Saturday, October 29, 2016

Re-Visit Verdun in Today's World (a story from the Montreal Gazette)

been away from verdun for many decades now ,then you might like a quick visit courtesy of online Gazette,  Cheers ! LesF


                                  Wellington St. has come alive since Verdun ended its 'dry era.Wellington St. is that perfect mix of high and low, kitschy and urbane, old and new.

Every visit seems to yield a new place to discover, or an old gem to revisit. But Verdun’s main commercial strip has had its share of ups and downs. There were glory days in the 1950s and 60s, when Wellington St. was a bustling thoroughfare with department stores and high-end pastry shops. There was Woolworth and Kresge, but also Greenberg’s and Gagnon, and Patisserie Rosaire for fancy cakes. But then the métro system was extended in the late 1970s, and the easier access to downtown led to a decline in neighbourhood business.
Wellington St. nowadays has reason to linger. Deborah Interlicchia, left, Christelle Martens and Rafael Jassan with his dog Marciano, enjoy a warm fall day.
Wellington St. nowadays has reason to linger. Deborah Interlicchia, left, Christelle Martens and Rafael Jassan with his dog Marciano, enjoy a warm fall day. PHIL CARPENTER /MONTREAL GAZETTE
Fisun Ercan, chef-owner of the Turkish restaurant Su, at Wellington St.’s western edge, recalls the bleak landscape when she opened 10 years ago.
“The street was empty and very poor-looking, with nothing but small, cheap ethnic restaurants and boutiques that were changing hands or closing down here and there,” Ercan recalled. “We had white table cloths and crystal wine glasses, and customers were surprised to find that in Verdun.”
Now Su — with its turquoise chairs and colourful small-plate mezzes —  attracts diners from all over the city. And it has plenty of company along Wellington St. There are dozens and dozens of lively and interesting shops, restaurants and cafés along the street.
Chef Fisun Ercan at her Turkish restaurant, Su.
Chef Fisun Ercan at her Turkish restaurant, Su. PETER MCCABE / MONTREAL GAZETTE FILES
Wellington St. is back, but in a newer, hipper incarnation. Its recent rise follows Verdun’s growing popularity as a lower-priced alternative to Villeray and the Plateau Mont-Royal, which includes Mile End. The working-class borough has been attracting students, artists and immigrants looking for cheap rents, but also young families and professionals in search of affordable properties to buy. And they in turn have welcomed a new generation of bright and inventive entrepreneurs who are opening businesses that coexist alongside old-timers who have weathered good times and bad.
Mary Lamey, a real-estate agent and former Gazette reporter who relocated from the Plateau to Verdun with her family a decade ago, says Wellington St.’s proximity to public transit (two métro stations within walking distance) and the neighbourhood’s compact layout have been important factors in its renaissance. Verdun is configured in a narrow swath that flanks the St. Lawrence River, its residential streets all within walking distance of the businesses along Wellington St.
Ezra Azmon does some busking on Wellington St., with Natalia Babanova waiting for him around the corner.
Ezra Azmon does some busking on Wellington St., with Natalia Babanova waiting for him around the corner. PHIL CARPENTER / MONTREAL GAZETTE
“In an old-fashioned way, you can walk and find all the services you need,” says Lamey, when we meet for coffee at Café La Tazza, a 10-year veteran on the street. 
“When we first moved here, a croque monsieur was the best you could find to eat. But now we have our pick of more than a dozen really good restaurants — all of them within a 10-block radius.”
Of the newcomers, none is a better example of Wellington St.’s new persona than Boutique Réunion Cuisine & Maison, the smart, sunlit housewares and kitchen store that shares its 7,000 square feet of space with Librairie Verdun, a French-language bookstore and Café de la troisième, a compact café. The space, designed by star interior designer Zebulon Perron, is housed in a former Baptist church that was, before that, a Dominion grocery store. Stripped down to its concrete columns and original terrazzo floors, it is a dazzling space, all glossy teal walls and LED lights juxtaposed against a rough industrial shell.
Boutique Réunion owner Catherine Rousseau, left, chats with shopper Marie Fortin.
Boutique Réunion owner Catherine Rousseau, left, chats with shopper Marie Fortin. PHIL CARPENTER / MONTREAL GAZETTE
Catherine Rousseau, Réunion’s owner, stocks her shop with exquisite kitchen linens and artisanal glassware and ceramics as well as high-end cookware and cocktail accessories. Her goal, since she opened at the end of May, is to showcase Quebec designers such as Tomas Design and Petits Mots. 
Local merchants and restaurateurs say the borough of Verdun played a big role in Wellington St.’s transformation, when in 2010 it lifted a decades-old ban on alcohol, making way for the microbrasserie Benelux, which moved into an old bank building right in the middle of the shopping strip. More recently, Bar Palco, with its laid-back, jazzy atmosphere, live music and craft cocktails, opened its doors right across the street — putting a decidedly stylish end to Verdun’s “dry” days.
As Kathryn Harvey explains in her historical reflection on Verdun in the Montreal Mosaic web magazine:”When Verdun came into being at the end of the 19th century, the city founders decided that their territory was not to be sullied by the noxious fumes of industry, nor by the vices associated with alcohol and hotel rooms. Consequently, Verdun remained ‘dry’ and industry-free throughout most of the 20th century. What it did have was an abundance of churches, whose many activities structured the leisure time of parishioners.”
Brandon Linhares with patron Samuelsson Arsenault at Bar Palco.
Brandon Linhares with patron Samuelsson Arsenault at Bar Palco. PHIL CARPENTER /MONTREAL GAZETTE
These days, that seems like ancient history. Manager Maeva Costedoat says Bar Palco has become a neighbourhood place, where locals pop in to drink chai lemonade with rum at the bar or to play board games at a cozy table on the mezzanine of this old clothing store.
“Verdun’s like that,” she says. “It’s all about the neighbourhood.”
What to see and do and taste on Wellington St.? Here’s a sampling:


Boutique Réunion
4750 Wellington St.
An inviting space filled with beautiful things, all of them hand-picked by owner Catherine Rousseau, who is on a mission to showcase works by Quebec artisans and graphic designers. She’s a cook herself, so her selection features good-quality kitchenware and tools as well as attractive kitchen linens and barware. Take a look around, browse the books at Librairie Verdun, which shares the space, then grab a coffee in the stylish Café de la troisième, which is tucked away behind the shop.
Boutique Réunion.
Boutique Réunion. PHIL CARPENTER / -
Boutique Brock-Art
4835 Wellington St.
This shop, with its atelier at the back, features homespun, handmade furniture fashioned from recycled and upcycled pieces. Plus a quirky selection of midcentury kitchenware, dishes and collectibles as well as new handmade jewelry and giftware from Quebec artisans, with a large showing from Verdun.
Vintage clothes and accessories at Boutique Brock-Art.
Vintage clothes and accessories at Boutique Brock-Art. PHIL CARPENTER /MONTREAL GAZETTE

Boutique Brock-Art.
Boutique Brock-Art. PHIL CARPENTER / -
Café La Tazza3922 Wellington St.
Johanne Minicucci opened her café a decade ago and has transformed it into a fine-food emporium. She’s a chatty, friendly presence, and the store stocks an interesting selection of cocktail syrups, spice mixes, olive oils, maple syrup, tea, coffee and other specialty items. In the lead-up to the Christmas holidays, it boasts one of the city’s best selections of fine Italian panettone and torrone, with the regular clientele putting in their orders as early as June. 
Johanne Minicucci with some of the cocktail mixes at her Café La Tazza.
Johanne Minicucci with some of the cocktail mixes at her Café La Tazza. PHIL CARPENTER / -

Spices and other goods at Café La Tazza,
Spices and other goods at Café La Tazza, PHIL CARPENTER / -
Copette et Cie
4650 Wellington St.
Though it’s small, this just might be one of Montreal’s best cheese shops, accessed through a picture-perfect turquoise entrance. It specializes in Quebec cheeses, including local chèvre and buffalo and sheep’s milk cheeses. Plus there is bread from Arhoma and a selection of local charcuterie meats.
A sampling of cheeses at Copette & Cie.
A sampling of cheeses at Copette & Cie. PHIL CARPENTER / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Copette & Cie.
Branche d’Olivier
4342 Wellington St.
This bulk-food store is the place to find whole grains, dried beans, rice and spices in bulk as well as vegetarian and gluten-free specialities from all corners of the world. It’s got olive oil from Tunisia and Morocco, date vinegar, rose water and halva from the Middle East, and canned goods and hot-pepper pastes from Eastern Europe. 


Su Restaurant
5145 Wellington St.
This stylish Turkish restaurant was one of the first new places to open on Wellington St. a decade ago. The ambiance is cheerful and the colourful and flavourful mezze plates are great for sharing. Main dishes of slow-roasted meats and grilled fish change with the seasons.
The mezze plate at Su.
Blackstrap BBQ
4436 Wellington St.
A fun, casual, rustic restaurant with picnic tables at the front and giant smokers in the back, where dry-rubbed, fall-off-the bone ribs, pork shoulder and beef brisket are always smoking, Memphis-style.  
Chicken with fries with coleslaw at Blackstrap BBQ.
Chicken with fries with coleslaw at Blackstrap BBQ. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE FILES
Restaurant Wellington
3629 Wellington St.
Modern bistro food in a friendly, low-lit, minimalist setting with impeccably set tables and a blackboard full of specials. This bring-your-own-wine restaurant at the eastern edge of Wellington St. is always busy. The $45 three-course special is a perennial favourite. (Its sister restaurant Balconville Pub Gourmand, at 4816 Wellington, 514-419-1942, is a more casual place serving fish tacos, burgers and craft beer.)
The blood pudding at Restaurant Wellington.
The blood pudding at Restaurant Wellington. PHIL CARPENTER / MONTREAL GAZETTE FILES
Piquillo Bistro de quartier
3900 Ethel St.
Not right on Wellington St., but just around the corner. This Spanish-Portuguese restaurant owned by chef José Ignacio Rodriguez and pastry chef Anabela Gonçalves, his wife, is always a treat. From paella, seared scallops or braised oxtail to pasteis de natas and flan, the food is stellar and the vibe is friendly.
José Ignacio Rodriguez and Anabela Gonçalves.
José Ignacio Rodriguez and Anabela Gonçalves. MARIE-FRANCE COALLIER /MONTREAL GAZETTE FILES

Petiscos at Piquillo Bistro de quartier.
Petiscos at Piquillo Bistro de quartier. MARIE-FRANCE COALLIER / MONTREAL GAZETTE FILES
Comptoir 21
4844 Wellington St.
Fish and chips, hamburgers with a serious reputation and a very cool wall-sized fish mural made of salvaged wood and newsprint by Montreal artist Marc Gosselin makes this a fun place to stop for a bite to eat.
Comptoir 21.

The fish mural at Comptoir 21.
The fish mural at Comptoir 21. PHIL CARPENTER / MONTREAL GAZETTE
Cucina Linda Ristorante
3900 Wellington St.
Old-school Italian eatery open for breakfast, lunch and supper. Overseen by Linda Minicucci, who took over from her father, Michele, who opened the restaurant in 1929. This is the place for home-style Italian comfort food like veal parmigiana, pasta e fagioli, manicotti and lasagna.


Sweet Lee’s Rustic Bakery & Café
4150 Wellington St.
Bright red walls and shiny pressed-tin ceilings are the backdrop for this cozy bakery, which shares quarters with Café St. Henri. It’s owned by the enthusiastic young brother-sister duo of Liana and Greg Lessard, with help from their mom. The displays are practically heaving under the weight of their baking, both sweet and savoury. The offerings change with the seasons. Right about now they feature roasted squash and spice muffins, apple and caramel tartlets and chai-tea shortbreads.
Liana and Greg Lessard, owners of Sweet Lee's Rustic Bakery & Café with their mother, Claudia Settels, who works with them.
Liana and Greg Lessard, owners of Sweet Lee’s Rustic Bakery & Café with their mother, Claudia Settels, who works with them. PHIL CARPENTER / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Tarts at Sweet Lee's.

Sweet Lee's muffins.
Station W
3852 Wellington St.
This café has become a neighbourhood hub, with locals dropping in for a quick coffee or sitting down with their computers for a day’s work. Bright, bookish digs and communal tables offer a low-key setting.
Bar Palco4019 Wellington St.
Can be reached via 
Have the chai lemonade with rum and coconut milk or a warm nutmeg-spiced toddy, depending on the weather. This laid-back neighbourhood bar, with its bottle-lined bar, white-painted chairs and easy-listening playlist is an attractive place for a pre-dinner drink or a late-night cocktail. There’s live music every Tuesday and a DJ on Saturday. Plus old-school vinyl on Wednesday. In summer, the terrasse is lovely.
Benelux Brasserie Artisanale4026 Wellington St.

  Thanks for surfing by by the old Verdun Connections site: Cheers ! LesF

1 comment:

BobB said...

I have a niece living in Verdun right now on 3rd Avenue. She grew up in Toronto and loves Verdun. Looking at your post, Les, it looks wonderful. I could stand spending some time down there.