The Pikolo Espresso Bar in downtown Montréal came highly recommended. No, really. Very highly recommended: I’d only been in Montréal a day and already lots of people had said that I should go there. Under such circumstances, there’s always the possibility for disappointment, so it was with some trepidation that I visited one sunny afternoon.
However, I was far from disappointed. In fact, I fell in love with the place the moment I stepped through the door. Very long and thin, and with wonderfully-high ceilings, there is something about Pikolo to which I was instantly attracted. Located in a beautiful, old building, I knew this was going to be a great place to drink coffee. It probably helps that the coffee is pretty good too.
Frankly, what’s there not to like about Pikolo? It’s small, but never felt crowded; popular, but never felt busy; the staff are great and passionate about the coffee; it’s full of light and I even liked the music! Pikolo has been open about 18 months and is one of the places at the forefront of a quiet coffee revolution taking place in Montréal. With places like Pikolo, the revolution is sure to be a success!
October 2018: I returned to Pikolo after a 5½ year absence and was delighted to discover that it is very much as a remember it. The Kees van den Westen Mirage is still there, with its custom panels, and the only real change I could detect were three new Mahlkönig Peak grinders.
I had a pikolo latte (naturally) to celebrate, a lovely rich, biscuity drink, made with the Middle School Blend from 49th Parallel. Middle School is always on espresso where it’s joined by the decaf and a weekly single-origin, with another weekly single-origin on batch-brew. These are either from 49th Parallel or Monogram.
You can see what I thought of Pikolo during my original visit after the gallery.
Long and thin is not the best layout for a coffee shop, but Pikolo has made it work beautifully. Entering, you are confronted by the espresso machine: a fine-looking, shiny beast of a Kees van den Westen Mirage. Beyond that, the counter stretches off towards the back of the room, with the brew bar, followed by the cakes and then the till.
On your right is a little bar in the window, a great spot to sit and watch the world go by on Park Avenue, although it’s not the quietest spot, given the collection point right behind it. There’s another little bar with some stools to perch on beyond the counter. If tables are your thing, there’s a row of four square ones, each with two swivelling bar chairs, opposite the counter. Beyond them, yet another little bar and, opposite that, a bigger table. Finally, at the back, a flight of stairs leads to a wonderful balcony where I would have sat had it not been full. There’s space for about 10 people up there, all at little square tables, and perhaps 25 downstairs.
Back downstairs, I selected one of the tables opposite the counter. These are more relaxed the further back you go: I took the one beyond the till and was relatively undisturbed, despite a constant stream of people. Pikolo is really, really popular: when I arrived the queue was at the door and there was never a point when there wasn’t a customer ordering or waiting for coffee. That said, with three or four staff serving, the waiting was kept to a minimum. Despite this popularity and its relatively small size, Pikolo never felt crowded, the sense of space helped by the enormously high ceiling. It’s one of the few places I’ve been that’s considerably taller than it is wide!
I also loved the light. The big front window and side windows high over the counter give Pikolo plenty of natural light, while there are individual lights (like gaslights) above each table and big “industrial” lights above the bar, all of which add to the wonderful atmosphere. Finally there was a constant background of music, but not so loud as to be intrusive.
It helps that the coffee is pretty good too. There’s the obligatory drip filter on offer, plus a wide range of espresso-based drinks. I only had time for an espresso which was well made, if slightly fruity for my palette. There’s also the option of using the BrewT infusion system. This is a Canadian system which, I discovered, works for both tea and coffee and (for coffee) offers a comparatively short one minute infusion. Unsurprisingly, there’s a large choice of tea too.
The coffee comes from two roasters new to me: Phil & Sebastian (Calgary) and Heart (Oregon). As with most of the places I visited on my North America trip, you can also buy the beans. To round things off, there’s a small but tasty selection of cakes: brownies, muffins and (American) scones.
I spent ages chatting with Marie-Ève, the owner and chief barista, who also gave me a massive list of other places in Montréal that I had to visit. As a result of her intervention, I ended my second day (of three) with a longer list than I started, despite doing five Coffee Spots!
|3418B PARC AVENUE • MONTRÉAL • QC H2X 2H5 • CANADA|
|www.pikoloespresso.com||+1 514 508 6800|
|Monday||07:00 – 19:00||Seating||49th Parallel + Monogram (espresso + batch-Brew)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 19:00||Seating||Tables, Bar|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 19:00||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||07:00 – 19:00||Serivce||Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 19:00||Payment||Cash + Cards|
|Saturday||07:00 – 19:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||09:00 – 19:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||13th March 2013, 6th October 2018|
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