A Concierge’s Recommendations for Montreal

We asked Simon Bajouk, the concierge at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal, to share some of his favorite spots in Montreal.

Mile End, Montreal, QC, Canada
The second great dilemma that plagues Mile End, along with coffee. Both these bagel providers have been operating since the neighborhood used to be predominantly Jewish, in the case of Fairmount Bagel since 1949, and in the case of St-Viateur Bagel since 1957. To outsiders their bagels may seem barely distinguishable, though there are subtle differences locals make a big deal about. Compared to any American bagel, both will surprise you: the traditional Montreal style is much slimmer, less doughy, crispier in the crust and slightly smoky in flavor (they’re dunked in honey water before baking in wood ovens). Fresh bagels are one of the simplest and most divine discoveries to be made in Montreal, so get yourself a pot of cream cheese, a half dozen of sesame at one place and a half dozen of poppy at the other, and feast it up! https://www.stviateurbagel.com/ http://www.fairmountbagel.com/
138 Atwater Avenue
The whole province of Quebec takes its agriculture very seriously, and consequently you can find some incredibly fresh, tasty products. The vendors at Atwater Market are passionate about what they sell, and they are more than happy to talk all things food. From sweet and tangy strawberries to ice wines, cheeses, and maple creations, the Atwater Market leaves very few unimpressed. A true staple of the Montreal culinary scene, this is a must for all foodies.
Rue de la Commune Ouest
Bota Bota began its life on the water as a ferryboat. Then called the Arthur Cardin, it sailed between the cities of Sorel and Berthier, just east of Montreal, back in the 1950s. Many years later, someone had the idea to transform this mothballed boat, docked in the old port of Montreal, into a floating spa. Mission accomplished. With its 25,000 square feet, 21 treatment rooms, 6 terraces, and 40 different types of services, the Bota Bota makes a pretty grand spa, if you ask me. What’s even greater about the spa is the location. Docked in the old port with stunning views of downtown and Old Montreal, the Bota Bota offers its passengers (not customers!) the healing benefits of a spa while they are lulled by the natural movements of the St Lawrence River.
4175 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2W 1Y7, Canada
Not to be mistaken for the popular izakaya of the same name (and same owners) down the street, on Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Avenue des Pins, this Big In Japan is on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Rue Rachel. You may not notice the sign, or even the door – it adds to the sense of mystery of this high-class drinking establishment (look for the black door near the fast-food restaurant Patati-Patata). From the vaporous curtains to the long shiny U-bar, the atmosphere here is distinctly speakeasy, and the classic cocktails maintain that illusion. The champagne cocktail will never go unwanted, and the Tom Collins is fizzy and tart, as it should be. Or you could dip into the house specialties: sakes, prune wines and Japanese whiskeys, used bottles of which serve as the basis for this stylish spot’s contemporary lamp fixtures.
Montreal, QC, Canada
You might not think that Canadian history is a topic that would sustain your interest for too long, but a visit to the McCord Museum will likely change that preconception. With a tagline of “Our People, Our Stories,” the museum is committed to covering the various communities of Canada, and especially the city of Montréal, in all their diversity. Temporary exhibitions focus on the art and culture of anglophone, francophone, First Nations, immigrant, and other populations in Canada, usually from specific points of view, say, late 19th-century Canadian circus posters or a photographer who captured the 1960s art scene in Montréal. A permanent exhibit, “Wearing Our Identity,” includes both traditional and contemporary First Nations costumes. The museum is decidedly kid-friendly, with special events as well as souvenir backpacks and “game cards” designed to bring the exhibitions to life as young visitors search for animals, geometric shapes, and other clues in the works on display.
60 Avenue Fairmount Ouest
Summertime in Montreal brings with it all sorts of reasons to celebrate, and one of the main ones is the re-opening of the city’s ice cream parlors. This particular one on Rue Fairmount is easily the city’s most sophisticated ice cream shop, with a Japanese-inflected creative twist on the flavors that’s all their own. Every ice cream they serve is made in-house, and their signature cone is a soft ice-cream and sorbet swirl. Past combos have included sour cherry sorbet and almond milk ice cream, coconut ice cream and orange sorbet, mango sorbet and dulce de leche ice cream… yum. The homemade pastries and sweets on the counter are also a reason to visit.
Marché public Atwater, 138 Avenue Atwater, Montréal, QC H4C 2H6, Canada
Maître saucissier (sausage master) William J. Walter has many locations in Montreal, but since the Atwater Market is worth a trip in its own right, Ritz-Carlton concierge Simon Bajouk recommends a visit to that location. Pick up a bratwurst (or one of the numerous other styles) and head down to the water to enjoy it.
3424 Av du Parc, Montréal, QC H2X 2H5, Canada
A Montreal favorite, this wine bar is known for its elegant food and drinks— and comes recommended highly by Ritz-Carlton concierge Simon Bajouk. The wine selection is vast and the staff is extremely helpful in guiding visitors to something that they like. “Trios,” aka flights, are another good way to taste through a well curated selection. (Cocktails and local Quebecois beer are also available.) The food ranges from snacks like gougeres and nuts to porcini arancini and short ribs. A dish of green beens with truffle oil and almonds was fresh, light, and delicious; the charcuterie plate was a generous offering of various local salumi.
1595 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2X 2S9, Canada
When Bouillon Bilk first opened in 2011, Montréal’s restaurant critics were intrigued. The chef, François Nadon, had worked at several of the city’s top restaurants but was largely unknown, and the restaurant was located on an undistinguished stretch of boulevard St-Laurent. But it soon became both a critical and popular favorite. The contemporary, minimal space is decidedly unstuffy compared with many of Montréal’s leading restaurants. Similarly, the menu may be gourmet but it’s also daring, with ingredients and preparations from Asia complementing French dishes and techniques. You can start with Japanese yellowtail, move on to a pasta dish, and end with a selection of Québecois cheeses, if you choose. There are also fresh oysters on the menu at both lunch and dinner.
219, ave. Mont-Royal Ouest, Montréal, QC H2T 2T2, Canada
With a playful menu divided into sections named “warm-up,” “game,” “set,” and “match” sections, Le Filet volleys some exceptional dishes at guests. Opened in 2011, the restaurant specializes in seafood but does an equally good job with meat dishes, including duck and venison. It comes recommended highly by Ritz-Carlton concierge Simon Bajouk.
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