A couple of years ago I visited Montreal and stayed at a hotel near the heart of Old Montreal, the historic city centre. I remember waking up starving and letting my nose direct me to the nearest spot that could satisfy my morning hunger. That morning my nose did well and brought me straight to Olive & Gourmando. This trip despite staying on the complete opposite side of the city, the first thing I did was make my way back to O&G.
Olive & Gourmando, or O&G for short, has an incredible buzz. It feels a little bit like those cartoons with dozens of clowns climbing out of a tiny taxi with one wondering how they all got in there in the first place. People just kept arriving and magically just kept on getting seated even though O&G isn’t a particularly big space, at least it doesn’t feel that way. It is cozy and colourful and homy and feels like a neighbourhood hangout where everyone knows each other and no one needs to say their order because the staff just know (in fact that was the case for a couple of the tables around me!). Everyone stopping here for a coffee or some food just looks cool, and I imagine they all do very cool things and would all be interesting people to have a little chat with first thing in the morning over coffee before making my way to work. The couple next to us, regulars, have just returned from a 3 week hike across Iceland (as one does). Two coffees magically appear before them before they even say a word and they order the “Egg on your face” because they are starving. “Egg on your face” is their “Poached egg on your face Panini”, spicy poached eggs with herbs and mayonnaise, Comte cheese, speck and slow roasted tomatoes (for $11.95) and happens to be what we’d just ordered – it’s just what you need if you are starving. It was gooey and messy and delicious, and I kept eating it way past the point where my belly was full just because it was so tasty.
Two of the four walls at O&G are lined with large windows that open up and bring in the feel and soul of beautiful Old Montreal and blend it with the playful spirit of the place. The other two walls are covered with little messages that give you a bit more of an insight into what O&G is all about. For example on a Saturday in 1998 they served only 3 customers in a whole day while one day in summer 2012 they made 360 sandwhiches, 45 litres of home made juice (everything here is homemade), 15 litres of soup, 200 brownies (one of their best sellers) and 375 croissants.
The staff were fantastic and bounce back and forth between French and English as most do here in Montreal. There was one man, the one who somehow kept finding seats for the never-ending line up of people wanting to come in, who took my hot chocolate order. The hot chocolate was delivered by another man who must have been the twin of the first man (was he?). It was prepared by a guy dancing around the coffee machine with a t-shirt with the word Dude written on it who honestly made making coffee look like it was the coolest job ever. And what he put together surprised me because this wasn’t at all the hot chocolate I expected. It was very bitter, pretty much unsweetened Valhrona chocolate that almost had a rough texture to it. It was rugged and strong, a serious kick that energized us for our morning walking around the area. Loved it.
Verdict: A bit different, but in a good way. Olive & Gourmando, 351 Saint-Paul, W. Montreal, Canada