabasco, fresh horseradish and lemon. Even more interesting was that the scallops arrived in their shells, they were little but the flavour was intense and we had never eaten scallops in such a completely raw format, still in their shell.
For our mains we decided to share two, the lobster risotto is another popular dish at Garde Manger and when Sweet Pea saw it on the menu she knew that she wanted to order it. The risotto was cooked perfectly al dente, the lobster pieces generous and the bisque-like sauce that the risotto was tossed in was decadent. Chives adorned the top of the dish and we think that this dish ensured that Sweet Pea now has the same love of Garde’s dishes as we do.
Other main dishes of the night included a variety of meats and seafood plates with scallops, chicken, short rib, etc, we are sure that they were all made in exceptional fashions. In the past we have had a chicken plate at Garde that can never be topped and an amazing scallops dish with gnocchi in carrot butter *sigh* … Garde Manger specializes in food porn.
Our second main was the octopus on a cauliflower purée with olives. The cauliflower purée was smooth and creamy and was a lovely combination with the octopus. Different than the usual Mediterranean style that octopus is prepared, this dish offered a new way of enjoying octopus. The octopus was both grilled and fried in a batter, but the pieces that were fried did not lose any flavour. An olive tapenade, greens, and accompanying sauce topped this unique dish. It was impressive in its craftiness.
The Artist showed up after dinner, at this point we had had a lot of delicious red wine, we were discussing our plots for an upcoming Greek event, and were generally loud and boisterous. Though Garde Manger is a loud place for an intimate dinner, it is the perfect place to be loud and inappropriate. The DJ is amazing, on Thursday nights he plays a mix of old school and top hits, we have spent many nights drinking at the bar, dancing on the bar, some of us even hooking up on the bar…
On this particular night, a table of men sitting next to us sent all 7 of us shots of tequila, we cringed, we just can’t handle tequila anymore, but we all swallowed, cheered and went back to our respective conversations and to ordering dessert. We ordered a black forest cake and a brownie concoction. Black forest cake sounds boring but we were at Garde Manger, so the cream was fresh and not overly sweet, the cherries were rich and the chocolate decadent.
The brownie was done smores style with a marshmallow crust, graham cracker crumbs, ice cream and chocolate sauce. The brownie had nuts in it and it really could not get any better. Though they did not have their famous deep fried Mars bar on the menu, these desserts were fabulous. We were full but yet they were still devoured.
This is our second time reviewing Garde Manger and we would definitely go back! We tend to go there more often for cocktails and good times, rather than dinner, but that is only because it is so hard to get a reservation and it tends to be a very expensive night. Check out our review of our first time there:
Garde Manger is not for everyone because of its supper club atmosphere but if you like to party and you want to have a good time it is the place for you. We have a little bit of PTSD when it comes to Garde because it has seen us at our best and at our worst. But Garde is like Vegas, what happens there, stays there. Just ask Ms. Garde Manger, if you go on a Thursday or Saturday you will probably see her at the bar, dancing and drinking. We would give you her name, to help you name drop and get you through the door on Garde’s busiest nights, but we don’t like to share our contacts
Rating: Always on Thursday
Tagged: Always on Thursdays, Bar, Bloody Caesar, Calms, Celebrity Restaurant, Ceviche, Chalkboard Menu, Chuck Hughes, Cocktails, Crown Salts, Dancing, Deep Fried Mars Bar, DJ, Garde Manger, Jerk Crab, Late Night, Lobster, Lobster Poutine, Lobster Risotto, Montreal, Octopus, Old Montreal, Old Port, Rarebit, Reservations Needed, Scallops, Seafood Platter, St-Francois-Xavier, Supper Club, wine