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Ps: This site is monitored but not actively posting on a regular basis. Mostly these are stories & some photos saved from a defunct site known as Verdun Connections which was on MSN Groups initially then on a social network called Multiply.
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
Published on: October 29, 2016 | Last Updated: October 29, 2016 10:56 AM EDT
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.