Paquebot Vieux-Montréal

The Paquebot logo, taken from the A-board at the third Paquebot location, Vieux-Montreal.Paquebot was a new name to me on my return to Montréal, 5½ years after my original visit in 2013. Starting on Rue Bélanger, the location of the original branch, it came to my attention via Café Plume, an old favourite in Mont Royal, which Paquebot took on when the owner, David, had wanted to sell in 2017. This became the second branch, Paquebot Mont-Royal, my first stop on my return to Montréal last week.

While I was there, my baristas, Pamela and Frédérique, told me all about a third branch, Paquebot Vieux-Montréal, which had opened earlier that year in Montréal’s old town. They were so persuasive that when I unexpectedly found myself in the area later that day, I had to pop in. In the end, I went three times, twice with friends, both of whom independently declared it their favourite coffee shop of those we visited.

The menu is identical to Mont-Royal, with two single-origins on espresso and a third on batch-brew, all regularly changing. There’s also toasted sandwiches and wraps, plus a selections of cakes and pastries. However, it has a very different look and feel, long and thin, the seating on a mezzanine at the back.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

On the northern edge of Vieux Montréal (old Montréal), Paquebot sits on Boulevard Saint Laurent. Although the name’s clearly written on the middle of three large windows, it’s fairly easy to miss unless you’re paying attention, partly because access is via a shared doorway to the right. This lets you into a small lobby area, the door to Paquebot on your left.

The shop is long and thin, with extremely high ceilings. The aforementioned windows stretch Paquebot’s full width, not quite reaching from floor to ceiling. The counter runs the length of the left-hand wall, while the door’s a little way down on the right, handily opening opposite the till. Meanwhile, a long flight of steps, starting just to your right as you enter, leads up to a mezzanine at the back, where you’ll find the majority of the seating. In this respect, the layout instantly reminded me of Plenty Café in Rittenhouse, Philadelphia. It also helped that the owner, Yannik, was coincidentally wearing a shirt with “Plenty” written on it when I first visited on Saturday…

There’s not much in the way of seating downstairs. A short bench sits under the window at the front while, at the back, there’s a short extension to the counter with a couple of stools. Finally, tucked away almost invisibly under the stairs, opposite the stools, is another longer, broader, bench. Right at the back, under the mezzanine itself, is the kitchen, toilet and some storerooms.

The counter’s a pretty simple affair, with beer taps on the left, dispensing café lemonade, nitro cold brew and kombucha, exactly as at Paquebot Mont-Royal. Next comes the cake, till, and a pair of Mythos One grinders, along with a matt black La Marzocco Linea espresso machine. The batch-brew is behind the counter, along with a long line of vinyl records which are played, once again just like Paquebot Mont-Royal, on the turntable by the window. There’s also a small bookshelf.

The stairs, which run along the right-hand wall, enter at the front of the mezzanine, where a narrow, four-person bar with stools runs the width of the mezzanine, overlooking the counter below. Broad, wooden box-benches run around the three walls of the mezzanine, with two raised sections, one in each corner. There’s also a low coffee table in the middle of the floor. The walls are tiled, while the ceiling has rows of beams running left-to-right, interspersed with lightbulbs since there’s very little natural light up here.

All the coffee is from Zab, a roastery started in 2016 by a friend of Paquebot’s owners. Recently the two businesses have merged, although they retain their separate identities. Visiting multiple times, I sampled a range coffees, starting with my first visit on Saturday, when I had the Waykan, a Guatemalan single-origin. I’d enjoyed this in my flat white at Paquebot Mont-Royal that morning, so tried it as an espresso and finally as the batch-brew when I returned on Monday.

I enjoyed the espresso, although I preferred it in milk. However, as a filter, it was excellent, very smooth, but with plenty of body and subtle flavours. When I popped back the following Sunday, I tried the Los Naranjos Colombian as an espresso, a lovely, well-balanced coffee with a touch of acidity. It went well in milk too, my friend having a latte which was rich and creamy, the coffee holding its own with the milk.

I also had a very fine cheese toastie for lunch on Monday. Made with slices of apple and lovely and crunchy toast, it was the perfect light lunch and just what I needed.

December 2018: Paquebot Vieux-Montréal was a runner-up for the 2018 Best Physical Space Award.

Monday 07:00 – 17:00 Roaster Zab (espresso + batch-brew)
Tuesday 07:00 – 17:00 Seating Benches, Bar
Wednesday 07:00 – 17:00 Food Cakes, Wraps, Toasties
Thursday 07:00 – 17:00 Service Counter (coffee), Order at Counter (food)
Friday 07:00 – 17:00 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 09:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 17:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 8th, 10th, 13th October 2018

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