Paquebot Mont-Royal

My flat white, in a glass, at Paquebot Mont-Royal, made with the Waykan Guatemalan single-origin espresso.When I first visited Montréal in March 2013, I found a vibrant, growing speciality coffee scene. One of my favourites was Café Plume, in Mont Royal, a district north/east of downtown Montréal. A long 5½ years passed before I could visit Montréal again, but as luck would have it, my current trip sees me staying in an apartment, chosen for its proximity to the office, which is also just 10 minutes’ walk from the site of Café Plume.

I say “site of” because when I came to arrange this trip, I discovered that Café Plume was no more! In its place was Paquebot Mont-Royal, part of a chain of three coffee shops, Mont-Royal becoming the second when Paquebot bought Café Plume almost exactly a year ago in October 2017. As well as the three coffee shops, Paquebot is also a roaster, having teamed up with local roasters, Zab. Although the separate name/branding has been retained, Paquebot and Zab are now one and the same.

Naturally I had to see what had become of Café Plume, so it was with some trepidation that I set off on the first morning after my arrival in search of Paquebot Mont-Royal and some coffee.

You can see what I found after the gallery.

  • On Avenue Mont-Royal, a familiar building comes into sight. Mind you, when I was last...
  • ... here, it was home to Cafe Plume. Now, while it looks almost identical, it's home to...
  • ... the second branch of local chain, Paquebot. Let's go in, shall we?
  • The view from just inside the door. The interior is very much how I remember it.
  • The main difference that struck me was the lack of artwork on the exposed brick wall.
  • There are still two rows of tables, one along a padded set of seats down the wall...
  • ... and the other down the centre, with the counter on the left.
  • And, of course, there's the window-bar which runs along the bay window at the front.
  • This is also just as I remember it. One difference, however, is that Paquebot is not as...
  • ... tolerant of laptops, which can only be used along the window-bar, not on the tables.
  • Other changes include the roaster, which was Verve and is now Zab.
  • The coffee is available to buy from a small set of retail shelves at the back...
  • ... where you'll find a row of retail bags.
  • There are some nice touches around the place, includiing a fair bit of greenery.
  • This is the best example of the greenery: a large shrub growing in the corner.
  • Paquebot has retained Cafe Plume's lights, adding this interesting neon logo on the wall.
  • Infinite regression: I remember taking a very similar photo over five years ago!
  • Obligatory light bulb shot.
  • So, to business. The counter is dead ahead as you enter, running down the left-hand side.
  • At the front is a three-headed beer tap, with various cold brew options.
  • Everything else is along the side of the counter, starting with the pastries.
  • Next is the till, then the grinders, two Mythos 1s, an upgrade on what was there before.
  • However, the lovely red La Marzocco GB5 espresso machine  is still there...
  • ... as is the menu on the wall behind the counter.
  • The choice of coffee, two single-origins on espresso and another on batch-brew...
  • ... are to the right of the menu, followed by more bags of coffee.
  • There are some notes about coffee on these blackboards at the far end of the counter...
  • ... while in the corner is the batch-brewer and the cafe's collection of vinyl.
  • I was there early on Saturday morning and so had a flat white, in a glass, to start my day.
  • Lovely latte art and presentation.
  • I didn't fancy a cheese toasty for breakfast, so had a pan au chocolate intsead.
  • After I got chatting to the staff, Pamela poured me samples of the all the cold drinks...
  • ... which, if you were wondering, were the house lemonade, nitro cold brew & Kombucha.
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As you may have guessed from the gallery (particularly if you’ve viewed my original Café Plume gallery) I was relieved to find that very little had changed, Paquebot Mont-Royal retaining almost all of Café Plume’s look, feel and atmosphere. Other than the change of roaster (Café Plume used Verve) and an upgrade to the grinders, probably the biggest difference is the laptop policy, Paquebot taking out the power sockets and restricting laptop use to the window-bar. Indeed, the look and feel is sufficiently similar that the following description is pretty much taken from my original write-up of Café Plume.

Located in a residential area, Paquebot is set back from the street, up a small flight of steps in a residential block. There’s a big, bay window on the right, the door on the left. Inside the counter’s on the left, seating on the right, a clever arrangement meaning that customers coming in and out don’t disturb those sitting at the tables.

Seven two-person square tables line a padded bench running down the right-hand wall opposite the counter, while a row of four square two-/three-tables runs down the middle. Finally, a window-bar with chairs starts to the right of the door, matching the contours of the bay window.

There’s plenty of natural light, complimented by multiple unshaded lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling. This blends with the natural materials of the interior: wooden tables, counter and floor, with an exposed brick wall on the right. There’s also plenty of greenery in the shape of house-plants dotted around the place. There’s also music, played from the coffee shop’s vinyl collection which is housed at the far end of the counter. The baristas get to choose which record goes on the turntable, the LP sleeve displayed on a noticeboard so you can see what’s playing. While I was there, it was classic early 70s David Bowie, which I approve of whole-heartedly!

All the coffee is from Zab, which has recently merged with Paquebot. There are two single-origins on espresso and one on batch-brew. The first of these, the Jesmiar Sandi from Brazil, is always on espresso, while the others change weekly. I had a lovely flat white, a proper, 6oz one, served in a glass and made with the Waykan single-origin from Guatemala. This went very well with the milk and was the perfect start to my day.

Like Café Plume before it, Paquebot serves toasted sandwiches and wraps, but I didn’t fancy one of these for breakfast, so had a very tasty pain au chocolate with orange zest instead. Afterwards, I got chatting with my two baristas, Pamela and Frédérique, who were very warm, welcoming, helpful and friendly.

Pamela poured me samples of three cold drinks which Paquebot has on tap: nitro cold brew, kombucha and the house special, café lemonade. The cold brew was, I’m sure, very fine, but not to my taste, while the kombucha was pretty tasty. However, the café lemonade, made with Ethiopian cold brew and homemade lemonade, was awesome and incredibly refreshing, something I could drink all day.

As an added bonus, David, the owner of Café Plume, who I had met 5½ years ago, came into Paquebot while I was there. He explained that he had sold Café Plume last year so that he could pursue some more creative projects, but that he wanted to sell to someone who would maintain Café Plume’s spirit. When he was approached by Paquebot, he knew that they were the right people to take Café Plume over and, you know what? He was right! Paquebot Mont-Royal is every bit as lovely.

Monday 07:00 – 18:00 Roaster Zab (espresso + batch-brew)
Tuesday 07:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Window-bar
Wednesday 07:00 – 18:00 Food Cakes, Wraps, Toasties
Thursday 07:00 – 18:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 18:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 09:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 18:00 Power No
Chain Local Visits 6th October 2018

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