I don’t usually post restaurant reviews on my blog, because I like to keep the content I post non region-specific. However, I love Montreal, so from now on I’ll be posting the occasional review of local hotspots. You can find the collection of these posts under the category name “Montreal”.
Nestled in between a massive hotel reconstruction and a hot new New York City style cafe, Pullman bar a vin is a bit of a hidden gem. A recent informal poll of the local student population revealed that about 50% don’t even know it’s there, despite its location directly across the street from one of the major grocery stores in the area. Granted, from the outside it doesn’t really look like much, the interior is usually fairly dark and all that distinguishes the restaurant is a simple white sign. Step inside, though, and you’re greeted with a massive, sparkling chandelier made of stemware. The lights are low, the music is pumping, and the atmosphere is bubbling with conversation and clinking glasses.
Both times I’ve been, I’ve had a great experience. On my more recent visit, without requesting it, we were upgraded from a table to a large, comfortable booth overlooking the chandelier. Although the tables are nice, the booths are a real treat if you’re lucky enough to score one.
The service is good, but don’t expect anyone to hold your hand. As an amateur wine connoisseur, I would have liked a bit more guidance in choosing a wine, but I realize that considering the traffic of the restaurant, detailed explanations for each customer are unrealistic. To their credit, both servers I had were able to make a good recommendation, and the service was prompt and without errors otherwise.
As I said, I’m a very amateur wine connoisseur. I love it, but I’m not particularly good at saying what exactly it is that I like. I prefer wines that are lighter and fruitier, but a strong rich red can sometimes hit the spot too. Needless to say, I asked for recommendations and wasn’t disappointed either time. On my first visit, I had the VDP des Cotes Catalanes 2009, and it was quite light and easy to drink. It’s also the cheapest 4oz glass of red, which makes it a nice choice for a student budget. The second time, my waitress surprised me with a deliciously fruity white, but I’ve unfortunately lost my receipt – so it will remain a mystery. What I can say is that all the wines I tried (via sips from my friends’ glasses!) were very good, in my non-expert opinion. You can see their wine list here.
Luckily for me and other foodies, it’s not all about the wine – they have a great menu too. The fried calamari and onion with salsa verde mayo is a more classy kind of comfort food. The mayo is full of tang and zest, and has a creamy texture and bright green colour that livens up the otherwise colourless plate. The fried calamari and onions have a nice breading, although in my experience the onion’s breading didn’t adhere very well. In both, the flavours were good and the textures were generally quite nice.
The Quebec cheese platter was wonderful – I definitely recommend it. There were four pairings: a rich goat cheese with apple jam, a creamy Brie with walnut spread, a comté with Quince jelly, and a blue cheese with fig jam. The board came with a sizeable stack of crackers, and was a perfect, balanced amount of cheese to share between three people. My favourites were the comté and the goat’s cheese, both had mouth-watering flavours and their richness complimented my red wine nicely.
A friend had the port-steeped grilled cheese, and she loved it. From the bite I managed to steal, it was a wonderfully savoury delight, with subtle tones of port. Mainly, it tasted like a really good grilled cheese sandwich. It’s not one of their more visually appealing dishes, but the flavours are good.
In terms of sweets, we had the cheesecake with crumble and mixed berries. It was served in an adorable little jar, and topped with a few beautiful berries. Underneath was a delightfully crackly crumble, and a creamy cheesecake with the absolute perfect texture. The crumble, we all agreed, was unique, and really lifted the dish up to a higher level.
Some other menu items that looked promising, both on paper and in person were the oysters on the half shell, which come served on ice and look spectacular; the ricotta gnocchi with tomato fondue and basil; the cinnamon churros with chocolate sauce; and the chocolate truffles. They all seem absolutely divine!
Overall, Pullman is a really lovely place to spend a Friday night. It’s stylish, comfortable, and fairly low-key, and if you’re a student living in the McGill ghetto, it’s literally right around the corner. You don’t need to scream over the music to talk, and you can catch up with your friends over a glass (or two) of wine and a few delicious bites to eat. It’s the perfect spot for a date or a girls’ night, to catch up with parents or friends from out of town, or to just hang out if you don’t feel up to hitting the club scene but still want to do something fun.