Story by Sarah Deveau
MONTREAL, QUEBEC — “Moules frites?” I asked, certain my server’s thick French accent had led to the miscommunication.
My high school French had me believing she had suggested I try an odd combination of mussels and fries. My dining companion, a born and bred Montréaler, laughed and spoke in French to the server, who whisked away my menu and hustled off. Fifteen minutes later I was devouring the most flavourful mussels I’d ever tasted and soaking the nuanced sauce up with golden brown, thick cut French fries.
The best part? The sweet sounds of Rufus Wainwright wafting through the warm summer evening weren’t courtesy of a fantastic sound system, but live from the crooner himself.
I was dining at Le Balmoral, one of two restaurant terraces perched on the edge of the Montréal International Jazz Festival’s Place des Festivals, an outdoor venue in the middle of downtown. Great food and even better wine, paired with world-renowned live music — is there any better way to experience a music festival? Here’s a roundup of the best places to dine at the Montréal International Jazz Festival.
Outdoor Terraces at Place des Festivals
Vincent Lefebvre handles the festival’s international and travel media relations, and as part of his role often finds himself entertaining journalists who have travelled from all over the world to cover the event. “I always look forward to the Bistro Balmoral’s terrace with its awesome view on the festival’s outdoor site,” says Lefebvre. “They have great food — my favourite is their Beef Tartare and Smoked Salmon Salad.”
Where Those in the Know Go
With its bright interior design and sleek look, Brasserie T! is perfectly situated in the middle of Montreal’s vibrant cultural district. The petit menu was created by executive chef Charles-Antoine Crêt, who has apprenticed under owner-chef and mentor Normand Laprise, who recently won a prestigious James Beard Foundation award for his cookbook Toqué!: Creators of a New Quebec Gastronomy. Be sure to sample one chef Crêt’s delicious charcuteries (ranging from $9 for Duck Rillettes to $42 for the Charcuteries Platter).
The brains behind Ferreira Café, which opened in 1996 on Peel Street offering unique Portuguese dishes that drew in diners from all cultures, recently opened F Bar, an innovative culinary experience based on fresh market produce. Both are worthy contenders for your dining dollars during the festival.
Bistro le Contemporain is on the exhibition level of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Canada’s premier museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art. Give your ears a rest and treat your eyes and your taste buds with a stroll through the museum and a delightful lunch or dinner at this restaurant.
Drink Up at the Montreal Jazz Fest
With many performers staying at the Hyatt Regency, SIX Resto Lounge in the hotel is a good bet for a post-show drink if you’re interested in finding exhausted performers and their entourages at the end of a day.
If you can find it, Furco is a hidden gem where hipsters hang, and naturally the House of Jazz and Upstairs Jazz Bar are both popular watering holes for jazz artists year round, but especially so during the festival. “(My favourite is) Le Bleury / Bar Vinyl,” says Montréal-based singer songwriter Elizabeth Shepherd. “I’ve seen it through its many incarnations over the years, and I’m still a sucker for small, intimate places that serve unique drinks, esoteric local beers and spin old-school funk, soul and hip-hop into the wee hours.”
More About the Montreal Jazz Festival
Festival Website: www.montrealjazzfest.com
Dates: June 28 to July 7, 2013
Phone: Montréal: 1-514 871-1881 / North America: 1-855 299-3378
Information: To obtain complete information on the Festival, email email@example.com.
2013 Performers: George Benson, Lyle Lovett & Chris Isaak, Nikki Yanofsky, Charles Lloyd, Holly Cole, Woodkid and more. The headliner for the free grand opening event is Canadian artist Feist.
Purchasing tickets: Prices and concert locations vary. To buy tickets online, browse the Web schedule and choose the concerts you want to see.