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inside of restaurant with large lantern Brouillon/Supplied

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A Cozy Cafe That Becomes a Natural Wine Bar by Night Lands on Plaza St-Hubert

Plaza newcomer Brouillon comes from the founders of the marketing agency with which it shares the building

Plaza St-Hubert is seeing more action, this time in the form of a crisp new wine bar called Brouillon that swung open its doors over the weekend — courtesy of a pair of unexpected backers.

Brouillon owners Dominic Tremblay and Ludwig Ciupka aren’t restaurateurs, but marketing experts at Montreal creative agency Tux, which they co-founded in 2010. The pair decided to move their agency to the Plaza, on the strip just north of Beaubien, in January 2020, but left the street-facing section on the ground floor of their new office building empty for what they believed could someday make for “a good coffee shop or wine bar,” Tremblay tells Eater. Nearly two years later, and here we are, with Brouillon: essentially a combination of the two.

inside cafe Brouillon/Supplied

In the early morning, customers can expect berry and thyme yogurt or curry egg toast, with caffeine sourced from Montreal-based Escape Coffee Roaster. Lunch looks like lobster grilled cheese or a dill cucumber salad and maybe a craft beer or kombucha on tap. And come evening, a delightfully long list of natural wines is ready to pair with sharing plates — among them a dish featuring smoked trout served with fennel, labneh, and potatoes; P.E.I. mussels with chanterelle mushrooms, corn, and polenta; or grilled halloumi with apricot mustard. The menu is developed with the team behind one of Brouillon’s Plaza neighbours, gourmet grocery store Conserva.

They’ve tapped Joannie Belisle (formerly of nearby brewpub Isle de Garde) as manager, and sommelier Caroline Do (ex-Pumpui, Mesón, Orange Rouge) to execute it all.

plate with gravalax and labneh Brouillon/Supplied

As for the space’s design, Tux collaborated with Zébulon Perron, whose work can be seen at some of the city’s most striking spots, including Marcus at the Four Seasons and Old Montreal Italian eatery Un Po di Più. At Brouillon, the result is an 80-seat space warmed up with brown-toned leathers, brass fixtures, a grid of raw wood planks on the ceiling, and a sizeable Japanese-style lantern overhead.

“Brouillon” in French means “draft,” a nod to all the brainstorming taking place elsewhere in the building and perhaps now also within the new haunt. “Food, coffee, and wine are often part of the creative process,” Tremblay says. “You wake up and have a cup of coffee before writing a couple of pages, or come up with an idea while sharing a bottle with some friends. We think Brouillon could become part of that process for us.”

But creating another space where Tux employees can convene comes secondary to bringing a “buvette” (wine bar) to the Plaza, Tremblay says. Though home to several bars specializing in beers, most recently one even selling absinthe, Tremblay says, Brouillon would be the only one dedicated to natural wines. (Worth noting: Thai restaurant Pichai, located on St-Hubert Street, but just outside the Plaza, past its southern edge, also boasts an impressive natural wine list.)

Tremblay would know. Last year, the area’s retail association (SDC Plaza St-Hubert) enlisted Tux to help drive Montrealers back to the commercial strip — a hodgepodge of wedding dress boutiques, kitschy specialty stores, and a brave new generation of restaurants and shops — after close to three years of construction and the ongoing pandemic.

Tux appended a series of posters in the street’s vacant storefronts, each one reminding Montrealers what makes the Plaza so unique — oftentimes, oddly so: It’s a place where you can find a remarkably large selection of handcuffs, get your taxes and hair done in one stop, and participate in a low-profile, back-store Pokémon tournament, all before enjoying some carefully crafted dumplings and sipping on a fruity drink on a rooftop tiki bar.

“In the process of that campaign, we interviewed a lot of cool little shops, like the guys at Conserva, and those at [clothing store] Lopez or Savvy barbershop,” Tremblay said, “It only reinforced our desire to be part of this community.”

Brouillon is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 8 a.m. to midnight, and Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 6580 Rue St-Hubert.

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