Old Montreal may not need another restaurant that, as one blogger puts it, is "a stunner from a design perspective, displaying a polished and theatrical décor with enveloping British notes and a lush, seductive atmosphere" but, like it or not, it has one now.
At first glance, Scarlet Exclusive has the mien of a supperclub that serves a kind of indistinct, all-inclusive cuisine with hints of been-there-done-that. With ex-caterer Nelson Maceira at the helm, the menu shills typical crowd-pleasers like tuna carpaccio, gnocchi and short ribs and upsells foie gras, summer truffles and caviar. A wine list defers to large, known Italian producers.
In step with the times, Scarlet Exclusive offers small plates (try fish cakes, oysters, a cheese trio) and drinks (a house Negroni and Aperol Spritz, naturally). The "Thomas Peck" ("Thanquerey" gin, Chartreuse, tonic and cucumber) pays homage to the original owner of the circa 1850 stone edifice off Place Royale, formerly home to restaurants like Brasero Hardi and Le Petit Moulinsart. (Current owners Peter J. Gardner and Victoire Taittinger Gardner live in New Hampshire.)
Time will tell whether Scarlet Exclusive has the goods to compete in one of the most cutthroat enclaves of the city with a dish like "ocean dore, pan seared scampis, snow pea puree, scampi emulsion with truffle oil and micro basil." It all seems a tad derivative. One blogger, however, is predictably sanguine:
But trust us, even if you're not in the mood for dinner, show up at Scarlet Exclusive's terrasse for the perfect chill night of cocktails and to enjoy Montreal's fabulous night scene. We are sure that summer 2014 in Montreal will be all about Scarlet Exclusive.