The historic Old Montreal building that once housed the beloved Accords wine bar is reopening its doors this Thursday, September 17, with the arrival of Italian-leaning restaurant 212, named for its Notre-Dame West street address.
Conceived by Brooke Walsh (owner of l’École Privée, previously of Le Belmont) and Trevor Coulton (of A5 Hospitality, notably Kampai Garden and Apt 200), the restaurant brings together a cast of accomplished figures in food, beverage, photography and art. “If you look at my career, I shoot to be number one with everything I do, so I stacked the deck to make sure we did something super cool this time around, too,” Walsh tells Eater.
For food, the pair tapped Noma-trained chef Patrick Marion, known for his stints at farm-to-table establishments like Pilgrimme in British Columbia and Fauna in Ottawa. Guests can expect a menu of pasta and small plates displaying a Marion’s commitment to locally sourced and seasonal ingredients (Walsh says 100 percent of which will be Canadian), as well as fermentation techniques gleaned from Marion’s time at Noma, the Copenhagen crown jewel that’s been ranked atop lists of the world’s best restaurants multiple times, by multiple sources.
“Pat is really a machine, and actually he was an athlete before this. He had a scholarship for long-distance running, but had an injury and so that career was over. He’s devoted that competitive kind of spirit into cooking and it has taken him all over the world,” Walsh says of Marion, who is also part-owner of 212.
Once COVID-19 restrictions on physical distancing and closing time ease up, the hope is that 212 will be a place where people opt to linger after dinner. To that end, Walsh and Coulton recruited Alexis Demers, head sommelier of Le Mousso, for the wine list and Kevin Demers, of nearby Cold Room, for creative cocktails, like one called “Godfather Part Deux” with Disaronno and chocolate, and another, “Medico Botanico,” with orgeat and egg whites.
The restaurant was meant to open this spring, but, like many others in the city, was stalled due to the pandemic. “We were shooting for the beginning of April and then this disaster happened, which made the contractors and everyone else kind of stop working. It was a disaster, but at the same time it’s given us the opportunity to fine-tune everything.”
Evidence of that fine-tuning is obvious in the details of the restaurant’s striking interior, made over by the Gauley Brothers (who designed Foiegwa, Atwater Club, Milky Way), art director Yimmy Yayo (known for his work with Alicia Keys and Jay-Z), and Montreal-based photographer and creative director Scott Pilgrim.
Inspired by the work of Californian light artist James Turrell, the team dedicated months to perfecting the lighting in the underground space to emulate the outside world. “Scott thinks as a photographer first and foremost, so for him it’s always about getting the best lighting. He wanted to make sure that every picture, even if it was from your phone, would come out perfect,” Walsh says.
On the ceiling of the restaurant’s tunnel entrance is a mirrored collage of letters and numbers executed by multimedia artist Treverferever, who’s had pieces commissioned by Drake, Nike and Holt Renfrew in the past. In the restaurant’s built-in terrace, Adam Hummell (the same who worked on backdrops for Beyoncé’s Formation World tour and Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl halftime show), has designed a site-specific light piece draped in plant life. “It just sucks because we’ve missed terrace season, but next year we plan to install a dome, so it can be enjoyed all year around,” Walsh says.
Walsh is credited for transforming Le Belmont from a Top 40’s bar into the booming underground music venue many remember it as in the 2010s. He went on to open l’École Privée five years ago, but says it was time he pursue something a little more mature.
“I come from the concert and pub world and Trevor comes from the bar and the resto bar world,” Walsh says. “This is our first fine dining project, and we wanted to make sure we were coming out guns blazing.”
It’s also the first project by their newly formed hospitality group, 12th Round, and though it was held up by the pandemic, Walsh says that if all goes to plan, the pair will be churning out something new every year.
212 is open at 212 Notre-Dame West from Thursday to Sunday, 5 to 11 p.m.