Montreal’s Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel was hardly a caterpillar when it was cocooned for about a year during an extensive and spectacular renovation. While the hotel has always been a beacon of high-end quality in hospitality, the renovation was necessary but no one could have guessed that they would gut the entire lobby and start from scratch. We were gasping for breath last spring when we finally saw the results of the hotel’s new retro-futuristic lobby, bar and restaurant. Since the reveal, the Queen E has been featured in design magazines all over the world and last week a few friends and I were given the star treatment at Nacarat and Rosélys, the hotel’s bar and restaurant.
I’ve dropped by Nacarat a couple of times since it’s opened and I’ve already grown to love it. The bar is gorgeously yet darkly decorated and it’s become the lounge that Montreal never knew it needed. Every time I’ve stopped by Nacarat there’s been an eclectic mix of locals and guests who come out dressed to the nines for a glass of wine or a delicious cocktail and some light, hunger-chasing fare. The ambiance at Nacarat reminds me of why I started my blog in the first place. I love places like this for 5a7. The music is delightful but not so loud that you have shout to be heard. The chatter around the room adds to the atmosphere and it bears repeating that these very same chatter boxes are dressed so fabulously, we could put Paris and New York to shame. We don’t do that a lot in Montreal. We’re a chic yet casually dressed city and it’s great to see a place where people step it up a little. The wine list is impressive and the handmade, signature cocktails prove that when you start with quality ingredients, you don’t need sugars and other distractions to create flavour. I recommend the Old Fashioned.
After a cocktail and a plate of oysters at Nacarat we crossed the expansive lobby over to Rosélys, the swanky new restaurant that looks out onto our ever expanding downtown core. Rosélys is uniquely defined by its gilded and rich décor. The restaurant’s design sets it apart from that of any other décor I’ve seen in the city. The restaurant is spacious and lofty while at the same the richly detailed seating, bar area and lighting bring warmth to the space. Much like Nacarat, Rosélys has set the bar high for the next generation of hotel bars and restaurants in Montreal.
The menu is more concise that I expected it to be – which is wonderful. There’s nothing worse than a menu that makes War and Peace look like a beach read. I like the diversity in choice and I love that they have a burger on the menu. If you come here thinking that I won’t order a burger at a place like this, you’re not reading the right blog. I’m as fancy as the next guy but give me a burger any day and I’m happy, as long as it’s worth it. The four of us each ordered different things so we all could try. Starting with appetizers, I chose the squash soup with curry, toasted pumpkin seeds, coconut milk and fresh yuzu cream. The cream and seeds are in the bowl when it arrives and the warm soup is ceremoniously poured out of a teapot (making the hotel’s namesake proud, no doubt). I am a sucker for presentation and this course didn’t disappoint. I thought the soup could be hotter but it was deeply flavourful and satisfying.
As tempted as I was by the other main course options on the menu (see it all for yourself here) I couldn’t be swayed away from my burger and I am happier for it. At $26, my expectations were pretty high and they didn’t disappoint. The meat was fresh and delicious and the toppings, which included fresh avocado, 1608 cheese, bacon and BBQ sauce, was everything I could have hoped it would be. If you’re going to order it, you best be hungry. This burger isn’t for the faint of heart. More attention could have been paid to the French fries that accompanied the burger. In a kitchen like this I’m sure there’s plenty of rosemary, garlic, fresh pepper and sea salt that they could use to doll them up. Around the table my friends tried the colourful (and flavourful) ricotta ravioli with walnuts and sage and the AAA dry aged Cote de boeuf. The cote de boeuf smartly arrives in a Staub cocotte and served with roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Fans of cote de boeuf will no doubt be impressed by Rosélys’ take on the classic dish.
If presentation is worth anything, the desserts at Rosélys stand out as art on a plate. The four of us each tried something different. I went with a refreshing, tropics inspired coconut Madeline cookie that was served with a pineapple and coriander compote and mellow lime cream. For someone who usually orders the chocolate dessert, this was a departure and I don’t regret it for a second. It was a light dessert with more muted flavour than I was expecting. Each bite had something different depending on how much pineapple and coriander was on the fork. Think Pina colada without the heaps of sugar.
Our experience at Nacarat and Rosélys was outstanding with exceptional service from start to finish. Our waitress at Rosélys was lovely and quite patient (getting four bloggers to come to a food decision isn’t easy for anyone to suffer). I am grateful that spaces like this exist in our city. Restaurants and bars, like Rosélys and Nacarat, that push the envelope further are the backbone of our world renowned food scene.
For more information on all the wonderful surprises that await you at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth hotel (like Krema – the café, and Marché Artisans – the wonderful market and eatery), visit their website here.