Toi Moi & Café (“You, me and coffee” for those who don’t speak French) is a micro-roaster with its own café, located conveniently just around the corner from my friend Adam’s apartment, where I was staying in Montreal. It’s the last of the Coffee Spots from the visit I made to Montréal back in March and rounds off an excellent visit. I came to Montréal with no expectations and left having found a wonderful coffee scene, with a wide variety of places.
Toi Moi & Café doesn’t fit the bill of the third-wave coffee shop: as well as serving coffee, which it roasts itself, it’s also an excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner spot in a residential part of Montréal. And it has lots of cake. In short, it does pretty much everything, and, being around the corner from Adam’s, I found myself a fairly regular visitor, heading there for both breakfast and lunch, as well as coffee and cake!
One of the great things about my (now not so) recent trip to Montréal is the variety of the places that I visited. They all serve excellent coffee, but that’s about all they have in common. Take Résonance, another of the recommendations I got from Marie-Ève of Pikolo Espresso Bar. Down in a basement, it’s in what I’d call an “interesting” part of Avenue du Parc (about 12 blocks up from Pikolo). Café by day, jazz bar by night, it serves a full range of vegan food, one of the few coffee spots in Montréal not to focus exclusively on coffee.
Résonance, supplied by Toronto-based Pilot Coffee Roasters, offers as wide a variety of coffee as any place I’d been on my trip. Along with the usual espresso-based drinks, pour-over and cafetiere coffee was also on offer, plus decaf options (essential, I would have thought, for somewhere that says open until midnight!). It was also one of the more spacious coffee spots I’d visited, roughly the same size as Café Olimpico but with a very different atmosphere, which changed as the evening wore on, the focus subtly shifting from coffee to jazz.
Montréal is experiencing a coffee boom: several of the Coffee Spots I visited during my brief stay had opened within the last 18 months. Not Le Lapin Pressé, though: by the time you read this, it will have celebrated its fourth birthday, making it one of the more established players on the scene. However, like many of my Montréal Coffee Spots, it came highly recommended. Starting with Jovan the Poet, who button-holed me in Café Myriade to tell me that I must go there, Le Lapin Pressé kept turning up in people’s lists of places I had to go. So, naturally, I went.
As well as its reputation for excellent coffee, Le Lapin Pressé is also known for its grilled-cheese sandwiches. Having tried both, I can confirm that the reputation is well earned: indeed, that’s pretty much all Le Lapin Pressé does. Well, that and tea/soft drinks for those who don’t like coffee, and salad/soup to go with the sandwiches. But really, in the grand scheme of things, it’s very firmly focused on coffee and toasted sandwiches and I admire somewhere that knows what it’s doing and pursues excellence in it to the exclusion of everything else.
Make no mistake, even though this is Montréal and its staff switch effortlessly between French and English, Café Olimpico is Italian to its roots. Compared to some Italian places I visited on my North American trip, it’s a relative newcomer, having “only” been around since 1970, when it was founded by the late Rocco Furfaro (it’s now owned by Rocco’s daughters, Rossana and Victoria).
It’s best described as a neighbourhood espresso bar. Located on the corner of Rue St-Viateur and Rue Waverley, right in the heart of residential Mile End, Café Olimpico feels like your local, except that it serves coffee, not alcohol, from seven in the morning until midnight, seven days a week. I’m not a fan of alcohol, so pubs and bars have never held much appeal. However, Café Olimpico is exactly how I’d imagine my local would be if pubs served (excellent) coffee instead of beer…
Warm, welcoming, friendly: the ideal place to pop in for a quick espresso or to meet up with friends for an hour or two over a latte; Café Olimpico is a wonderful place. If I lived in the neighbourhood, I really would be in here all the time!
Café Myriade can claim to have planted the seeds of the wave of new coffee spots emerging in Montréal in the last 18 months. It opened back in 2008 and many of the recent crop, including Pikolo Espresso and Le Couteau/The Knife, can trace their lineage and/or inspiration back to Myriade and its owner, Anthony. It can also stake a claim to having introduced the awesome-looking Triplette espresso machine to Montréal.
However, despite this impressive heritage, I very nearly walked out of Myriade about 10 seconds after walking in. It was heaving, all the tables were taken, there was a queue at the counter and the loud music was really very loud. To cap it all, I was in a foul mood. However, I forced myself to stay and was very glad that I did.
Once I’d settled down and got a table, I found that I loved the place. The atmosphere was great, as was the music, although it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. The coffee was excellent and the staff knowledgeable and helpful. Even the other customers were friendly! What’s more, it’s right in the heart of downtown Montréal where independent coffee spots seem thin on the ground.
It’s fair to say that I was blown away by the coffee scene in Montréal. I came to it armed with precisely zero foreknowledge and left deeply impressed with the range and quality of the coffee spots dotted around the city. Café Plume is another of the new crop of places which have bloomed in the last 18 months or so. It was recommended to me by Marie- Ève of the Pikolo Espresso Bar and her recommendation proved to be spot on.
Café Plume is best described as a neighbour café. Located on the eastern edge of the plateau area of Montréal, opposite Parc Jeanne-Mance, it’s a laid-back, relaxed and friendly place with coffee that’s every bit as good as its setting. Throw in a generous provision of power outlets and free wifi and you have the sort of place that makes you want to move in next door (or, in the case of Café Plume, move into one of the flats above the shop). Or maybe just move into Plume itself!
You know somewhere is going to be good when everybody you meet tells you to go there. So it was with Le Couteau (The Knife), one of the new wave of coffee shops that have sprung up in Montréal in the last couple of years. In fact, as this post is published, Le Couteau is precisely one year and six days old…
Located just around the corner from the Mont-Royal metro station, Le Couteau is a wonderful place. It’s spacious, full of light and the coffee is superb. The cakes are pretty awesome too. Like many of the places I visited in Montréal, the focus is firmly on the coffee, with little else to distract you, although there is tea and hot chocolate for those of that persuasion.
At first glance, the wooden benches don’t look that inviting, but they are actually very comfortable, while the much sought-after window seats look ideal (I never got to try one since they were all taken). At the risk of sounding like a broken record, if I lived in Montréal, I’d be in here all the time (except I’d be in all other great places I visited as well; something of a dilemma!).
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!