Sugaring Off n' More @ Le Richmond

It's the thick of sugar shack season and Le Richmond just wrapped on its third maple-themed menu geared to downtowners not inclined to ...

It's the thick of sugar shack season and Le Richmond just wrapped on its third maple-themed menu geared to downtowners not inclined to travel forty-five minutes for their syrup fix. Here, a review of what we had plus our thoughts on just where Griffintown's scene-stealing party pad is at.

Arriving at the height of service and seated for the first time in a cosy nook on the restaurant's upper riser, I had the chance to take in all the buzz in motion: co-ed tables of uber-cool twenty-and-thirty-something millennials, smartphones in hand, mixed with smaller groups of girls catching-up over mimosas, and even the odd stroller or two. 

Granted Sunday brunch attracts probably the most eclectic group of patrons, I've dined here at different times of day and night and, from the ladies and business men in suits who lunch here during the week to the sexy high-heeled dating scene when the place dims down after hours, there's a potent 'see and be seen' aura, the entire space like a glam-industrial catwalk where regulars who know each other mingle between tables or congregate around the centrepiece bar. 

With a trendy following and room to match, private events and parties are naturally a key component of their success, a noted example being high-end villa rental company Luxury Retreats that takes over for one night during Montreal's Grand Prix weekend to host their own VIP party. This year will mark their third event at Richmond and, although closed to public, it's become F1 Saturday's most coveted invitation.

So, where does the kitchen stack up with the rest of the offering? For the maple brunch, items were available à la carte, but the best deal was for 45$ per person which got you everything on the menu, served family-style in 2 courses, cold and hot, along with 'après-brunch' on the adjoining terrasse for some warming, slightly spicy mulled wine, shooters of Sortilège (a maple whisky), cotton candy, and the requisite maple taffy on snow. Leave it to the hospitality-minded team led by Ibti Saadi to make great use of their outdoor space in the off-months.

Known for concocting several new drinks to highlight the 'thème du jour', the mixologists didn't disappoint with a Bourbon Cabin of Bulleit bourbon, Sortilège whiskey, maple syrup, egg whites, fresh thyme and lemon juice, and a Maple Margarita of Té Bheag scotch, tequila, maple syrup, orange bitters, cinnamon and lime juice.

As we were two dining, the first course came thoughtfully presented on an ardoise and featured seasonal fruit with maple syrup and bufala yogurt, a porchetta salad with fennel and orange segments dressed with a balsamic maple vinaigrette, maple-glazed smoked trout with sauce vierge (capers, parsley, dill, chives), more yogurt and brioche bread, and finally, a pain perdu with maple ice cream, nuts and berries. 

Aside from the attractive presentation, each had a fresh, textured play of flavours, and a light-handed use of maple syrup throughout that, as a matter of preference, had me asking for more on the side. 

Next up was the hot course, and where things fell somewhat short of expectation. On a wooden cutting board came seared foie gras, blood pudding terrine, French toast, a half maple-glazed Cornish hen, porchetta, ham, and thick-cut bacon

The small piece of foie gras was nicely seared and the French toast, textbook but nothing more. Sadly, the meat sides were thick, chewy, overly fatty, and piled on top of each other in a unappetizing way that stood in stark contrast with the appealing ardoise from before. Topping things off was an arugula salad with vincotto that, though listed on the menu, somehow never made its way to the table..?! 

Happily, there was a saving grace with the Cornish hen and its perfectly crispy and lacquered skin giving way to a moist interior that my guest and I polished off to the bones. Served alongside were separate plates of beans, scrambled eggs, browned fingerling potatoes, and slices of toasted country bread, all of it decent enough but plain and lacking in originality and interest for a special menu at an upscale restaurant. 

Coupled with a  few longer-than-expected waits and forgotten requests and, overall, the experience was uneven, honestly falling short in the value department. Sadly, it's a concern that I've heard echoed on other occasions: no glaring weaknesses, but not cheap and not as consistent as it should be to justify the place or the prices. 

No doubt Le Richmond more than knows what it's doing to keep the city's trendy, deep-pocketed crowd of grown-up partyers coming back to network and indulge in Executive Chef Paul Soucie's homegrown Northern Italian cuisine.  To complete the picture, a few tweaks to the kitchen output are all it should take to sharpen the results time and time again.


Le Richmond
377 Richmond St.
(514) 508-8749


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