Prolific Old Montreal restaurateur Thomas Vernis is putting his hotel management degree to work. After opening several restaurants in the city’s touristic core, he is now the operator of forthcoming boutique hotel Maxwell and its lobby wine bar Pastek.
“I graduated from hotel management in Montreal like 20 years ago, and taking a leap into that industry has always been in the back of my mind. The building is so close to my other venues that even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic, I thought, ‘Why not give it a shot?” Vernis says.
Vernis is at the helm of Tomahawk group, which comprises such spots as Tommy Café, hamburger joint Unibar, and tapas supper club Santos. With Pastek, a more understated 50-seat wine bar slated to open in April — or whenever patrons are allowed back indoors — he hopes to tread new ground.
“Santos has been around for 14 years. I was 25 years old when I opened it. Today, I’m 39, and I’m in a completely different space in my life. I want this project to reflect that. It’s somewhere you could go on a double date, sit down and hear each other, and even see the fabric on which you are sitting. If you want to go clubbing, well, there are a bunch of options a block away.”
Named after the French (of France) word for “watermelon” (“pastèque,” not “melon d’eau,” as is said in Quebec), Pastek will concentrate on natural wines in light hues and with fruity profiles. “We’re going to have a nice selection of rosé, orange, rosato, and pét-nats. We’re not just going for the classic white and red,” Vernis says.
While the identity of Pastek’s chef is still under wraps, Vernis says its food will take the small, seasonal sharing plate route, with breakfast and brunch on the weekends and light lunches during the week.
Like the wines, the design of the space will veer airy and organic, with some colourful touches provided by art from the S16 gallery, and an inner courtyard garden, operational three seasons of the year.
“Montreal has a lot of hotels, but we don’t really have a lobby scene like there is in other places,” Vernis says. “The first place that kind of brought it back to life over the last couple of years was the Four Seasons downtown with Marcus [Samuelsson]. But Old Montreal doesn’t really have anything vibrant like that yet.”