Travel Review: MTL’s historic Dominion Square Tavern

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Inside the scotch egg, with “Swedish” sauce.

After a short 13-hour drive (with only one stop for gas, and the best road trip snacks ever) we arrived in Montreal from Halifax, for an IKEA run. We had left before the sun came up and made very good time. The first nice spring weather we’d seen (having come from Halifax, in early May) got us excited; so immediately after checking into the Sheraton Centre-ville, we walked a couple blocks to Crescent Street for beverages on a patio.

Cocktails - Tom Collins, Basil & Rye

Cocktails – Tom Collins, Basil & Rye

The highlight meal of our very short Quebec adventure was dinner at the Dominion Square Tavern later than night. Having been a restaurant or lounge in one way or another since 1927, this historic establishment in the heart of downtown was on our list for a while. Favouring the sharing plates format, we opted to order a silly amount of appetizers between the two of us and asked that they come out staggered. We tried a lot of different dishes, some fantastic wine, and left very happy. Also, the cocktails we started with were expertly prepared and super refreshing.

Pate de campagne (rustic pork terrine)

Pate de campagne (rustic pork terrine)

A couple favourites during dinner were the country pȃté (made with pork), served with dressed greens and homemade crostini, as well as their impeccably executed scotch egg. The smoked trout salad with curry oil was the perfect spring dish, and a great way to start off our meal.

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smoked trout

homemade nutmeg donuts with sour cream

homemade nutmeg donuts with sour cream

We even pushed ourselves to order dessert, and I genuinely enjoyed the freshly made nutmeg donuts (and donut holes) with sour cream. The tartness of the sour cream made this dish for me — a dessert I would actually come back for!

Classified as a gastropub, the Dominion Square Tavern has a lot to offer. The interior pays homage to their lengthy history, achieving a classy, not hipster, vibe, the service was more than personable, and the high-level English-inspired comfort food menu  brings it all together. On top of that, with the wine list and cocktails…  I like everything about this place. Thank you MTL for another fantastic visit — even if it was too short.

Who smokes the best?

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Spoiler alert: it’s Schwartz’s, in Montreal (pictured above). But you already knew that.

Now, instead of making silly comparisons, let’s talk about the smoked meat in Halifax. We’ve recently visited two restaurants, on the same street, that are claiming to have smoked meat as one of their specialities. Okay, to be fair, Hali Deli is also claiming many other dishes on their menu, the traditional Jewish fare, to be specialties. Sully’s Roast Beef & Smoked Meat is pretty much just serving smoked meat, with very few other menu options, and a confusing Irish twist on their branding.

Smoked meat sandwich at Sully's.

Smoked meat sandwich at Sully’s.

I already mentioned Sully’s in the my last post, about brunch. Geir did have the smoked meat on that trip, and he was pretty satisfied with it. I also tried it. The sour pickle claims to be the same as those used at Schwartz’s, and it was pretty awesome. The meat is smoked in-house, and cut very, very thin. It is piled on the sandwich with your choice of mustard (Geir chose HOT), sauerkraut, and swiss cheese. It is served on light rye. There are no fries on the menu, so plain potato chips must satisfy any salt craving. This was a decent sandwich, but was missing meaty substance and texture, having been sliced as thin as deli meat. Also, there were a lot of inconsistencies with what Sully’s had listed on their menu and what was actually available when we were there. I get they’d only been open a couple weeks at the new location, but to have a draft machine with local beer tap handles, sit empty, is just cruel.

When we walked into Hali Deli Old World Delicatessen, I immediately liked it. They truly have accomplished the old school diner feel — to me that place could have been there for the past 40 years. Again, Geir ordered smoked meat but this time in the form of a reuben, one of his favourite things to eat. The meat is cut thicker, more Montreal-style, and and is complemented by the traditional rueben fixings: dressing, sauerkraut, swiss cheese. There is French’s and a big brand “bold deli-style” mustard on the tables (no true Dijon or hot English mustard). This sandwich is better; it’s served with house cut fries and slaw, as well as a fantastic pickle.

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I ordered a salmon burger, which consists of two house-made salmon patties on a bun with tomato, lettuce, onion and homemade tartar. I’m a huge fish burger fan and I enjoyed this. I also love that Hali Deli has the breakfast part of their menu available all day. We’ve already been back once since this first visit — Geir ordered the rueben again and this time I had the lox schmear platter: lox (cured salmon), chives, red onion, cream cheese mixed together, served with a toasted Montreal-style bagel, lettuce, tomato and cucumber. I also had their super garlicky caesar salad, for which they use the smoked meat cracklings instead of bacon. Loved this! We had a delicious milkshake on both visits, as they are not licensed. Next time, I plan on trying some of the Jewish dishes on the menu.