There’s something quintessentially Montreal about the buanderie-café that sits on the corner of Villeneuve and Jeanne-Mance in the Mile End.
Behind it all is owner and chef Philippe Aveline, an extremely outgoing French expat who has called the city home since the late ‘80s.
Aveline bought the café in 2014 from its previous owners and wanted to focus his energy on the menu.
“When I bought it people used to come more for the laundromat, but I put a lot more effort into the café aspect,” said Aveline. “I pimped up the food.”
“At the beginning people would come here, do their laundry, barely take a coffee, and nobody was eating really,” said Aveline. He mentioned that some of the neighbours had told him the food wasn’t very good before he bought it, but they started flocking back after hearing of the do-over by word of mouth.
Almost everything on the menu is made to order using fresh ingredients, with plenty of breakfast offerings like a full selection of omelettes that Aveline dubs traditionally French in style — lighter in colour, and a little wetter than the North American standard. There’s baked goods, including a croissant that could almost have been airlifted piping-hot from a Parisian oven.
Aveline describes his cafe with a French term: à la bonne franquette — approximately, that it embodies an anything goes attitude.
“A lot of French customers come to the café and don’t even look at the menu, they just ask me to do something… and I do it,” said Aveline with a grin.
Aveline is a colourful individual, and a visit to Blanc de Blanc is enhanced by any conversation about his life experiences. Case in point: most customers have no idea that he used to have big hair down to his nipples when he was a member of Zola, a Montreal-based hair-metal band.
One might assume that his ability to open a dryer in need of service with a butter knife is indicative of a time in which he worked as a mechanic or handy-man — not so. Instead it could be that Aveline honed his mechanical ingenuity at a time before he became a café opener, when he built indoor go-kart tracks in the United States.
For those less inclined to chat, the café’s dog, a black mutt named Isabelle, can sometimes be seen roaming the backyard and will most likely put her nose on your lap.
According to customers, Aveline himself is one of the main reasons they frequent the cafe. Delphine DiTecco is a lifelong Montrealer who has visited the cafe for years.
“I like Phil, he’s always entertaining,” said DiTecco through bites of shakshouka. “The food is really good, it’s a great place to come, do your laundry, relax. It’s got this cool homemade vibe.”
Since Aveline took over the business, reviews are glowing — online, most make mention of Aveline, as well as the immaculate backyard terrasse where the sun dances upon the picnic tables as it shines through grape trellises and maple leaves overhead.
That terrasse is also getting an extra workout as a show venue for the summer. Blanc de Blanc is hosting the Backyard Sessions: a live music series organized by Concordia University’s campus radio station CJLO, featuring local Montreal artists.
With such events, and more of a focus on food, Blanc de Blanc has done a 180. No longer a laundry that happens to serve coffee, it’s now a neighbourhood café where leaving with clean clothes is just an added bonus.