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Hudson’s New-And-Improved Willow Inn Scores Warm Review

While Holt Renfrew’s new resto draws complaints from another critic

Willow Inn/Facebook

Six months after reopening with new owners and upscale takes on British food, Hudson’s Willow Inn has earned its first review, and a stamp of critical approval. Le Devoir critic Jean-Philippe Tastet is on the scene some 50 kilometres west of the city, and the first thing he notes is the stunning lake view — boosted by the restaurant’s renovations, allowing diners maximal eyeball access to the water. Tastet gives the food a warm reception (although it doesn’t cross-over into rave territory): a starter salad of Oka cheese and radishes is given a boost with a smoked vinaigrette, while a grilled octopus dish with marinated garlic flowers and tarragon serves “beautiful bites”. On the meatier side, the rib-eye is cooked to Tastet’s blue request, tender and slathered in bone marrow butter, although Tastet seems bemused by a slightly “rustic” presentation. Desserts seem to be the weak point — Tastet doesn’t want to tell diners to avoid the apple pie and chocolate dome he tasted, but he seems equally unable to come up with anything positive to say about them. Nonetheless, it’s three stars. [Le Devoir]

Niçoise salad
Colette Grand Café/Facebook

Also earning its first write-up is Colette Grand Café, a Toronto-based French-Mediterranean restaurant concept imported into downtown Montreal’s Holt Renfrew store as of March. La Presse critic Marie-Claude Lortie gives it its day in court, and the verdict is mixed: Lortie seems let down by the space, given that the restaurant’s owners (the Chase Hospitality Group) seemed to have promised a fancy makeover. But the main attraction — the menu — has been overhauled, and despite Lortie’s length décor-related gripes (which earn just as much column space as the food itself), Lortie begrudgingly says she doesn’t hate it. The niçoise salad with generous tuna pieces gets a nod, and a black kale salad earns props for a mustardy vinaigrette, if a little heavy on the cranberry. For dessert, Lortie notes that the dishes themselves aren’t exactly creative, but a chocolate cake with rich cocoa butter does well; a dryer poppy seed-lemon one, less so. “There’s something really irritating [here] and it has nothing to do with what I’s the feeling that publicists have tried to make me swallow a buzz that isn’t deserved”, Lortie concludes. [La Presse]

La Chronique/Official

Meanwhile at the Montreal Gazette, critic Lesley Chesterman is at Mile End special occasion restaurant La Chronique, and finds chef Marc de Canck’s French offerings as sophisticated as ever. Deeming it still “one of the few true-blue fine-dining experiences in the city”, Chesterman says she felt “pampered” by the service. De Canck’s classic corn soup is velvety as ever, and a double-serve of guinea hen (confit with gnocchi, and a breast with seared foie gras) offer mouthfuls of pleasure. Dessert is the only sticking point: both a pineapple and strawberry option are “unfocused and too large”, coupled with too-sweet sorbets. Otherwise, Chesterman can’t really squeeze out anything bad to say, save that the dishes are a little large for a tasting menu — a chunky three and a half stars. [Montreal Gazette]

Willow Inn

208 Rue Main, Hudson, QC Visit Website

Colette Grand Café

1300 Rue Sherbrooke O, Montréal, QC H3G 1H9 (514) 842-5111 Visit Website

La Chronique

104 Avenue Laurier Ouest, Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, QC H2T 2N7 (514) 271-3095 Visit Website