I always have my ear to the Montreal pavement, so when I heard there was a new restaurant coming to Old Montreal, I just had to get an exclusive sneak peek. People, allow me to introduce Taverne Gaspar…
Taverne Gaspar is a large welcoming space just off scenic de la Commune Street with soft lighting and an unpretentious décor. Carefully edited vintage accessories and original stonewalls make for a cozy, lived-in ambience; you’d swear it’s been there for a while. Lining three walls, rugged leather banquettes hug a centre space of rectangular and circular oak tables. On the left, the handsome copper-topped bar, which is wing-tipped with an oyster shucker’s counter, is made of repurposed joists and beams. I’m not a beer person, but if you are, you may be delighted to hear that there is a house brew prepared by MTL Premium Lager. There’s also a full bar with pretty cocktails to keep the ladies happy – and, thus, keep the men on their toes.
Gaspar, I must point out, is built above a section of Montreal’s historical ramparts. Locals might remember the original Les Remparts that served as the hotel’s restaurant once upon a time. The name Gaspar, BTW, is a tribute to the military dude that built the wall. (Did anyone else think, “Gaspar, the friendly ghost”?)
Back to the 21st century. Owned by the Antonopoulos family, who run a handful of chichi boutique hotels and eateries in this neck of the woods, Taverne Gaspar is adjacent to their property Auberge du Vieux-Port, and also absorbs the former dining room of Narcisse (which took over Les Remparts). The location is super-convenient for tourists who want to be in the heart of Old Montreal and should also fare well with young professionals who hang out in the area for its happening resto, bar and nightlife scene – a nice alternative to another Antonopoulos hotspot just down the street, the wildly successful Méchant Boeuf Bar and Brasserie.
On to food and drinks, what did this social butterfly do? I invited 30 of my friends to join me in a menu tasting. We were a mixed bag of good-lookers, all from different professions and various age groups, from my big bro James right down to the baby-faced hipster of the group, none other than my Montreal Buzz colleague Alexander Dunphy, whom by the way parted with a happy face and these words, “Most. Incredible. Evening.”
My gal pal and resident Montreal Buzz foodista Alexandra Forbes also gave her thumbs up and raved about the chunky fries on at least three occasions – and she’s a tough nut to crack, believe me, when it comes to food. So kudos to Chef Mario Guerrera and front of house master Zach Suhl who cut their chops at, respectively, Hotel W and the now-defunct Montreal haunt Brunoise.
The cuisine is described as “British gastro-pub with French and Quebecois accents.” Say what? Well, whatever you call it, I dipped in with both hands and woke up the next day still thinking about the mini-trio of savory tarts (beef and blue cheese, tourtière, and chicken pot pie), a Caesar salad with wonkin’ pieces of pork (think cubes of bacon), tasty lobster sliders, nicely seasoned beef tartare, finger-lickin’-yummy fried chicken with buttermilk biscuit, gooey mac & cheese, and classic steak frites with maître d’hôtel butter. Yes, I tasted all of that in one sitting; it was a very satisfying night.
I’m told there will also be daily specials (mark your iPhone calendars) with specific comfort foods on select days of the week, like duck confit Tuesdays and Shepherd’s Pie Wednesdays – served with traditional pea soup (it’s yellow not green) and pouding chômeur, a Quebecois cake that is wonderfully drowned in maple syrup. Speaking of dessert, I was fluttering and chitchatting way too much that night, so I totally missed the sweets that bookended the meal. Who ate my chocolate brownie?! I guess this only means one thing: I’ll be baaaaack.
Taverne Gaspar, 89 Rue de la Commune East, (514) 392-1649