Art lovers, shoppers, gastronomes, lend me your ears. Montréal’s Quartier du Musée in the Golden Square Mile is a picturesque little pocket of the city spread out over a short stretch of Sherbrooke Street West. A popular destination for those who come to visit the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, visitors should also save an afternoon (or a whole day) for slowly roaming and discovering the other luxurious joys in the area.
Start the day at Pâtisserie Oliver Potier whom, by the way, did a stint at Ladurée in Paris. Besides his classic cannelés or madeleines, Potier’s more sophisticated pastries are tiny d’oeuvres d’art. His haute version of the Snickers bar has chocolate, peanuts and caramel and is almost too delicate to eat – almost. Opens early at 7:30 a.m.
If your eye is on Canadian artworks (to peruse or buy), La Guilde Canadienne specializes in First Nations fine crafts. Galerie Valentin offers an elite focus of Canadian Masters. And Galerie NuEdge will please contemporary enthusiasts with its exhibits that include video installations, photography and sculpture. Contemporary Quebecois artists are at La Galerie Turenne, while more cutting edge works on the international scene can be found at Galerie Samuel Lallouz.
Besides its collection of contemporary art, Galerie Elena Lee also sells jewellery made by Canadian artists. For “wearable art” that’s a little more permanent, brave souls can surrender their skin to the tattoo artists at Adrenalin – where, once upon a time, a little known actress Angelina Jolie was a patron.
A misnomer, Petit Musée is actually a gallery (everything is for sale), but is a must-stop for history fanatics. The treasure trove has been family-owned for three generations, and its four-story space is filled floor to ceiling with antiques from all over the world. I was particularly enamoured by ancient coins that were repurposed as bold cocktail rings. The present owner is a friendly linguistics buff – ask to see his cuneiform tablets.
Later in the day if you’re feeling nibbly, I’d stop by Nocochi for tea. For more girly delights, reserve a table at Le Maître Chocolatier for their high tea service. The upstairs salon is a romantic, aromatic escape. Should your palette crave for organic and vegan nourishment, Crudessence is a short detour on Mackay Street.
Once you’ve been recharged, it’s time to work out your shopping muscle. My boutique of choice is Trianon – it’s not on street level, so keep your chin up! Owner Luce Gayrard has a refined eye and brings all her Versailles-inspired frilly things under one roof: 18th century French antiques, high quality reproductions, charming accessories, as well as some of her own bespoke home furnishings. Don’t leave without buying one of her namesake candles, of which the romantic scent permeates her lady-approved ambience.
Just a few doors down is Palais de la reine a brand new shop supplying unique home décor items, jewellery and art; everything – including the owner – is imported from Madagascar. Purveyors of runway art will appreciate the carefully curated fashions by boutique owner Maria Balla at Les Créateurs who promotes the philosophy of “investment shopping” in avant-garde collections by Yohji Yamamoto and Ann Demeulemeester.
If it’s a nice day, the outdoor Tuscan-style courtyard at Il Cortile is a hidden gem tucked away from the busy thoroughfare, and a lovely spot for a late lunch. An old school Italian restaurant, they serve fresh pastas, light salads and refreshing bubbly. Alternatively, Bice is also an Italian restaurant, albeit a little flashier (read: more $$$). The Il Giardino terrasse, which just opened in May, is a chichi place to see and be seen – and eat and drink.
Along Sherbrooke Street West my absolute coup de coeur was hands down Landau Fine Art and Galerie Dominion where you must make an appointment to enter. One of the most influential galleries on the international art scene, these two addresses are owned and operated by the Landau family who is respected for promoting contemporary artists. I was swept away upon discovering Argentina-based Manuel Cancel’s breezy landscapes. There are also rare visual treats you may have seen in your Art 101 textbooks (which you can buy if the price is right) by Degas, Bottero, Miro, Giacometti, Matisse, Modigliani, and more. Ask to see Picasso’s 1965 painting “Les dormeurs.”
Speaking of sleep, to ensure sweet dreams after a long day on your feet, I highly recommend reserving a quiet hour at Spa Dr. Hauschka for soothing body and soul treatments. (Not on the menu is the “Gold Facial” – a true gilty pleasure not to be missed.) Finally, to get the most of your escapade on Sherbrook Street West, Le Meridien Hotel is an artsy retreat where above other fine details, the lobby is a gallery, the doorman is a photographer, and even the room keys are collectors’ items.