Montreal is known for having a wide selection of wine bars and now, we have been blessed with a bubbly bar. Just in time for summer, La Champagnerie, a new hotspot dedicated to the craft, opened its doors with a "pop" last week. Upon seeing the success it has been met with during its opening week, it's clear that the concept is already a hit and that many have noted the address.
Located directly across from Le Marché Bonsecours among the Old Port's cobblestoned streets, this bar à sabrage specializes in the art of uncorking bottles of champagne with a sabre, an old tradition that can be traced back to the time of Napoleon. It is quite a sight watching staff and patrons pop open bottles using a large sword.
La Champagnerie offers a vast selection of bulles – perhaps the largest in the city. They appeal to everyone's taste buds (and budgets) by also serving wines, sparkling wines, cocktails (I recommend the Prosecco-based Bellini), as well as hard liquors. Hence, you can easily enjoy anything from a glass of Cava to a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. To add to the endless possibilities, mixed shots of varied concoctions served in test tubes are placed at the bar to spice up your drink or to add colour. The food menu is made up of small dishes perfect for sharing amongst friends over a bottle. The salmon tartare is light and savoury, while the foie gras torchon is served alongside a sweet champagne reduction. An assortment of sautéed green veggies accompanied by a quail egg and shallots surprises as it has plenty of flavour. Other menu items include caviar, oysters, and ceviche. For a little something to munch on, the candied almonds are a real treat and will surely satisfy your sweet tooth.
The establishment feels like an unassuming nook. You may recognize the place as it formerly housed Baxo. The low-key space is a mix of antique and chic, contemporary design and the fact that it is surrounded by exposed brick walls adds to the sense of warmth. A DJ provides plenty of entertainment through a roster of throwback tracks in addition to up-to-date beats. Large bottles of bubbly and sabres on the wall make up the decor and a restored gramophone from the 1930s adds an element of sophisticated old world charm. Also enhancing this vintage lure, apart from the tradition of sabrage, are the champagne anecdotes from Marilyn Monroe and Napoleon Bonaparte found within the menu.
Service is friendly and diligent but rather slow. Considering they have been open for a short amount of time, I have hope that it will improve. Despite the hiccup, the staff is attentive once you catch their attention. Our waiter offers to open the small window behind us as we are being seated so we will be fresh on that particular scorching hot evening.
This will no doubt become the ultimate summer spot for visitors and urbanites. In La Champagnerie's own wise words: "Keep Calm and Drink Champagne."