The Divas love their Thursday dinners, but there is something to be said for a lovely stroll and a nice lunch in Old Montreal. Marché de la Villette and Olive et Gourmando are not open for dinner and are situated across the street from each other on St-Paul Street in Old Montreal. Olive et Gourmando is not even open on Sundays, but these two gems are the perfect places for lunch in Old Montreal. The Divas are often in Old Montreal on Thursday nights and we miss the little shops, artist’s corner and other daylight adventures. It does not always pay to drink all night and sleep all day. The cobblestone streets, horse drawn buggies and expensive little shops make up the Old Montreal experience.
Marché de la Villette and Olive et Gourmando are the best places for lunch in Old Montreal and we dare you to tell us otherwise. They are very different but charming in their own way. Both are not places that you lounge around in and enjoy long Diva-like meals, instead, you eat hurriedly and save the gossip for later while you enjoy your day walking in Old Montreal.
Let’s start with Marché de la Villette, which is tiny and is not only a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch all day, but a charcuterie. This delicious little bistro makes terrines and rillettes (country style pâté) in house; their foie gras terrine is to die for! You feel like you are entering a rustic French country charcuterie when you see the hanging decorative hams from the outside of the restaurant.
Diva #1 and the Senior Diva were hungry and were sad to see Olive et Gourmando closed on a Sunday. Not easily distraught, a glance across the street showed a promising little restaurant. Diva #1 whipped out her iphone, did some research and learnt that Marché de la Villette is a family run business; the original owner’s son had taken over and that they were known for their quiche Lorraine. This little lunch counter is open every day for lunch and breakfast from 11-18 h (no early bird breakfast special for the French). We ran in, sat very close to our neighbours and were awed by the busy interior filled with bottles, decorative pieces, jars, etc.
We were soon salivating at the menu, especially when we saw that they advertised an affiliation with Juliette et Chocolat, meaning they serve a few of their desserts such as their brownies, fondant au chocolat, tiramisu, etc. Our very-French waiter arrived with delicious slices of Marché de la Villette’s baguette and loads of butter; we were in heaven. Unfortunately the water was served in disposable plastic beer cups, but hopefully they will soon replace those. We looked at the menu that listed croque monsieurs, meal crêpes, sandwiches, etc and wondered what to order. Everyone around us had ordered the onion soup so when in Rome…or France…
The onion soup was very traditional and rustic, with no bells and whistles like in other French restaurants; it was just a good old fashioned onion soup. Diva #1 thought it was a bit salty, but the Senior Diva disagreed. The soup could have used a bit more cheese but other than that it was flavourful and perfect in its simplicity. The menu also had an onion soup combo which was served with a slice of quiche Lorraine and a salad. After glancing around it seemed like everyone had ordered the combo, but we had our eye on their charcuterie plate. At the other end of the restaurant there stands a charcuterie counter selling cheeses, foie gras, pork terrines, pâtés, rillettes, cold cuts, etc. We simply had to order the charcuterie plate.
This was supposed to be for two people and though Diva #1 and the Senior Diva have a hearty appetite, we were soon stuffed and wondering if we should have ordered less. This was the best charcuterie plate that we had ever had. It is an additional cost to add the foie gras terrine and it’s worth it! Creamy and wonderful, the foie gras terrine was an addition that any charcuterie-lover cannot do without. Though the addition is pricy, it is worth the cost, since the piece was large and the terrine perfection. The cold cuts were what seemed like a thinly sliced, very rare roast beef, peppered salami, ham, and another more ham-like salami. The slice of brie cheese was excellent and very strong. The French pickles were lovely (and we were soon fighting over them) and the Dijon mustard amazing (we were soon eating it with the spoon). The fig chutney cleansed the palate and was amazing with the foie gras on the very fresh baguette. Senior Diva ate the added garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette but Diva #1 was too busy devouring the foie gras and planning her next dinner party, which would of course require a stop at Marché de la Villette. The duck rillette was flavourful and the pâté (which we think was a pork pâté) was great with the slices of apple and orange. If this wasn’t enough, there was a second pâté with pistachios in it that was also good. Way too much for two people to eat! We were so full but when we went to pay at the cash we could not help but gawk at the charcuterie counter filled with sausages, homemade apple pie and other delicacies for purchase. We had ordered their red house wine to accompany our meal, and we were soon sighing in delight.
Our waiter was very French, he cracked jokes but was also arrogant in a way that only the French can be so that you are somewhat insulted yet charmed at the same time. This was a trip into the French countryside. Now country France may not be for all, maybe you are very modern, maybe meat served in 100 different ways does not appeal to you, or maybe YOU ARE CRAZY. Though they are across the street from each other, Olive et Gourmando denotes a completely different style and a different clientele than Marché de la Villette. The Divas believe that when the mood strikes, go with it. So when we walked in to Olive et Gourmando on St Paul in Old Montreal and were told that we’d have to wait approximately 35 minutes to get a table, it only made sense to snack while we waited. It’s not our fault that we had to wait by the bakery counter, surrounded by their homemade jams and granola, and words spelled out like “eat” and “yum”… talk about marketing!
The smells inside the packed, modern French bistro were overwhelming. We ordered an almond croissant and a palmier. Good? No. Simply delicious! We inhaled both in a matter of minutes. The almond croissant was fresh, crusty and the almond paste was remarkable. The palmier was topped with large vanilla sugar crystals and was incredibly flaky. We ate them so fast that we scared the lady at the cash. Being an adult means the right to eat dessert before your meal!
As we waited, we of course soon spotted another delectable baked good calling our name. Diva #1 got in line and panic soon set when she realized a few things:
- There was only ONE Cheezy Southern Biscuit left…
- The sign near the cash informs customers that Interac is only possible with a purchase over $5
- Diva #1 never carries cash
Diva #2 was soon attacked by Diva #1 who looked more unstable than usual and desperately said “give me money!” Diva #2, unfazed by the crazed look that she has become accustomed to, calmly handed over a bill. Soon, the last Cheezy Southern Biscuit was in hand, though the cashier, after seeing this display, cautiously advised us to “save room for your meal, the food is worth it.” And she was right! The biscuit was not too spicy, with a subtle onion flavour from the chives, and it was moist yet crumbly like cheddar biscuits should be. We were soon seated and handed a paper which we took to the lunch counter to place our order. The main dishes are behind a glass counter so you can see what you’re ordering and the sandwiches are written on a chalkboard above the counter. If they run out of an item, a little sign is hung next to it that reads “too late.” We settled on the Famous Cuban sandwich and the Mac & Cheese, although this was a difficult choice because they had homemade ricotta at the counter.
Once we were settled at our table it didn’t take long for our food to arrive. We did not know which one to eat first, but started with the Cuban sandwich, which was amazing. We know it’s hard to believe that a simple sandwich could be so good but the ingredients definitely make a difference. The bread was thin and crispy, which didn’t get in the way of the ingredients. It was filled with smokey pancetta and moist, braised pork. The homemade mayo of chipotle peppers, coriander, lime and pickles was generously covering the meat and dripping into the basket. And the gruyere melted nicely over the meats. The panini was hot and grilled to perfection and one that you won’t regret ordering!
The Mac & Cheese was next and the Divas had high hopes because the description was just so good. We almost always order Mac & Cheese when we see it on a menu; we are self proclaimed experts. We are telling you that this has to be the best Mac & Cheese dish that we’ve had to date! Served in a square cast iron pan, the slices of mushrooms were plentiful, the orrechiete pasta was speckled with the truffle tapenade and the topping was a crispy, crunchy golden brown. Our only complaint, and it was hard to find one, was that it was a tad salty. The combination of cheeses was wonderful and we were in awe at the amount of delicious oyster mushrooms. It was also served with a side mixed salad with red onions, sliced almonds, sprigs of parsley which added a very fresh taste, and a tangy vinaigrette.
The Divas were happily full from a great late afternoon lunch. Diva #1 ordered her usual cappuccino (this time to go so the Divas could enjoy a stroll) and we went off happily chatting about the joy that is Olive et Gourmando, though Diva #1 was complaining that she had forgotten her ear muffs in the car, while Diva #2 just shook her head. Whether you are in the mood for a rustic French countryside lunch or a modern French bistro lunch, these little Montreal gems are not to be missed.
Lunch in Old Montreal is sometimes forgotten but it is nice to enjoy the city by day and not always at night. How else will you go to little shops like the wonderful Christmas store? Noël Eternel is one of those magical shops in Old Montreal that makes the visit to the oldest part of the city mystical.
The Divas cannot wait to go back in the summer and enjoy Montreal’s festivals and other daytime activities. Lunch in Old Montreal is a lovely experience that should not only be reserved for the tourists to experience. Come on Montrealers, get out there!
Our Rating: Always on Thursday
Tagged: Always on Thursdays, bakery, bistro, Café, Charcuterie, Cheese, Coffee, Cold Cuts, Counter, Countryside, Croissants, daily plates, Daily soup, Desserts, Dijon Mustard, Dry Sausage, Duck Rillette, Dyan Solomon, Éric Girard, Foie Gras Terrine, France, French Onion Soup, French Pickles, Homemade ricotta, Jean-Piere Marionnet, Juliette et Chocolat, Ludovic Marionnet, Lunch, Mac n' Cheese, Marché de la Villette, Montreal, Noel Eternel, Old Montreal, Olive + Gourmando, Olive et Gourmando, Paninis, Pastries, Pâté, Quiche Lorraine, Rustic, sandwich, St-Paul, wine