There are very very few Food Network tv chefs we really enjoy watching (and not because the show is a train wreck and you just…can’t…look…away…). The great presenters include Anna Olson, Michael Smith, Nadia G, Alton Brown, Ina Garten, and of course- Chuck Hughes! If you have not heard of Chuck Hughes before, he is a Canadian chef (from Montreal in fact) who loves seafood and has many of his favourite foods tattooed on his arms. His accomplishments include presenting his tv show called Chuck’s Day Off where he cooks for purveyors and friends on his (you guessed it!) day off, opening the bistro style restaurant Garde Manger and beating Iron Chef Bobby Flay. He has a big friendly ol’ tv presence and brings his enthusiasm to all of his shows. So it was long before we planned to go to Montreal that we added Garde Manger on our list of restaurants we’d love to visit. And what better excuse to go than a birthday!
Below: Garde Manger from the outside. No signage, just another front on a beautiful street in Old Montreal.
When you step into the small foyer, there is a wall of wooden crates and framed articles on the restaurant and Chuck Hughes.
And the first sign that you’re on the right path – a chalkboard to your right with the name of the restaurant.
The restaurant is regularly booked out but we managed to snag ourselves some bar seats. We don’t mind, as the bar is where a lot of the action is and it’s easier to get the attention of wait staff too. There are several menus placed strategically around the restaurant on chalkboards. The menu always changes but we were ecstatic to find that lobster poutine was up!
We were brought some bread with a cream cheese dip made of: cream cheese, caramelised onions and smoked paprika. Super yummy, but we have learnt from our mistakes and didn’t load ourselves up on the bread.
Below top left: Part of the huge chandelier.
Our entree was the creme de la creme of poutines everywhere – Lobster Poutine. Ohhhhhhhhhh….. I’m pausing here to think about how to describe something so sublime that it needs to be tasted to be believed. The fries are the best hand cut fries we’ve had so far, they were crunchy and just the right size and not at all greasy. Then the cheese curds which were milky and soft and squeaky on your teeth. The piece de resistance are the chunks of lobster slathered in lobster gravy which was perfectly salty and sweet at the same time.
My shrimp and lobster risotto. After I ordered it, the waitress did a double take on her way to the kitchen and came back to confirm “It is served al dente, is that ok?”. Yes, please! There were whole shrimps through the risotto and the smell of the lobster broth was really strong. It was SO GOOD.
Kran’s steak frites, with grilled stuffed tomato. SO GOOD.
Although we struggled to finish our mains after an epic start with our lobster poutine appetiser, no meal out can be complete until we try some dessert. This rhubarb pannacotta was divine. It was silky and sweet, while the rhubarb puree and pieces provided a yummy tang. It was a great way to finish without feeling overfed.
It was such a perfect birthday dinner and we loved every minute that we were at Garde Manger. If we are ever in Montreal again getting a table there will be at the top of our list.