It seems like there’s a new restaurant opening in Montreal every week. More often than not, these new restaurants turn out to be average, not the kind of place you would write home about – or write a blog post about – but the kind of place where you might enjoy an ok meal. However, every once in a while comes along an establishment that enchants you completely. Such was the case with Hotel Herman, a brand new place that’s been open in the heart of the Mile End neighbourhood for about 3 weeks now.
Hotel Herman took over the old La Montée de Lait space on that stretch of Saint Laurent that hasn’t quite found its identity yet. The space has been entirely redone in a chic industrial look using rough materials like cement for the tables, steel for the chairs and unfinished wood for the floor. The overall effect is that of a funky yet welcoming space, which is partly due to the imposing U-shaped bar that takes up most of the space and beckons you to sit for a while. The wall separating the kitchen in the back from the dining room has been torn down, which allows the diners a great view of the kitchen action. The tin ceiling, the left side grey brick wall and the industrial ceiling lamps all add charm and texture to the space.
The three young owners of this fresh new restaurant, Marc-Alexandre Mercier (chef), Dominic Goyet (front of the house) and Ariane Lacombe (front of the house) welcomed us with open arms when we walked in last Sunday afternoon. They all met while working around town in several establishments, notably La Salle à manger and Reservoir. Chef Mercier has also traveled around Europe, including Italy where he’s done a couple of apprenticeships in artisanal charcuterie making.
We sat at the bar and contemplated the menu. You know it’s going to be good when you feel like ordering everything! The wine list is interesting and includes private imports and natural wines. What was nice about this particular dining experience, was that I had no idea what to expect. I hadn’t seen photos of the plates anywhere and I liked this added element of surprise.
And what a (nice) surprise it was! We started out with a few fresh oysters from PEI, which is always a great way to start any meal. The next two plates set the tone for the exceptional dining experience. The gorgeous chilled corn soup was like taking a bite out of a summer. The sunny, silky smooth soup was pleasantly offset by the slight acidity of the still-warm roasted cherry tomatoes delicately deposited on top. Beautiful! The second plate was just as gorgeous. The marinated trout’s texture was absolute perfection but it did lack a bit of a kick in the flavour department. Although I am not a huge fan of too much smoke in my food, the smoked crème fraîche accompanying the trout could have used a bit more “smoke”.
The third and fourth dishes were my absolute favourites! If you go to Hotel Herman soon, I urge you to order the warm king mushroom salad and the duck egg. The mushroom salad was an absolutely delightful play on textures. Silky sweet onion puree, lightly sauteed mushrooms, fresh parsley, thin slices of raw mushroom, chewy snails and crunchy garlic chips all played oh so nicely with one another in this well executed art of a dish. My favourite! The fourth dish, a play on eggs and hash brown is made with a sunny side up duck egg and a hash made of lobster mushrooms, fava beans and confit shallots. A hearty, flavourful dish – it is the perfect remedy for those difficult “day afters” or just the perfect comfort meal on a rainy day.
The meaty part of the meal came in the form of a perfectly seared duck magret served with raw cauliflower florets, black trumpet mushrooms, duck skin “crumble” and a Hollandaise made with duck egg and duck fat, to carry the duck theme throughout. The raw cauliflower florets were a welcomed fresh and light contrast to the very rich elements in this dish.
Dessert choices that day were limited to only two, a goat’s milk panna cotta with local strawberries and a chocolate terrine with sponge toffee and sea buckthorns. Although I enjoyed both very much, they weren’t at par with the exceptional savoury part of the meal. However, desserts usually take a bit longer to kick in in a newly opened restaurant so we’ll just have to wait and see…
A hotel is a home away from home, it’s a place where service is important and feeling welcomed is primordial. That is exactly what Hotel Herman is about. The service, although casual, is still impeccable. Take a seat at the bar, order a glass of wine, share some of the incredible food with your dining companion and by the end of the meal, you will have made new friends and found a favourite new spot to dine, I’m sure.
5171 Saint-Laurent Boulevard
514 278 7000
Monday: 5:00 pm – 12:00 am
Wednesday to Saturday: 5:00 pm – 12:00 am
Sunday: 3:00 pm – 12:00 am