|Three gourmet food courts are opening in downtown Montreal this fall: Time Out Montreal, Le Central, and Le Cathcart Restaurants et Biergarten. Here is an overview with our first impressions of this much-anticipated, high-end food fair phenomenon.
TIME OUT MONTRÉAL
The new gourmet food fair in the Eaton Centre is located in the northeast corner of the shopping mall, one storey above Sainte-Catherine Street.
Time Out currently presents a discreet facade along a temporary wall that will soon be replaced by store windows: Uniqlo will open next door, next year. On the right side of the entrance, a boutique by Signé Local sells locally-made accessories, jewellery, baby gear, soaps and condiments for a tourist clientele. On the left side, a large kitchen is ready to host classes and cooking workshops by Ateliers & Saveurs.
A corridor leads to the heart of the market, where food kiosks line the walls of a space centred around an oval-shaped atrium. Some natural light filters in from a large skylight several storeys above, and on the east wall, a row of arched windows frame picturesque views of Christ Church Cathedral across the street. The interior design is refined and unified: each restaurant has an open kitchen space lined with grey tiles. In the dining area, rows of sleek, blonde wood tables are illuminated by halogen spotlights, and black walls and ceilings create a nighttime effect at all hours.
The ordering process is unified throughout the market. At any kiosk, once food is ordered and paid for (by card only), the kitchen issues a numbered pager which lights up when the food is ready. Meanwhile, customers are free to wander the site, place other orders, and find seats at a communal table.
Although the site just opened, everything appears to be running smoothly and at full speed. At 2 p.m. this Tuesday, the place was bustling, most seats were full, and several kiosks had lineups.
About fifteen kiosks serve a wide range of cuisine: from salads to Portuguese sandwiches to gourmet burgers, pizzas, tacos, bowls and bistro dishes. Highly regarded restaurateurs who are participating in Time Out include Normand Laprise with Burger T!; Charles-Antoine Crête and Cheryl Johnson from Montreal Plaza and Foodchain (who present three kiosks in the market); the owners of Olive & Gourmando and Foxy with a counter for each restaurant; Claude Pelletier and Mélanie Blouin, represent their Club Chasse et Pêche. Laurent Godbout runs the demo kitchen at the market with his project Ô Quebec. Popular kiosks with long queues include Moleskine for pizzas, Romados for Portuguese chicken sandwiches, and Hof Sucré for coffee and desserts.
A separate, adults-only bar area features communal dining tables and three specialty bars serving beer, wine, and spirits.
In an odd quirk of the market layout, a passageway at the northeast corner leads directly to an outlet of a French sports equipment store, Decathalon, where you can try sports gear before buying. Perhaps the perfect place to visit after a gourmet lunch?
Time Out Montréal is open from morning to evening, seven days a week. A free first edition of the magazine of the same name is distributed in the mall and elsewhere.
Renovations of the Eaton Centre, where the market is located, seem to be creating a brighter and airier space with more natural light. It may be too early to reach a final conclusion, however, since many of the spaces that are currently open may soon be filled with new businesses and kiosks.
Info: 705 Sainte-Catherine Street West | timeoutmarket.com/montreal
Le Central was the first of the three new markets to open, on October 17. It is located at the eastern edge of the Quartier des spectacles, on the ground floor of a brand new building at the corner of Saint-Laurent Boulevard and Sainte-Catherine Street. As of next summer, it will be kitty-corner to a new park and skating rink: Esplanade Tranquille.
With large, street-level windows, and doors opening directly onto the sidewalk, Le Central is designed to connect with passersby at this lively downtown intersection. Le Central has a heterogeneous design concept which showcases each restaurateurs’ individuality. Diverse styles rub shoulders for a funky, dynamic mix, in the image of Montreal.
The gourmet market hosts Pintxo, a restaurant formerly located on Mont-Royal Avenue, and Morso Pizzéria & Alimentari, which can claim to have one of the world’s best pizzaiolis. In all, Le Central hosts 25 restaurant kiosks, from Buddha-Station and its eco-bowls to La République Démocratique du Jambon (RDJ), an artisanal shop from Sherbrooke, through Gaspésie Camion Gourmand with local fish and seafood. Like Time Out, Le Central presents a wide variety of high quality, local, expertly prepared meals and snacks.
Starting in 2021, the building in which Le Central is installed will also have a cultural vocation. The Centre d’Histoire de Montréal (CHM) will move in and change its name to Mémoire des Montréalais (MEM). Inspired by Brazil’s Museu da Pessoa (Museum of the Person), MEM will present exhibitions about daily life in Montreal.
Info: 30 Sainte-Catherine Street West | lecentral.ca
LE CATHCART RESTAURANTS ET BIERGARTEN
Over at Place Ville Marie, Le Cathcart, a 1000-seat food court and beer garden, installed in an indoor garden, will offer 15 food and beverage kiosks, ranging in style from street food and coffee shop snacks, to tavern and bistro cuisine meals. This site will also include restaurants with table service. Construction is nearly complete, and the opening date will be announced next week.