Monarque, the forthcoming restaurant from Richard Bastien, owner of much-adored Outremont French classic Leméac, and his son, Jérémie, is finally set to open in Old Montreal later this year.
Jérémie Bastien is taking the lead on Monarque — he walked Eater through the under-construction space, detailing what to expect. Here are the key details.
There will be two main sections to the 150-seat restaurant — a more casual brasserie will seat 60 at the front, with a more formal 80-seat dining room at the back — the two sections will operate separately, with distinct menus. Between them will be a small middle section looking directly onto the kitchen (separated from diners by a glass wall), which can be used flexibly for either section; Monarque will also have a private dining room seating up to about 35.
The brasserie is at the main entrance to the restaurant, at 406 St-Jacques Street (the restaurant was previously described as being on Notre-Dame Street, but there will be no entry on that side). Inside is a long banquette on one side (complete with custom-made chairs in the style of designer Hans Wagner’s Kennedy chair), and a bar on the other.
The brasserie will operate day and night, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. — Bastien invokes the all-day dining approaches of New York’s Gramercy Tavern, or L’Express on the Plateau (although Monarque will not do breakfast). It’s the restaurant’s casual side — Bastien says it will have a short menu with a number of classic dishes (think steak-frites, and beyond), filling a service gap in Old Montreal where most sit-down restaurants either close between lunch and dinner, or open for dinner only.
With a bar license (meaning customers won’t need to purchase food), 5 à 7s are also a possibility. A former Le Lab bartender will run the cocktail program; McAuslan (St-Ambroise) beers and a range of microbrews will also be on offer, alongside a large selection of private-import wines, some natural, some not.
At the back of Monarque, the 80-seat dining room with banquettes on the side and booths in the middle will focus on more upscale fare. It will do lunch Tuesday to Friday and dinner Tuesday to Saturday, with an à la carte menu in four sections: cold appetizers (for example, raw items like tartare), hot appetizers (cooked seafood, sweetbreads, or quail), main plates, and dessert. It’s also not the type of food that will be plated using tweezers, and it’s also not going to stick firmly to French classicism, particularly given Bastien’s experiences on both sides of the Pacific.
“Gourmand et inspiré really puts into words what we’re trying to do - inspired by other techniques and ingredients.”
Bastien says that while he wants to attain a level of consistency like that of Leméac (where the menu rarely changes, aside from specials), the menu at Monarque will be more seasonal.
“Consistency of Lemeac is one of its successes, so we want to translate that into our brasserie, but the downside of that is that the menu doesn’t change much, it’s more set in stone. We want to have our food a bit more locally sourced, seasonal, to have that menu that’s always evolving.”
That means that meat items (to be sourced from companies like Cerf de Boileau for venison and Les Viandes Biologiques de Charlevoix) may stay on the menu, while their accompaniments will vary — roast chicken could come with asparagus or morelles in spring; lamb could be served with ratatouille as summer turns to fall.
While Monarque may have plenty of formal culinary clout, Bastien says there’s a strong commitment to making it an accessible restaurant that customers can frequent, rather than a once-a-year, haute-cuisine destination.
“We don’t want to cater [strictly] to a high end crowd. The idea is to be really democratic, to be open to a large spec of clientele.”
As for design, Bastien notes that over a century ago, Monarque’s building housed a hotel, with a high-end restaurant in the space where Monarque is located. He says the design from architect Alain Carle doesn’t aim to cover up that history of the space.
“The architect wanted...not to hide too much of the historical aspect of the restaurant. But we added some modern inspiration. There’s something that’s a bit rustic, you have the exposed beams, the old stone and brick walls, there’s kind of a rustic chic.”
Jérémie Bastien will serve as executive chef, drawing on his diverse culinary background which includes work at Nancy Oakes’ famed San Francisco restaurant Boulevard, Boneta in Vancouver, and at prominent Australian chef Neil Perry’s Rockpool restaurants (Bastien is currently in the kitchen at Leméac, when not otherwise busy with Monarque). He’ll be joined by his partner Lisa Yu as pastry chef, sommelier Olivier Fontaine (who has also worked at Leméac), and Olivier Visentin as restaurant director.
And for Bastien, working with such an experienced team is one of the most exciting parts of opening Monarque.
“The heart of the restaurant [is] really well established, with my father helping me, with his knowledge and experience in the restaurant business. We have Lisa in the kitchen in charge of the dessert and pastry program, both Oliviers who I’ve known for 15 years, I feel like we have a heart in the restaurant that’s really strong.”
Bastien and team are aiming for a November opening — more updates will come when they’re available.