Montreal’s St-Henri neighbourhood has been down a vegan spot since Hello 123 closed the doors to its Notre-Dame Street location several months ago, but in its place has now emerged an exciting new option: Conceria. From the same owners (Mark Kupfert, Daniel Suss, and Jonathan Dresner), and still animal-free, the new osteria and wine bar, open as of May 26, has a more upscale bent, with a focus on Italian fare and natural, low-intervention wines.
The menu at Conceria — its name translates to “tannery” in Italian and is meant as a juxtapositional nod to St-Henri’s history as a leather-working hub in the 18th and 19th centuries — comes courtesy of executive chef Felix Gagnon. Before joining the restaurant group three years ago and overseeing the culinary output of Kupfert and Suss’s Old Montreal joint Burger Fiancé, Gagnon worked at several Italian-leaning spots and places “where meat was at the centre of everything.”
“At first, I felt so out of place,” Gagnon says of the transition to a restaurant group committed to the omission of animal products. “But moving on from there, you start to realize that you don’t need to do something super complicated, you don’t need to use meat, and you don’t need to use cheese to make something super rich.”
Now, he’s put together an attractive array of dishes that includes wild mushroom arancini, tofu “ricotta” ravioli, gnocchi in a squash velouté, and (his personal favourite) a caramelized carrot dish, where the root veggie gets draped in an Aperol glaze and plated with a cashew-based ricotta. For dessert, there’s a citrusy tiramisu made with coconut mascarpone, bombolone, brownies, and more.
Wine isn’t an afterthought either at Conceria, where wine director and front-of-house manager Cédric Charpentier has put together a list of more than 60 natural, low-intervention, skin contact options, with a focus on small Italian producers. Beyond that, there are some seasonal cocktail options, including variations on the Amaretto Sour and the Paloma.
The space itself is a revamp of the group’s short-lived H123, intended as a formal counterpart to Hello 123. But when the pandemic hit, the team flipped the operation into a Hello 123 outpost, serving up its more casual, comfort-style — and takeout-friendly — grub. (Hello 123 now counts three locations: one in NDG and two in Ontario.)
Within the next couple of weeks, Conceria’s 90-seat interior — replete with white oak surfaces, mirrored walls, and a central bar — will be joined by a 40-seat outdoor terrasse, installed along Rose de Lima Street.
“It’s all meant to be an Italian-style place to just drink and hangout,” Kupfert says. And even though it is vegan through and through, he hopes it’ll register primarily as an all-around great spot for Italian food and wine — “that just happens to also be plant-based.”
Conceria is open Wednesday to Sunday 5 to 11:30 p.m. at 3580 Notre Dame Ouest.