It was a beautiful crisp Sunday morning as I easily found parking on Notre Dame West in St. Henri. St. Henri is quickly becoming one of the IT (not I.T. Sorry tech nerds) places to be in the city. Once the poorest area in all of Canada, St. Henri has begun transforming into one of the trendiest places in the city. And its proximity to downtown makes it even more attractive. Those who took advantage of the forecasted boom a few years back can now see the chance they took was well worth it.
It was hard deciding where to go for brunch. There are so many different and varied choices. There’s anything from the typical to the bizarre, from ethnic breakfast fare to your greasy spoon, and everything in between. They’re almost all on the same street and within a 15-minute walking distance from each other. The queues were plentiful in all three of our targeted locations. We decided on L’Avenue because of it’s more centralized location, its sign, and its Google reviews.
The grungy feel amidst new condos and renovated and well-kept old apartments makes the area around the restaurant look like a Manhattan neighborhood. The apparent educated young population made it a mix between Greenwich Village and the West Village. But I shall digress with the NYC memories.
This is an example of the remnants of a dilapidated past. My mind here goes to some old areas of Krakow that tried to make it past the Communist era. This is what the old regime in St. Henri had to offer. This photo was taken just around the corner from the restaurant as I played neighborhood photographer while my dining companion waited in line (I’d say 30 people in the queue before us, but we had the 2-people advantage).
I’d say the entire waiting time was about an hour. Usually unacceptable as a wait time, I felt we could wait because it would be a new experience. I’d really be mad at myself were it not. After all, the food was secondary here. The neighborhood had a great vibe since I took classes here during my college years.
The restaurant offers free coffee for those waiting in line, albeit just the regular cheap Tim Hortons type. Still, it’s a move forward.
The first photo above is of the queue and what you can see from it. The latter photo is of a motorcycle apparently from the distant past.
Another surprising discovery was how 80% of the people in the queue and on or near Notre Dame street spoke English in what seemed to be their first language. Sure, there may be some foreign students amongst the rest in the crowd, but mostly it seemed to be young people who either had good-paying jobs, were using daddy’s car and part of his wallet for the weekend, or true artsy types. No matter which of the above categories they fit in, I wondered whether the original occupants of the neighborhood were economically forced out or given no chance but to move further north. With so-called progress came a price, and my bleeding heart was affected. The distraction of “2for Ted” quickly made that thought evaporate. I guess my mind thought it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t. Was it?
For those of you reading this strictly s a food review, let’s get to it.
The smoothie above was perfectly blended and just sweet enough to keep your sugar level at bay. It seemed, unsurprisingly, to be on almost every table. ‘Plateau West’, I thought.
I love the fruit in a skewer idea. Every customer got that as soon as they sat down at their table. Nice touch.
What endeared more to the place and the menu was that the chicken who’d laid those eggs were free-range. In y opinion, free-range eggs are much tastier. They have been proven to be healthier mainly because the chicken’s trauma while being enslaved and slaughtered goes into its premature eggs and in turn into our already-overused digestive and nervous systems. Anyway, whatever the case, it was poached and free-range all over the menu.
The French toast above was my order It was topped with your choice of ham or bacon or sausage and, of course, two poached eggs. I loved the salty flavour topped with some real maple syrup. It was simple yet unique, and the first time I’ve seen it around French toast. All in all, it wasn’t as good as it looks. But it was very good nonetheless.
My companion had the avocado toast. It wasn’t quite up to par. Two-thirds of the plate was green salad (most lettuce). The rest of the plate was fine enough, yet it was nothing special. It wasn’t bad in any way, but it could have been less bland.
The coffee was surprisingly not up to par. I ordered a double espresso lungo. Again, it was fine. But this is not a greasy spoon and the people that come here prepare for an outing per se, and they should get the best out of it.
My biggest complaint about the food was the poached eggs being overcooked. A poached egg needs to be a bit runny. Mine was a pleasant just-a-minute-overcooked light yellow to orange. Nothing wrong with the egg’s taste, but you’d figure a restaurant that almost exclusively poached its eggs would have a perfect grasp on how to make them.
The most surprising and fun part of the whole experience were the toilets. There are three single-user toilets, just like the WC in Europe. But the similarities end there. The photos above show the funky feeling in the toilets. My favourite was the red toilet that was more like a 70s discotheque than somewhere to relieve yourself. The music is loud, the lights are funky, and you feel like you’ve been taken back in time.
All in all, quite an illuminating experience. I definitely recommend it.