After Montreal real estate magnates Danny Lavy and Stephen Shiller turned to Gordon Ramsay to relaunch the historic Laurier BBQ in 2010, the business partnership promptly fizzled, and ended up in court. In 2014, Simple Plan guitarist Jeff Stinco, prolific bar owner Éric Lefrançois, Cindy Simard, designer Rebecca Bourque, former Montreal Canadiens player Brandon Prust, and others, took over the property, still owned by Lavy and Shiller, and remade it as Laurea, a sleek showcase for chef Hakim Chajar, and Lorbeer, a pub vehicle for Lefrançois and Stinco's West Shefford brewery.
Amid much publicity, Laurea opened in August of 2014. Bourque's spectacular redesign was singled out for praise (see photo gallery below), and while Chajar's food did not resonate with every critic in the city, the Gazette's Lesley Chesterman noted that the chef had solid technique and beautiful plate presentations. Still, Chajar left Laurea last fall to pursue a television career. Months later, management enlisted talented chef Éloi Dion as a replacement.
Less than two months into his new gig, Dion's stint at Laurea is done. Simard, also a principal at La Porte Rouge and Rachel Rachel, confirmed today that Laurea has closed, but stressed that the shutter is temporary. Lorbeer is unaffected, and remains open. "We've decided to pause, in order to restructure the administration, and kitchen staff," said Simard. "The fact is that we want to be here for 20 years, but we need to take a step back."
"We find ourselves in a situation where we're obliged to close, and to reorganize with new partners. We want to reopen with the right chef, and the right change in administration. I doubt that Laurea will come back with the same formula. We're in meetings now trying to analyze what went wrong, and to figure out how and where to improve. We don't want to make the same mistakes." Simard went on to add that Laurea was full over the weekend. Regardless, consensus among the ownership group was that it was wise to reboot. "We want to be a classic, and we want to stay here long term. The mood is positive, and the goodwill is there to make Laurea better than before."