Sunday, March 21, 2010

Brunching & Lunching it in Montreal Part 1: Olive & Gourmando

Montrealers know what it's like when the sun starts shining, the ski equipment gets stored until next year, and the first few warm weekends arrive... we just want to get together with friends on a sunday morning, head out into our beautiful city and eat with reckless abandon (well I do anyway).

Over the next few days, I want to talk about 4 places I love for brunch & lunch. Because hell, even though it's snowing (lightly) as I write this - it's spring! Time to whip out your shades & leather jackets and go wait in line for some great brunch food!

These four places are some of my favorite of all time, anywhere, and we're lucky to have them right here at home. If you are coming to visit our great city, you simply cannot miss eating at these legend-status-worthy local spots. Not all of them serve brunch all week (who's brunching mid week anyway?), but they all have an excellent weekend brunch, and some of the most amazing weekday lunch around, spots I hit for a midday bite on an almost weekly basis. So here goes.... first stop; Olive & Gourmando.

As you approach the lineup pouring out the door of Olive & Gourmando in Old Montreal, you may want to turn on your heels and run in the other direction. If you do, you clearly have never eaten at O+G. Otherwise, you'd excitedly be placing your name on the list at the door, and waiting patiently outside on the bench like a good little puppy - soon to be rewarded by a world class eating experience.

O+G has always been one of my favorite places to be in Montreal. On a sunny day, with the open windows and breeze blowing through, or, as a cozy refuge of warmth from the rain and snow. O+G seriously serves up some of the best brunch & lunch I have ever come across. The cool design & the vibe hits you as soon as you walk through the door. Dark reds and purples, wooden counters, good lighting, nice fixtures, great music. At the back where you make your order, the food is beautifully styled and displayed on dishes inside the glass counter. There are pots of spices and tomatoes growing in all the windowsills. Beautiful. From the style of the words and graphics on the walls to the perfect placement of each bag of potato chips, (that seem as though they were tossed into a basket)... the place is right on.

The restaurant was opened and is owned by couple Eric and Dyan (and now another partner, the wonderfully sweet Shelley Garinther), and the fact that they are never too far from the shop really shines through in the quality of food and service. These owners are hands on, and passionate about their establishment. Eric checks each plate as it leaves the kitchen area before hitting the table (I mean EVERY plate), and Dyan works the front making sure clients are happy and the customer flow is running smoothly. I have rarely been in there when both of them weren't present. Strangely, their staff lack some warmth - it's not always service with a smile, but it is fast and professional. The rest of the sweet O+G package more than makes up for it.

Owner Eric Girard checking each plate for perfection.

Breakfast here is really all about the pastries. One more delicious than the next. The rustic and consistently incredible quality of the baked goods is like a magic trick happening to your senses. It all looks, feels and tastes completely unreal. The "Egg on your face" sandwich is a bite into something special: oven roasted tomato, chopped poached egg salad and proscuito. A treat for your taste buds. They also have an excellent yogurt and granola dish if you are on the healthy plan (a plan you will soon throw away as you walk by the pastry counter), and as though that's not enough, they also serve a way-better-than-average coffee.

A few of my favourites from the pastry counter include; personal banana bread loaf (a great companion for a morning coffee and Gazette in hand), valrhona chocolate brioche (Eric's fave), Jami's Bar (named after the former pastry chef at O+G), Apple turnover, and I can't seem to leave the premises without a chocolate chip pecan cookie.

Can't wait to see where in Montreal Jami & his sweets will turn up next...

Mandatory cookie to-go

For lunch Olive has 2 soups a day, always amazing, so original, healthy, and hearty. Salads change daily, and the very original signature dishes (baked mac & cheese that will make your mouth water) change seasonally. The sandwich board has 6 choices, one of which rotates seasonally and the rest are O&G staples. 3 hot paninis, 3 cold sandwiches. They are imaginative, varied enough to suit all eating preferences (an amazing "Viva Las Vegan" sandwich with tofu can even turn my meat eating self into a temporary herbivore), and perfect every time. My favorite has always been the cajun chicken, avocado & mango sandwich on char-grilled bread, but the more new stuff I try, the more addicted I become to it all. And I have been a die-hard fan for close to 7 years.

I don't think I can hold your attention long enough to describe it all, because honestly the menu at O+G is like stepping into another galaxy of pastry and sandwich eating. I'll just say you'd be hard pressed to find other places churning out this kind of heavenly goodness anywhere in the world. So go.

Unfortunately Olive & Gourmando is closed on Sunday and Monday (yes, it is completely insane for them to be closed on Sunday, but it's all in the name of a day of rest, thus giving you 110% quality the rest of the time).

Olive & Gourmando
351 Rue Saint-Paul West

On tap for this week's brunch/lunch blog bonanza: Mckiernan, Beautys, & Le Cartet.



  2. Mmm I finally got to try this place today for lunch after hearing about it for years. The atmosphere is cozy and hip and the food does not disappoint. Half a veggie sandwich, side salad, cafe latte and hipster watching was a mid-day treat! Thanks for the great recommendation. Please keep them coming!!