It’s been a little over 2 months since Laurier BBQ officially became Laurier Gordon Ramsay. The buzz surrounding this revived institution was impossible to ignore. While the restaurant was being renovated, there were many people with many stories and memories of the 80+ year old restaurant. “Chef Ramsay better not change my (blank)”! Replace the word blank with mocha cake, carrot cake, rotisserie chicken, gravy, and many other favorites. For me, it was the chicken pot pie I consider as one of the better dishes; comfort food 101. If it changed, I wouldn’t be up in arms about it as long as it’s better than what it was before. But I never understood why so many people were complaining about not changing their favorite dishes. At one point during the renovations, it seemed like many didn’t want the menu to change at all. If they were so loyal to the restaurant, then why was it suffering? It’s not like the customers were rolling in. That’s why Gordon Ramsay came here. He saw potential, and perhaps a big opportunity to get his foot in the Canadian door (maybe his Kitchen Nightmare-ish personal project). Either way, the changes happened, and the place is alive. I couldn’t wait to taste the food.
The hand-picked head Chef Guillermo Russo is not only a Montreal native, but he also grew up in Outremont, so he knows what the locals really like. You could sense it while chatting with him. He just wants to people to have a good time, and enjoy the experience. This visit, I was invited along with 7 other bloggers to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast. First of all, the house-made pickles are amazing. Deliciously crunchy, and just enough bite from the vinegar gave it a nice tang. We started with the charcuterie plate composed of 3 Quebec cheeses , mousse de volaille (fowl/chicken) with sasparella, sopressata, proscuitto, and genoa salami. Nibbling on this with a nice red wine was a fun start. I’m a sucker for charcuterie, and this certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s not made in house, but that’s ok since it’s sourced locally. They’re serving this at the bar, so if you’re waiting for your table, have a drink and chow down on this.
The next course included a bunch of salads. The first being a romaine and mixed herb salad with acorn squash, cucumber and butter pecans in a light creamy dressing. Fresh and delicious. The next one was made with spinach and romaine, house-made ricotta (nice!), beets, smoked almonds, and pickled mushrooms. I made a new discovery with this dish: beets and smoked almonds are a match made in heaven. It was clearly my favorite. The last one was a classic chicken salad with mixed greens, walnuts, green apples, small crumbles of blue cheese, and waldorf dressing. Also just as good as the others. They were all dressed very well, and all the ingredients fit well. Nothing overpowered anything, and it was a nice, light start to the meal.
Next we tried the potted beef. Chef Russo explained to us how this dish came to be from the classic British version and how he tried to put a little bit of Montreal in it. “In the UK, they do it with this thing called salt brisket. We can’t find it here, so I first tried it with smoked meat. The texture wasn’t right, so after a few tries with other meats, we settled on short rib which yields the best result. We keep it in brine for 36 hours, then braise it for 3 hours, then pull it and mix it with dijonaise and horseradish.” Quite the process for one dish. The meat is tender, and bursting with flavor. It also has a subtle heat that gets you in your nose a bit. We also munched on the shrimp cocktail served in a beer mug. The shrimp was a little over-dressed in a mayo-based sauce, but they were perfectly cooked, and the lemon added a cool, fresh taste.
Now on to the serious part of the meal. First came creamed spinach, smoked meat mac & cheese, and a classic very American dish, sweet potato pie with marshmallows (I’ll get to that one soon). The creamed spinach was not as heavy as it looked. It was actually pretty light, and well flavored. The spinach doesn’t get lost and the crème fraiche dollop was a nice touch. The mac & cheese was super cheesy in a good way. The little pieces of smoked meat scattered throughout the dish gave it a great smokey flavor. I would definitely order this one again. Now, in the states, it’s customary to eat a sweet potato pie with marshmallows for Thanksgiving. I’ve heard of it, and seen pictures of it. Those who’ve tried it, swear it’s good and I believe them. The one we had a Laurier Gordon Ramsay’s Thanksgiving feast was amazing. The sweet potato was puréed, and the toasted marshmallows were very light. Yes it was sweet, and yes it was unusual, but wow it tastes good.
We were then treated to the deliciously spiced fries and the poutine with chicken. The fries are very good, and can rival some of the best in the city. The poutine was also excellent. The classic curds make an appearance, the fries don’t get soggy, and the gravy is great. Finally, the original rotisserie chicken made it’s way to our table. Honestly, it’s bbq chicken. It’s moist, and exactly what you want in Montreal rotisserie chicken. It may not necessarily rival Chalet BBQ or Cote-St.-Luc BBQ, but it’s good. The gravy, however, is definitely better than the others. It has a great subtle thyme and black pepper taste that makes for perfect chicken dipping.
Finally, the desserts were just as good as they used to be. I’m not big on desserts, but my one weakness is carrot cake. Laurier’s is incredible. The cake is as moist as you’re going to get and the icing is crazy good. In fact, it’s so good and they know it’s so good, that they even give you a small cup filled with just icing next to it. The lemon meringue pie is also the best one I’ve ever tasted. The fluffy meringue is light as a cloud and the lemon is fantastically not too sweet, and not too tart. Easily, the best lemon meringue I’ve ever tasted. We also tried a new dish, pumpkin cheesecake and maple cookies. Both amazing, and new items on the menu. They’re just trying to keep it seasonal, which is a welcomed edge this restaurant never experienced.
So that’s my meal at the new and much improved Laurier Gordon Ramsay. The dining room is comfortable, and easy going. One thing I found amazing about the place is that the clientele is filled with people of all ages, from couples in their early twenties, to grandparents enjoying a meal together. Like I said before, the chicken is chicken. The real special part of the menu is all the other new additions. The potted beef, elaborate salads, the improved fries and gravy. I’m eager to try the ribs, the burger, the hot chicken sandwich, and of course, the chicken pot pie.
Laurier Gordon Ramsay: 381, Laurier west, Montreal, QC, H2V 2K3 | 514-273-3671