Is it a café … is it a bar ? It’s both! We’re talking about Darling, the long-awaited project from Holder & Co, which opened in March 2017. (Holder Restaurant, Bar Majestique, Bernard Brewery, Waverly Bar). Located at the corner of rue Marie-Anne and Blvd St-Laurent, enjoy spending some time in this enchanting setting over a cup of coffee and/or drinks.
“We often call each other ‘darling’! This word is in line with what we wanted, a name that brings in some gentle femininity, but is also an extension of what is associated with a particularly warm and friendly welcome, which is of course, what we wish to offer our customers, » explains Richard Holder.
Darling has taken over the premises of the renowned bar Les Bobards. It has been completely redesigned and only the location of the bar itself, encircling a pillar, has remained. But it too, is now round and no longer octagonal. « I am very excited to revive such a symbolic place whose doors had been closed for over a year. People really seem to appreciate it and it’s a super fun place, around 3000sqft with extraordinary window space. We have managed, I believe, to translate our vision into the finished product. »
The interior design is the collaboration between graphic designer Thomas Csano and Richard Holder, and it is both surprising and impressive. Keeping in mind that while Le Majestique is inspired by a deli, Darling’s decor includes « a clear reference to the past and we’ve been inspired by steampunk for the colors. » For those of us who do not know what ‘steampunk’ is, it refers to a style of design and fashion that pays « homage to vintage fashion with a modern, sassy twist ». And Darling most certainly does.
Darling can seat 150 with a capacity for 200, and is divided up into several different seating areas. First of all, there is a superb small coffee counter with all the prerequisites for preparing great coffee. The open shelves behind showcase a mishmash of different teacups, mugs, and a sweet selection of unique teapots. In this area, you can enjoy your coffee sitting around one of the hightop tables, or sink into one of the comfortable leather armchairs or banquettes, surrounded by numerous green plants. But you can’t escape your eyes being drawn up to the ceiling which is illuminated by massive random letters from the alphabet, with those stubby round light bulbs that hark back to the days of dressing room mirrors where performers put on their makeup! The enormous windows allow the natural light to stream in and the whole look is definitely ‘steampunk’.
We move on further into the space, where you can’t miss the big circular bar, illuminated from above by a huge circle of those same round lights. With the round wood bar top, it could be reminiscent of a boat’s wheel or even a carousel. And again, a couple of tables with banquette seating that are offset by some more green foliage. There are many eclectic items everywhere you look, from lamps, old hats, different styles of tables and coloured chairs, doll houses, dolls and mannequins. It’s all funky and these are things that would not be out of place in an old train station, a ship, a circus or carnival, even a haunted house! It’s unique and at the same time, it works. Guaranteed that there’ll be lots of photos from Darling appearing on social media in the coming months.
At Darling, the doors open for coffee from 8:00. They serve Pilot’s coffee, Dave Plant pastries (Café Pista and Dispatch coffee) and pastries from the Autumn Bakery
As for the wine list, Catherine Picard (Toqué) is in charge of keeping it up to date and always original. In the dining room, the very dynamic Marcos Almaguer takes care of the management and is in charge of choosing the beers available.
Behind the stoves, we find Chef Camille Bletton, who brilliantly prepares dishes that are perfect to share. This chef is a former member of the Cabane d’à côté. He is accompanied by his accomplice, Sébastien Ouellon, also formerly a team member at the Cabane d’à côté. Inspired by his last years in Copenhagen and his experience at the Cabane, the chef’s menu is based on local and seasonal products, and creativity. On the menu are four appetizers and four main courses. They are so good that they place Darling’s cuisine among the better tables to dine at in Montreal; they are far from a simple bar kitchen. Our favourites go to the celeriac plate and mushroom toast- tasty dishes served in generous portions! The bar also offers beautiful deli trays from the Aliments Viens butcher shop, which showcase 100% Quebec cheeses and fresh bread from the Blé de Pays bakery. Soon, the address will also offer brunches on Saturday and Sunday! (Note: Our appreciation of the cuisine served at Darling is slightly biased, as Camille is part of the Tastet family. But remember our motto: “If we talk about it, it’s because it’s good”. If it wasn’t good, family or not, we wouldn’t talk about it. In this case, we are highlighting Darling because it’s excellent). Thanks to the arrival of the new chef, the address now occupies a prominent place in our lists of bars that serve great food, and cafés where we can eat well.
The eclectic decor is particularly attractive. We love the fact that Darling does double-duty as a café and a bar. In fact, it’s on our list of the most beautiful cafés in Montreal. Morning, noon and night, hang out at Darling and work and have a coffee. That is, until you’re ready for a beer or a drink, and a bite to eat with friends. Steampunk success!