Groups can exponentially expand their experience in Montreal with a local guide, arguably more so than anywhere else in North America due to the native French language. And that’s the city’s strongest charm because as the Facebook page says: “Everything Sounds Sexier in French.”
To help groups navigate their way around, Danielle Crête at VDM Global DMC says she’s fielding a growing amount of requests for “progressive dinners,” where everyone dines at a different restaurant or culinary-themed venue for each course.
The historic colonial streets in Old Montreal are the most popular for these types of events because planners can combine both an exciting dining experience with a fun, foodie-themed city tour.
“People sit in meetings all day and many just don’t want to sit for 3-4 hours in the same restaurant all night anymore,” says Crête. “It’s good exercise and it’s great for networking because you sit beside different people at each restaurant.”
And there’s the added sightseeing to boot!
“Our guides give this fantastic tour of the neighborhood and introduce people to the owners, and they talk about the culinary history in Montreal,” says Crête. “So it gives the group a chance to get out and explore…. It’s definitely a trend because people don’t always have time to see the city when they’re here on business.”
Group size can range up to 150, and Crête says there’s a wide variety of establishments catering to all budgets. For example, you might start at Restaurant Le Fourquet Fourchette for a Quebec-style beer tasting and casual icebreaker. Manager Mathieu Sallée likes to put out some local venison, salmon and delicate handcrafted cheese.
From there, everyone walks to Boris Bistro, “which has a wonderful terrace, one of the most beautiful in Quebec,” says Crête. “And they’re very flexible with groups—that’s important.”
They do a nice duck risotto with oyster mushrooms also.
And for the main course, Osco! inside InterContinental Montreal highlights Provençale cuisine. The house specialty is fish and lobster bouillabaisse, but the mussels and fries look good, too, “followed by a little white porto,” suggests Crête.
Toqué! + Brasserie T!
What do you get when you cross Toqué!, the long-time Montreal fine dining restaurant by noted chef Normand Laprise, with a location at the trendy Quartier des Spectacles, an arts and culture district known for its festivals? Answer: Brasserie T!
“After 17 years at Toqué!, I felt like expressing myself differently to follow my creative instincts with rather simple and tasty dishes, while remaining true to my credo of quality,” says Laprise.
Opened last year, the 55-seat Brasserie T! is a super funky, boxy, glass-walled restaurant designed to fit in well with its neighbors—namely, the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Arts.
“I wanted to attract people of all ages, from everywhere, tourists, Montrealers, at all hours of the day and night with a simple menu and an ambiance just lively enough to make you come back,” says Laprise.
Popular items include the Montreal sausage, salmon with dill and always-changing fresh seafood platter for two. In warm months, the outdoor terrace seats 60.
At both establishments, Laprise maintains his Quebecois cuisine known for fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Toque!— rated Five Diamonds by the Canadian Auto Association and its American counterpart—offers fine cuisine in a contemporary setting. Bottles of wine hang on metal stalks behind a glass enclosure like so many rare vineyard flowers.
Laprise says US visitors seeking local dishes will try the scallop ceviche with cantaloupe melon and wasabi, and the salmon with maple syrup confit. Groups also go for the 7-course tasting menu featuring ribeye carpaccio with asparagus and shiitake mushrooms, followed by squab with turnips and rhubarb sorbet. Private room capacity is 30 seated; 60 reception.