Like many of Montreal’s buzziest restaurant openings of the year, Place Carmin — Old Montreal’s new French brasserie — has been a long time coming.
Mélanie Blanchette and chef François Nadon, owners of Quartier des Spectacles stalwarts Bouillon Bilk, and the more casual Cadet, began working on the project in August 2019, before having their plans thwarted by what is technically still an ongoing pandemic. “Now, almost two years later, we can finally open,” Blanchette tells Eater.
Taking over the skylight-equipped digs of former restaurant Le Local on William Street, Place Carmin is made over with soft-toned woods, creamy brown leathers, luminous shades of whites, and rounded fixtures and furniture for a look that, based on photos, can perhaps be best described as smooth, almost serene — that is, as much as any brasserie can be. It comes courtesy of design firm Clairoux, also responsible for Griffintown restaurant Perles et Paddock.
For food, Nadon revisits French brasserie classics including, seafood platters, beef tartare, foie gras terrine, and a luxurious-sounding zucchini vichyssoise laced with mascarpone. Crème caramel, lemon pie, strawberry shortcake, and chocolate mousse are on hand for an unfussy and familiar dessert, courtesy of the restaurant group’s pastry chef Léa Godin Beauchemin.
“We usually sell desserts that are much more ‘fine dining’ with all this super difficult plating, but at this place, it’s like, ‘Here’s a piece of cake or a piece of pie,’ so this is very different us,” Blanchette says, laughing.
It wasn’t until this past weekend, however, that Place Carmin could try out the menu on diners, and Blanchette says the turnout was even better than expected — save for opening night, on Friday, while the Montreal Canadiens took on Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. “They were our biggest competition that night,” she says.
With Place Carmin, the duo — actually now a trio, with Émile Collette, long-time Bouillon Bilk sous-chef added as a partner in this venture — are at last able to offer private group dining for events. It’s something patrons have repeatedly asked them about, but that they just couldn’t accommodate in their existing projects.
Now, they have two separate rooms with capacity for 40 and 60 people each. (That’s in addition to the 70 seats they can already provide in the main dining room, plus an additional 35 via a forthcoming terrasse.)
Asked how she’s feeling about the group’s first foray into Old Montreal at a time when tourism remains low and remote working ostensibly still high, Blanchette says she’s banking on there being an even greater need for spaces — like hers — where home-bound employees can occasionally convene for face-to-face meetings. “That’s our bet for the future at least,” she says.
Place Carmin is open Wednesday to Sunday, from 4 to 11 p.m. at 740 William Street.