No one can deny that l’Avenue on Mont-Royal is one of the most successful restaurants in the city. Nowhere else in Montreal are people waiting for hours to eat in a restaurant and it isn’t because there’s isn’t anywhere else to eat brunch on the Plateau. Any restaurant in Montreal today would kill to have that kind of loyalty. After years drawing crowds to the Plateau, l’Avenue has opened a second location on Notre Dame in St-Henri and Montreal’s media and bloggerati were there last week to try their brunch menu.
I look at the new l’Avenue as a positive evolution of the orignal. Many of the things I don’t like about the Plateau location have been addressed and the new l’Avenue is much better for it. Starting with the decor there’s still a sense of whimsy about this location. Colourful graffiti walls are a playful wink to the original while vintage camera equipment and bright potted flowers decorate the bar in the glassed-in entree. A painted mannequin in the entree is another throwback to the original location, linking them both visually. The new location has light on its side with big bright windows at the front and the rear of the restaurant. Eating brunch while basking in warm sunlight makes everything better.
Speaking of eating, the brunch menu at l’Avenue is packed full of brunch classics but the dial has been cranked up to fantastic. I’ve never eaten brunch at the original location (because I have better things to do than wait in line for anything) so I can’t compare the experience but on Notre Dame the presentation is great, the food is inventive and it tastes wonderful. At the media brunch a small group of us came together in a booth making it easier to steal forkfuls of food from each other’s plates.
In an unsurprising turn I choose the fried chicken and waffles while is drizzled with a general tao sauce. Whenever I go out for Asian food I generally choose general tao so seeing the sauce added to the dish didn’t scare me. Although it is a bit of a departure from the normal chicken and waffles you can get anywhere else, the general tao added a pleasantly spicy kick to the dish. It portion isn’t gigantic either which is nice (the portions of the other dishes are much bigger). The panko covered french toast is another outstanding dish and it is part of a couple of different choices. It’s light and fluffy on the inside while the panko gives it a deliciously crispy crunch on the outside. There’s plenty of fresh fruit, yoghurt and granola for those trying to keep the brunch as balanced as possible.
It’s difficult to gage service at media events like these because everyone is being on their best behaviour. At l’Avenue I got a sense that the waitstaff is made of up people with plenty of experience in the industry. They were professional, polite, engaged and informed. Serving a crowd as large as we were was a daunting task but the staff took it in stride and with a smile. These guys haven’t been together that long but they already work well together as a team. It was refreshing.
With l’Avenue du plateau being so successful it’s easy to wonder why they didn’t spin-off to a second location sooner. The Notre-Dame location is a step in the right direction for the restaurant and the experience has helped to slightly shift what I think about the original. When this restaurant opens to the public later this week I have no doubt that people will be lining up to try it. However, something tells me though that the line-up on Mont-Royal won’t be any shorter.
L’Avenue opens to the public on March 30th!
Image credit: Patricia Brochu