The bring your own wine solution to fine dining in Montréal
Among the many things that I like to splurge on, my favourites are wine, restaurants and taxis (it is cOOOOld here in the winter). A good night out usually involves all three, which can be a little hard on the old pocket book. Especially since I am going to start having to factor in a babysitter since I don’t believe in bringing babies/small children to nice restaurants (a rant for another time….).
I always have the same dilemma when the menus arrive. Do I choose the wine first, or the food? I usually open the wine list first and one of two things often happens….
- The food looks amazing but the wine menu is just a dull collection of big brands, obviously provided by one big winery conglomerate or agency that has paid handsomely to own the list. The majority of said wines can be found at the liquor store for a third of the price. This always frustrates me. It is like painting a masterpiece and then putting it in a cheap Ikea frame. The food and the drinks should be of equal calibre, to complement and enhance each other. It seems to me that a chef who is passionate about his food would understand that.
- The wine list is worthy of the menu, but the prices are astronomical. And, after spending upwards of 50$ on the table d’hôte menu, I just can’t bring myself to tack on an extra 100$ for the bottle I really want. So I end up going for a lesser wine; still good but not the kind of quality that is going to play up the best attributes of the dish and vice versa. And while I’m eating, I am thinking “this Haut Médoc is pretty good but I wish I was drinking the Pauillac”….
This is what makes the Montréal dining scene so fantastic. You don’t have to fear the wine list. You can just bring your own! Long gone are the days when all the BYOW restaurants were cheap Greek joints on Prince Arthur or Duluth. The city is now overflowing with choice from affordable little bistros to serious gastronomic treats.
Here are a list of my top 5 Montréal BYOW spots; that deserve you spending a little time at the SAQ picking out the perfect wine. Not only is the food fantastic, but the staff often give excellent wine service (good glassware, happy to decant, etc.). There are many, many more that I have forgotten or have not yet had the pleasure of dining at. Feel free to send me some suggestions!
554 Avenue Duluth Est, Montréal, Quebec H2L 1A9
The food here is so good that it made me forget my epic 25th birthday hangover. My dad brought one of his few remaining bottles of Cos d’Estournel 1982. It was divine. I went back 5 years later and the meal was just as good as I remembered. Fresh, market cuisine; a perfect mix of classic French and modern Québec. Their foie gras is delicious, as is the filet of deer in a pepper sauce. The ambiance is intimate and romantic.
327 Avenue Duluth E, Montréal, QC H2W 1J1
I’ve seen mixed reviews on this little spot, but I really enjoyed it. A French friend was in town a few weeks back that loves nothing more than excess. So we showed up, armed with 4 bottles of wine, sat at the bar and ordered lots plates to share. The wine service was great. The décor is a little boring, but on a summer’s night, with the huge floor to ceiling windows open, the feel is cool, casual terrace (with the comfort of indoor furniture). The wild mushroom starter with truffle oil and aged cheddar is a flavour and texture explosion…great with our Langhe Nebbiolo.
201 Rue Milton, Montréal, QC H2X 1V5
A classic! Simple, delicious and seriously affordable pizzas and pastas in a cozy, brick walled setting. This place has been around forever. Don’t be confused by the recent name change (used to be called Amelio’s…long story), the food is as good as ever. They don’t take reservations and close the kitchen at 9pm, so show up early and don’t be afraid to wait. It is never too long, and totally worth it!
Bistro Monsieur B
371 Rue Villeneuve E, Montréal, QC H2J 2L5
Monsieur B has casual chic down to a tee. Again, a French/ Québec market cuisine fusion theme…which is pretty common among the better BYOWs, but who can get enough of that? There is a fantastic 6 course “menu degustation” complete with a Trou Normand. My only complaint was the teeny, tiny portions of cheese…definitely not shareable.
1001 Rue Jean-Talon-Ouest, Montréal, QC H3N 1T2
Ok, so wine pairing is not quite so easy with Indian fare, and I admit that I usually drink beer here, but a nice Mosel or Alsatian wine will usually do the trick. A fruity rosé (think Spanish Garnacha) is also a pretty good match. The décor is pretty simple, but the food is rich, spicy Indian food done to perfection. You are guaranteed to eat too much…and then crave more a couple of weeks later!