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.
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.
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.