DELVING DEEPER THAN BUSINESS IN THIS DOWNTOWN DISTRICT
By Kristy Alpert
Business districts aren’t typically hubs of excitement, but don’t tell that to Montréal. It’s here that the city’s commercial core has made a community where culture and style can thrive. The Quartier International business district has become known for its openness to diversity and willingness to integrate different cultures, and the neighborhood’s shops, hotels, museums, and restaurants reflect this ethos. Multi-story murals cling to the sides of modern skyscrapers while the European-style cobblestone streets lead the way to grand squares of the Quartier des Spectacles (entertainment district) that set the stage for annual festivities like the Just for Laughs Festival and the Montréal International Jazz Festival. The Quartier International is quite small compared to the other Montréal neighborhoods, mainly encompassing the area around the Convention Centre and the Square Victoria Metro station, but it’s the neighborhood’s big personality and multi-cultural vibe that make Montréal’s Quartier International such an exciting place to explore.
There are no tables inside this Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant. Instead, a long snake-like bar takes diners on a culinary journey through chef Marcel Larrea’s inventive Nikkei menu, featuring dumplings spiced with Peruvian amarillo peppers and duck anticucho dusted with cumin and roasted paprika. But the best-kept secret isn’t on the menu at Tiradito; it’s below ground. Follow the pool-tiled staircase down one flight to enter into Club Pelicano, a new bar designed after the forgotten bathhouses of Montréal and Piscine Molitor in Paris. The design of the space is vibrant and playful, with an eclectic soundtrack that ranges from Italian disco to tracks spun by a live DJ, and the bar menu focuses on natural wines and local beers.
Galerie MX was founded in 2005 to give exposure to emerging contemporary artists. Numerous public art displays surround the building, while inside the gallery is full of known and lesser-known names in contemporary art, including Russian/American artist Alexander Kaletski, French sculpture artist Henri Iglesis, and Romanian artist Raluca Pilat. Most of the artwork on display is available for purchase, but even patrons not in the market for a new piece are welcome to sip a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and simply stroll the two floors of contemporary artwork on display.
AC Marriott Centre-Ville
In a city that looks, feels and sounds like Europe (Montréal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world, second only to Paris), it comes as no surprise that Montréal’s European charm extends into hospitality. The AC Marriott Montréal Centre-Ville is housed within the first 12 floors of a 35-story high-rise building and offers 169 oversized guest rooms. The entire hotel was designed around European-inspired aesthetics, with little international touches featured throughout, like the modern artwork from Belgian artist MILO in the main spaces and an authentic Spanish prosciutto slicer on the breakfast buffet. Rooms are minimal by design, with an “only what you need” strategy to the sophisticated décor and amenities.
Largely credited with creating the concept of ingredient-driven cuisine that would later sweep the nation, co-owners Normand Laprise and Christine Lamarche have based their careers around developing relationships with local suppliers. Toque! opened in the Quartier International in 2004, where they offer fun and fresh versions of classical French dishes with local ingredients like princess scallops with grapefruit mousse and local squab with habanero pepper purée. The restaurant has earned numerous national and international awards—the Ordre national du Québec even appointed Chef Laprise a Knight for his contribution to Québec’s gastronomy—but most Canadians know it as the number two restaurant in the country according to Canada’s 100 Best.
Located inside the former iconic headquarters of the Royal Bank of Canada, Crew Collective is one part co-working space and one part public café. This third-wave coffee shop gets their beans from local roasters and sources the beans for their espresso drinks from a rotating list of independent, fair trade cooperative roasters from around the world. The artfully renovated space gives a nod to the building’s former tenant, where visitors can order signature espresso drinks from an authentic bank teller’s window and savor them beneath the 50-foot-high vaulted ceilings. Non-coffee drinkers will love their house-made rooibos sour cherry iced tea or their refreshingly tart yuzu lemonade.