Big changes are about to happen for Old Montreal/Cité-du-Multimédia restaurant Mercuri.
The Wellington Street restaurant, known for its meaty menu cooked partially over a fire pit is set to close its doors this week (Friday, May 18 is the final evening) — but it’s not exactly the end for the purveyors of grilled ribs, fish, and more.
According to Steve Imperioli, a representative for the Houston Avenue restaurant group (owners of Mercuri), an offer was made for the space that Mercuri occupies, and the company accepted, and have set plans in motion to reopen Mercuri in downtown Montreal, but with big changes.
Imperioli tells Eater that all of Mercuri’s team will stick around for the move, except for one major player, chef and former owner Joe Mercuri, who left the restaurant in recent weeks. Given the chef’s departure, the restaurant will bear a new name, SLK RD.
While it’ll be almost entirely the same team, it seems the culinary approach will change: a statement from the Houston Avenue group frames the restaurant as being generally international, and not anchored to any one cuisine.
“SLK RD looks to bring together a network of rich flavours, customs and cooking practices from around the world.”
Two chefs will head up the kitchen, both of whom are coming over from Mercuri — Oli Harding and Athiraj Phrasavath, who is dubbed the “spice king” for (surprise!) his knack with aromatic flavours and spices — Phrasavath also has previous experience putting together the menu at downtown modern taco spot Escondite.
In terms of ownership, Mercuri was an oddball on the Montreal scene, and it looks like SLK RD could take a similar position — its owners are a relatively corporate outfit known for more suburban, franchised restaurants, yet the Houston Avenue group did not try to shoehorn the restaurant to fit with Houston Avenue Bar + Grill’s style. Mercuri mostly flourished in terms of its culinary offerings, and garnered very solid reviews, particularly in its first year.
But things have shifted somewhat since 2014 — Houston Avenue is now part-owned by the much larger MTY Group, known for its huge stable of mostly fast food chain restaurants within Canada, including Thai Express, Jugo Juice, and Dagwoods. Of course, corporate restaurants aren’t inherently good or bad in terms of quality — it all depends on the direction that they take (or are allowed to take).
SLK RD is set to go into the same address as a Houston Avenue grill restaurant on Peel Street, but it will be on a different level, and will operate separately — it’s slated to open in June.