As much as I strive to maintain my anonymity when reviewing restaurants, from time to time I will meet or be introduced to a restaurateur or chef. My first run-in with a Mr. Stephen Leslie took place at a charity event – Table of Hope – in 2013, where I found out he was behind two spots I had occasionally visited; N.D.G.'s Monkland Tavern and Westmount's Taverne sur le Square.
Stephen's culinary profile, love of fine wines and overall persona would later add to my appreciation for his duo of taverns. Set in the iconic, Mies van der Rohe-designed Westmount Square and hinted at in its name, "The Tavern" was born in 2001.
With the inclement spring we've had this year, the beautiful patio was out of the question on this Friday night. Not to fret, my last visit predated the interior's facelift two years ago for the Taverne's sweet sixteen.
The setting maintains its elegant feel while adding a classic touch with white linens, dark walls, leather banquettes and artful portraits of famous figures. Neighborhood hangouts do not come as popular as this; as every table, bar stool and lounge-area sofa was occupied by a steady stream of Westmount denizens young and old.
tagged: ANGLO CROWD
The Tavern's eclectic menu suggests comfort food with French/Italian influences, laced with an international touch. Notable items include seasonal specials, homemade pastas, a curated wine list featuring organic/natural/biodynamic bottles and both classic and custom cocktails.
A couple of dishes we ordered teetered on excessive pricing such as $16 for three pairs of wings or half a cauliflower head. Others showcased craftiness such as perfectly-charred and dressed shrimp and calamari. Finally, a melty chocolate chip cookie served in a skillet and topped with ice cream ended dinner on a heavenly note.
"brined, smoked & roasted, Bleu d'Elizabeth, celery, hot sauce"
"labneh, dukkah (hazelnuts, sesame, coriander, cumin)"
"ground QC beef, wine, tomato, carrot, celery, onion, milk, parmesan"
"organic cannellini beans, ramp pesto, lemon, olive oil"
tagged: ORIGINAL DRINKS
While Stephen was not present tonight – which luckily helps me go unnoticed – his partner Jon Cercone was overseeing things. The co-owner/sommelier/floor manager and his staff obviously have a strong bond with the crowd of regulars.
Everywhere I looked, I saw waiters greeting patrons by name and engaging them in conversation. As for my table, our waitress expertly took care of us and showed her mastery of the menu and specials, while Jon was on hand for wine suggestions and refills.
tagged: LOVE THE ATTENTION
While I did find fault with a couple dishes tonight – heavily-sauced wings and overly-crusted pasta – the winners easily made up for these subjective quibbles. From its refined yet comforting food to its family-like service and longevity, the Tavern has established itself as a reliable meeting point.
At least for locals, the Westmount Square tenant has become as much a landmark as the complex which houses it. At the age of eighteen, this neighborhood fixture is showing no sign of slowing down.
Price per person: $47
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.