National Post (Latest Edition)
Nowhere does after-work drinks quite like Montreal — Amy Rosen explores the city’s best places to keep the cinq à sept tradition alive
Church bells sound off from the Notre Dame Cathedral’s belfry in Old Montreal as I amble through cobblestone streets on this crisp early evening. I’m in a rush to get nowhere in particular, except for the fact that it’s 5 o’clock, quittin’ time, which means it’s time to partake of that grand old tradition of throwing back a couple of postwork drinks, a social practice all but lost in other cities but alive and well in Quebec. It’s time to cinq à sept (a.k.a. 5 to 7), happy hour à la Montreal. Herewith, a diverse handful of picks to get you started now that it’s actually light during those hours again.
Drinkerie Ste-Cunegonde I finally made it to Griffintown, a newly emerging live/ work district that used to be all about the waterfront, warehouses and migrant digs, but in the past few years has evolved into a hub of microbreweries, party venues, patisseries, bistros and bars. Drinkerie is one such newbie. With picture windows (perfect for viewing the abutting park) and vintage wooden school chairs, the horseshoe bar sees much of the action. The drinks menu boasts two mittfuls of mostly new world and French reds, same for whites, a few bubbles, and 10 beers on tap, including the cinq à sept deal of 20oz pours of Labatt 50 for $5.25. With jazz playing and colleagues and families gathered ’round for a round, the idea is to enjoy a couple of glasses, some shared cheeses and conversation, then you’re out the door to see what the rest of the evening has in store.
2661 Notre-Dame West. drinkerie.ca
Le Vin Papillon “Bubbles,” says the waiter. “Always start with bubbles for cinq à sept.” He’s right, of course, a couple of glasses of Cremant de Bourgogne landing on the table. That said, Sommelier Vanya Filipovic fills two huge chalkboards with vins du jour while chef/ boyfriend Marc-Olivier Frappier does the veggie-forward cooking to match. What does this mean? Friends should tuck into a warm cocoon of a booth in the Little Burgundy neighbourhood boîte (all indigo walls, white hardwood floors, candles and outsized mirrors) and share plates of Frappier’s finest, including a Middle Eastern play on the Mexican seven-layer dip, and celery root bagna cauda with capers and cream — a smoked and roasted vegetal delight. Original ideas all, with familiar flavours. Le Vin Papillon specializes in unique Old World wines made by small producers, all either natural or organic. You’ve probably never tasted wines — or food — like this. Basically, if you’ve got a hankering for a glass of Wolf Blass and a plate of nachos, this is not the place for you. 2519 Notre-Dame West. vinpapillon.com
Burgundy Lion Packed on a Wednesday at 6 p.m. (directly across the street from Le Vin Papillon), this energetic Britishstyle pub is for the 20-to-30-something crowd that likes burgers, bangers and mash, loud rock and reggae, watching soccer (a.k.a. football) matches on the telly, and sipping back beer on tap, including the Burgundy Lion house ale. That said; the real cinq à sept draw is the unbelievable whiskey selection, which, at more than 300, is the largest in Quebec, running from blends like Ballantine’s 30-year to a dram of Talisker from the Isle of Skye. There’s even a Flight of the Month with themes such as “wood management.” Not too shabby for a “Sportive Bar & English Pub”. 2496 Notre-Dame West. burgundylion.com
La Mal Necessaire I walked by it at first, and so will you, so here’s a tip: Once you’re in the heart of Chinatown, backtrack to the neon green pineapple sign at the top of a staircase (you’ll even be greeted by a fresh pineapple scent — your second clue), make your way down to the basement digs, and there you incongruously are, in tiki town. Weathered tile floors and stylish low-rise banquets with leather cushions are slung with artsy actors and digital artists, making for a modern key party vibe. The baskets of fresh pineapples everywhere bring to mind tropical locales, so I order the Painkiller: rum, pineapple, homemade crème de coconut and orange. With the first delightful sip I can almost hear the ocean. There’s a small menu of snacky dumplings and such, and here’s where the place goes from great to genius: A few minutes after our server takes our order, a Chinese man in a white apron arrives at the bar with a bill for the restaurant. Soon after, our dumplings arrive at the table, super satisfying and steaming hot in a bamboo basket. The food is supplied by the neighbouring Fung Shing restaurant. 1106B Saint-Laurent Blvd. facebook. com/lemalnecessaire.
Lab, comptoir a cocktails They call themselves Labtenders, so it comes as no surprise that they take their time whipping up your cocktail at this laidback Plateau neighbourhood bar. But good things come to those who wait. Besides, it’ll take you a half-hour to read through your options, as this is one of the few places in town that specializes in turn-of-the-century libations — the drinks on the menu are actually datestamped, from 1898’s daiquiri to 2014’s homegrown Farmer’s Ride (Bacardi 8 yrs., lemon juice and ataca shrub). The Tic Tac Sour (also circa-2014) is one of my Labtenders’ favourites, and he’s so confident that I’ll like it that he says he’ll drink it if I don’t. So what’s the magic mix? A sweet and sour mash-up of Frangelico, whiskey, lemon juice and simple syrup. Feeling more and more like a 5-to-7er by the minute, I happily drank it down. 1351 Rachel Street East. lab.moxoart.com
Furco Located in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles, an area that had to be explained to me as it literally didn’t exist a few years ago (it’s the new entertainment district on the eastern edge of downtown), Furco’s look is industrial and raw, all concrete, glass and wood, and at cinq à sept, it’s quite possibly the most happening spot in town. This place epitomizes how the post-work meet-up is a part of the city’s cultural makeup. Everyone here is gorgeous and well dressed — we’re talking power suits, most of them streaming in from local law and financial firms. Men are drinking beer, women are drinking wine, there’s a live DJ, a disco ball, and lots of eyes meeting eyes. Sex is in the air. Think: L.A. in Less than Zero or circa1980s NYC . To take the edge off there’s lovely charcuterie, cheese, oysters and frites. Whatever happens after that is up to you. 425 Major Street. barfurco.com
The drinks are time stamped, from 1898’s daiquiri to 2014’s Farmer’s Ride