Smooth French brasserie-bistro Colette Grand Café is on its way to Montreal’s downtown Holt Renfrew store this spring — and now there’s a whole lot more details on how the department store is planning to switch up its dining option.
Colette will take the place of the existing Café Holt in the Sherbrooke Street store, and is going to be run by Toronto’s Chase Hospitality Group. In fact, there’s already a precedent for what to expect — Toronto has had a Colette Grand Café since 2011, although it stands alone on Wellington Street, rather than in a Holt Renfrew. While the base idea will be similar in Montreal, Chase and Colette’s director of operations Nicolas Storni tells Eater that his restaurant group is working to make it localized to the city.
“It’s not going to be a copy paste...Montreal has local producers and we’re collaborating with the executive chefs of each locations to bring the best that each area has to offer.”
The Colette Grand Café concept is also being exported to Vancouver, and similarly, Storni says that version of it will be tailored to the west coast city, for example, with a focus on seafood.
While the existing café in Montreal’s Holt Renfrew goes for a more shiny, modern feel, its replacement is much more classical — it’s more angled towards Provence, and the Toronto menu (which features items like merguez and pasta) also has eyes to Italy and North Africa.
“We wouldn’t want it to be referred to as a Parisian bistro. The repertoire of French cuisine is quite eclectic and at Holt Renfrew it will have a bit of a French Côte d’Azur Mediterranean feel,” Storni says.
The Toronto original has been fairly well received — while Globe and Mail critic Chris Nuttall-Smith wrote that the diners skewed pretty wealthy perhaps given the prices (“it’s as money as Toronto restaurant crowds get”), he overall put out a glowing review that didn’t fault the culinary offerings. And while Toronto Life dubbed it as rather pricy, it sits somewhere in the nebulous zone between casual restaurants and something much ore formal: “an elevated experience without fine dining”, says Storni.
While the Montreal menu won’t be the same, it will feature a few of Toronto’s successes, like a Niçoise salad, steak-frites, and tartare.
It may seem odd to bring a French concept in from Toronto when Montreal is already a relatively strong city for the cuisine, but Storni says that his team are thoroughly aware of that, and are looking to adapt to Montreal, rather than to impose.
“We’re quite humble knowing that Montreal is such a foodie city and that people know what they’re tasting and what they’re talking about…menus are not written in stone, we’ll change them seasonally.”
Expect Colette Grand Café to open around late March or early April.