Monday’s Coffee Spot is a flashback to exactly one year ago today, when, on my first weekend in Montréal, first stop on my around-the-world trip, I had breakfast at Café Névé on Rue Rachel, just around the corner from my apartment. I would go on to visit a further six times, four for morning coffee on my way to the office, and twice more for breakfast.
This is the original Café Névé which, having opened in 2009, was around during my first visit to Montréal in 2012. Back then there were just two Café Névés (the second on Avenue Mont-Royal), but since then it’s added a third, with the opening of a shared space in the Mile End district of Montréal inside the Frank and Oak menswear boutique.
It’s hugely popular and busy, a real neighbourhood favourite, open from breakfast in the morning until nine at night, seven days a week. There’s a standard espresso-based menu, with a bespoke house-blend, roasted by Anchored Coffee, with a batch brew option from Anchored or Zab Cafe, a local roaster with connections to Café Névé. There’s also a choice of eight teas, four smoothies, and, if you’re hungry, cakes, sandwiches and an excellent brunch menu.
It seems unfair to call My Little Cup an international chain, but technically (by my definition, anyway) it is, with a branch in Brussels and this, the original, in Montréal. Although I’d been aware of My Little Cup from social media, it was actually a chance discovery on Saturday, my first day in Montréal. I’d gone down into Montréal’s underground city to see my friend off on the metro and there it was, a bright yellow La Marzocco Linea on a counter behind a security grill. However, what really caught my eye were the bags of Colonna Coffee lined up next to the espresso machine. This, I decided, was somewhere worth returning to!
My Little Cup is a coffee counter, serving Calgary’s Phil & Sebastian on espresso and batch-brew, the options changing daily (batch-brew) and every two or three days (espresso). There’s also tea and a decent selection of cakes if you’re hungry, plus a small retail section, including coffee from Phil & Sebastian and occasional sample bags from roasters from all around the world.
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.
Is it a coffee shop? Show room? Retailer? Actually, Dispatch Coffee is all of these and more. It’s also a coffee truck, or it was. When I first came to Montréal in 2013, several people mentioned a coffee truck (Dispatch), but I didn’t have time to visit. Fast forward 5½ years and Dispatch has a roastery/café in Mile End, a coffee counter at McGill University and a beautiful coffee shop/showroom on Boulevard Saint Laurent, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot.
Dispatch roasts its own coffee, all single-origins, at its Mile End location, emphasising fresh, seasonal coffee, all available to buy in-store. When I visited, there were six different origins, one of which was a decaf. One of these, plus the decaf, is available as espresso, another as batch-brew and any of them can be had through the Aeropress. The espresso and batch-brew options change regularly, the staff putting on two or three bags at a time, then moving on when they’re done. This means that they can easily have two different espressos on each day, although the batch-brew changes more slowly, maybe just once a day. There’s also a small selection of cakes, pastries and pre-prepared salads if you’re hungry.
Café Myriade, as well as being one of Montréal’s first speciality coffee shops, was one of my first coffee experiences in Montréal. When I visited in 2013, there was just one Myriade, which opened in 2008. Now there are three: the original, this one (Dominion Square) and a third in Saint Denis (formerly Le Couteau – The Knife). Dominion Square is by far the smallest of the three, tucked away in the basement of the Club Monaco clothing store.
It’s also fair to say that as a result it’s one of the most elegant speciality coffee shops I’ve been in, with the distinct European café feel: marble-topped tables, tiled floor and gorgeous scrollwork behind the counter. At the same time, there’s the core Myriade offering: espresso and batch-brew from Vancouver’s 49th Parallel, a small selection of pastries and a Kees van der Westen espresso machine (in this case, a gorgeous Spirit).
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.
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!