It was in 2001 that Richard Bastien and Émile Saine opened Leméac, named in honor of the publishing house which, at another time, was located in exactly this location on Avenue Laurier Ouest.

From the outset, there is a clear ambition for sustainability. French brasserie cuisine is one of the most timeless. The neighborhood is probably the one in Montreal that feels the least the vagaries of a fluctuating economy. The decor of the late Luc Laporte, who had signed L’Express as well as two other addresses unfortunately closed in recent years (the beautiful Laloux restaurant and the Arthur Quentin boutique), has not aged a bit.

“Leméac has this effect. We don’t see the years go by. It just doesn’t change. Or if it changes, it is precisely so that the time which advances does not appear”, wrote Marie-Claude Lortie in 2016 in La Presse. Before her, in 2002, the late François Kayler described the place as follows: “Simplicity can have style…perhaps that’s what we call elegance. Called a café-bistro, Leméac has these qualities. »

Several renowned chefs have passed through the kitchens of Leméac, including Stelio Perombelon (now a professor at ITHQ), Charles-Emmanuel Pariseau (O Chevreuil in Sherbrooke), Eric Dupuis (Bar Henrietta, Taverne Atlantic). Olivier Belzile, who experienced the good years of the Local, in Old Montreal, and worked at L’Épicier, has been loyal to the position since 2016.

Patrice Demers (Sabayon) was the restaurant’s first pastry chef. Several of his desserts are still on the menu, although the talented David Courteau, also a ceramist in his spare time, has surely put the recipes in his hand over the years and created decadent new proposals.

Working conditions at Leméac are considered excellent. This is, among other things, what explains why regulars have seen the same faces in the dining room for years, including that of the director Julie Barrette. Well-paid service and kitchen workers (and there are a hundred of them!) can be reflected in the bill.

I had not set foot in Leméac for years. Despite the always positive comments that emanated from it, whether from a wealthy sixty-year-old who prides herself on eating there once a week or from demanding restaurant workers, always excited to unearth a gem on the impressive wine list, I was a little nervous. Although negative criticism is sometimes inevitable, I take no pleasure in it.

But there was really nothing to worry about, especially since my guide, Leïla, knows the menu by heart and could guide us in the choices.

It was not a nice summer evening, but a chilly Tuesday. The fully covered terrace would nevertheless be our cozy refuge for a few hours.

While waiting for my guest, I immersed myself in the study of the wine list, composed by Yan Faraire and his assistant Dominic Poulin. Few readings give me as much pleasure as this one. Even more so when the menu is several pages long and mixes legendary references and left field vintages with funny names. It is both a promise to drink well and a challenge to find THE wine for the occasion.

First determined to order a (French) bottle versatile enough to go from aperitif to calf’s liver, I derail my plan by deciding to open the meal with rosé Italian bubbles.

With our somewhat sophisticated tastes, we challenge our server, making him return to the fridge a few times. Was there a sommelier in the room that night? We will not know it. Still, the surprise of the evening is a very light Slovak red from Michal Basalik, probably a field blend, served from a magnum. It’s juicy, floral and spicy. A wine of pleasure.

To eat, we choose to honor both the essentials of the house and the dishes of the moment. I hesitated for a long time between the hot goat cheese and the cheddar vegetable tian, two starters that have been on the menu since day one. The slice of breaded goat cheese, topped with tart apples, just-bitter chicory and walnuts, wins. The chewy and crispy little thing satisfies expectations.

The starter of the day is a beef carpaccio which does not derogate from the principles of safe pairings. It is embellished with parmesan and arugula, punctuated with a dijonnaise and enhanced with a truffle tapenade. Impeccable.

After a big session at the gym, Leïla is craving “a good old Leméac classic”, the veal liver steak in a chive crust with caramelized onion puree. The piece of meat is a good two inches thick. Its cooking is perfect, a miraculous rosé which gives it tenderness and a suave taste, but recognizable among all.

The halibut is my favorite, a very protein dish with its beans and chipolata sausage cut into rounds. Everything coexists excellently in a well-spiced tomato broth.

If I frequented Leméac on a regular basis, I would certainly avoid overloading myself on calories with its decadent signature dessert, the French toast drowned in caramel and enriched with a quenelle of dulce de leche ice cream.

The second pastry is not light either. On the chocolate fondant (brownie type), there are caramelized popcorn, banana and popcorn ice cream. A circle of caramel at the bottom of the plate completes the offensive, which is well executed. But dessert for two would have been enough!

That completes a flawless meal, if we forget the slight mess of the wine. But when it comes to grades, if there’s one thing that keeps me from frequenting Leméac more regularly, it’s the bill. Maybe an $18 minestrone, a $32 meal salad, and $48-62 fish or meat is the price to pay for all employees to have a living wage. But it is certainly not within the reach of all budgets. Our full bill for two, including appetizers, mains, desserts and five glasses of wine in total, came to $340, taxes and tip included. That said, nothing prevents anyone from sitting at the bar to order a glass of wine and a dish. To consider.