"Honey! Wake up! We're going to the Underground City!". I'm trying to rouse a sleeping Mr NQN to no avail. Luckily non Metrosexual men like Mr NQN are of that breed that don't require a lot of getting ready time and we're off in twenty minutes. I've always been fascinated by the idea of an Underground City. Ever since my Canadian friend Gina told me about how some cities in Canada have their own cities under the ground that can shelter you from snow and the elements, I have always wanted to visit one.
We decide to brave the Metro system. Based on Paris's Metro system it is very straight forward to use and we buy a 3 day pass for $14 each (although the machine doesn't take foreign credit cards). We change metros and arrive at McGill where we follow the direction that most people are walking. It's the largest underground complex in the world and is actually a mix of underground and above the ground complexes and tunnels. You just keep walking and it seems that the shops never end as it spreads across an enormous 12kms.
The shops are varied although I am yet to spot any designer boutiques (although we didn't really go with a concerted plan of attack). They're mostly mid range although that doesn't stop me from going a bit crazy at Zara and La Senza as well as buying these cute little Sex and the City chocolates (I loved the Carrie one with the NYC skyline!). We're struck at how similar it appears to Tokyo's subway system shopping centres. We see some glass roofs and the sky peering in in some sections. Apart from a multitude of shopping centres, there are banks, hotels, condos, museums and offices and the whole thing stretches for a few metro stations. After a few hours spent wandering around and arms weighed down with shopping, we emerge at Peel where we take the Metro to Victoria Square and head to our lunch at Restaurant Beaver Hall.
Now I know what you're going to ask and there are no beaver here despite the name. Either in alive form (although there are groundhogs and squirrels we were excited to see!) or on the plate. Now Mr NQN and I don't argue much at all-it's usually about him tidying up, but we had a fight over the dessert here! But more on that later ;) We are led to our table in this gorgeous room which is full of rich woods, leather booths and is busy with the swift efficiency and even sounds of business murmuring of a business lunch crowd.
There is already bread on the table and we're surprised to see sourdough bread. We're so used to seeing it on restaurant tables in Sydney but this is the first time it has appeared here. It comes with a variety of accompaniments including an olive and caper tapenade, olive oil and butter as well as pickles to accompany your meal and tongs to remove them.
A waiter presents us with an amuse bouche from the kitchen and it's a creamy salmon mousse with mini baguette croutons. The mousse is wonderfully airy and distinct in salmon, cream and chives. In fact when we ran out of croutons I couldn't let it go to waste and took to it with a fork.
_Foie gras au torchon $14.50
We asked for some help with choosing our meals and we were recommended several dishes. Sadly they were out of lobster salad (arrgh I've been dying to try Canadian lobster!) but we settle on some lovely sounding dishes. We start with the foie gras au torchon which comes as three quennelles of foie gras pate. It's said to come with a pineapple chutney but it's a fig paste instead. It also comes with a lovely dark sourdough bread. Mr NQN isn't a huge fan of foie gras because it is too rich for him but we both adore this. The foie gras pate is light and when spread on the spongey, airy sourdough the pate melts into a soft, buttery topping with that distinct foie gras flavour. The fig paste is absolutely perfect for this.
Parmesan crusted calamari and tartare sauce $10.50
I have to admit I'm a sucker for cute little gadgets and the little lemon slice squeezer is very cute. You press down on the lever and then tip it to pour the juice over the calamari rings which are coated in a lightparmesan and poppyseed studded batter. There are also two little pots of a delicious tomato sauce which tastes house made and a creamy tartare sauce.
Cute lemon squeezer
_Salmon and vegetables, in a crispy crust with lobster bisque $22.50
The salmon fillet is topped with eggplant and zucchini and wrapped in a thin pastry and then baked. Whilst it is cooked through the salmon is not dry. The lobster bisque is rich and heady in lobster andsherry.
The Mixed grill is huge and consists of beef fillet, lamb and pork flank with hand cut chips and watercress with a Bearnaise sauce. The steak is cooked medium rare just as ordered and is tender and well cooked as is the lamb. The pork flank with it's lovely layer of fat and meat and appealing caramelisation on the corners has won our heart though. The hand cut chips are good and the watercress is welcome greenery but could do with a little dressing.
Pech-Céleyran Syrah 2009
It's 2 o clock and the business crowd has cleared all at once and there remains two other tables. The waiter comes by with a tray of desserts, all in square glass cups. This has got to be one of the smartest ways to lure a business crowd into ordering dessert. It's ready made, small and can be eaten in four spoonfuls. This way of serving dessert is for lunch only and desserts for dinner time are served the regular way by ordering from the menu.
Strawberry Panna cotta
OK trouble time! I don't usually like panna cotta in a glass as I like it wobbling in front of me in all of its glorious obscenity. Mr NQN takes this and lets out a disgusted sound. "Ugh this is terrible". I read through it quickly and he quickly spoons it into his mouth. He's lying of course and I take the dessert from him eager to get my share. It's gorgeous, just the absolute right texture but the thing that sends it over the top is the strawberry sauce. It is strawberry season here and the sauce is the right amount of sweetness. "Hey! I want it back" he protests. "Too bad, I've got it, this is my half!" I tell him cupping the glass protectively and spooning it into my mouth eyes wide with excitement.
Cheesecake with mango coulis
For the cheesecake glass there is a thin layer of fine biscuit crumbs at the base and a layer of unbaked cheesecake and some mango coulis and some piped cream on top. The cheesecake is quite good but you know you cannot appreciate it after the panna cotta.
Mr NQN is still smarting over the theft of his strawberry panna cotta (which was technically my half) and when they come for a coffee order he asks if he can get another strawberry panna cotta. The waiter does a double take and then smiles and brings him another with a smile. Yes all is forgiven.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever get possessive over food?
Happy Mr NQN now that he has had a second dessert
NQN and Mr NQN dined as guests of Restaurant Beaver Hall._ They travelled and explored Canada as guests of Tourism Canada and Tourism Montreal._
Restaurant Beaver Hall
1073, cote du Beaver Hall corner Belmont, Montreal, Québec, H2Z 1S5
514-866-1331 Tel. 514.866.1331