A restaurant many Montrealers would have considered to be tourist central is getting a big overhaul — Le Balmoral on Sainte-Catherine, just metres from Place des Arts, closed up a few months ago and will be re-emerging in May as Le Blumenthal.
The new restaurant is looking to avoid the “tourist restaurant” label that some would consider its predecessor to have worn — as part of that, Rémi Brunelle, former five-year chef de cuisine at big-name Outremont French bistro Leméac (see also: Laloux and casino restaurant Nuances) is on board in the kitchen of what the principals are calling a “brasserie Montréalaise”.
The team running Blumenthal are a mixed bag — there’s Nicolas Urli (of Jatoba downtown, and Plateau Vietnamese restaurant Hà), Sarah Bergeron of Auberge Saint-Gabriel, and president of culinary school ITHQ’s administrative council and hospitality consultant Paolo di Pietrantonio. There is also some big money behind the operation — events company Spectra, known for running big operations such as the Jazz Festival and Francofolies, are partners.
A restaurant run by Spectra (which is, along the corporate chain, indirectly owned by Molson, although independent of the beer company) may raise eyebrows, but it looks like operations are going to be left to the people with experience running successful, non-corporate operations.
Urli tells Eater that, in line with Brunelle’s past experiences, the kitchen will focus on “very good classics, well done”. The cocktail list will be put together by mixologist about town Lawrence Picard.
Urli says he’s conscious of the fact that Le Blumenthal will still draw tourists (at least in the summer) by virtue of its location near some of the city’s biggest festivals — but he says he hopes it can develop new appeal for locals.
“That restaurant was doing great for four to five months a year just because it is in such a place that you had clients anyway. You could serve anything and people would come. It is still a neighbourhood in full expansion, it is downtown. There’s a will...to really bring the neighbourhood up and not only talk to the tourists.”
Ambiance-wise, the restaurant will keep the supersize 200-seat terrasse that Balmoral had, and design is being done by the Gauley Brothers (Foiegwa, and others) — a modernized take on a 30s jazz theme is slated, to tie in with the Jazz Festival.
Expect it sometime in May.
Correction — An earlier version of this story mistakenly noted that Molson would be behind the restaurant — events company Spectra is directly involved. Spectra is owned by the CH Group (who also own event organizer and promoter Evenko), which is in turn majority owned by the Molson family.