Somewhat hidden from view, Agrikol is a restaurant/bar that has built up quite the loyal following since it opened in 2016, and for understandable reasons. Agrikol is all about Haitian cuisine, Haitian vibes, Haitian art, and all that is good from this Caribbean country. As you walk through the front door, be prepared for a colourful atmosphere and especially good times, because Agrikol has it all!
When Agrikol first opened in 2016, the media took notice because the two owners are none other than members of Canada’s renowned rock band Arcade Fire – Régine Chassagne and Win Butler. Regine’s family came to Canada from Haiti. The decision to call the restaurant Agrikol is in recognition of the French Caribbean ‘rhum agricole’ style of rum, which is fermented and distilled from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice, distinguishing it from those made with molasses. Certainly a compelling metaphor, given that in Montreal’s Agrikol stands out as well!
What to say about the vibrant interior design and decor ? It’s wonderfully tropical, full of bright and cheery Caribbean colours, so you can be excused for thinking you have left Montreal for a destination where there’s fun to be had. Win and Régine have carefully created an atmosphere that covers the restaurant’s two levels – connected by a staircase (check out the Haitian Creole poetry handwritten by Régine on the risers!), and on the upper level, a cool vintage iron railing. The other design touches include some jungle wallpaper, a stunning art collection of Haitian works, stained glass windows, and best of all, the enormous artwork that covers the entire stairwell, meant to inspire you with feelings of joy, abundance and festive dining. The bar stands out on its own as well, with the bright orange bar stools, the high open shelves stacked with rum bottles and memorabilia. It’s fun to sit on the upper level and overlook what’s going on below. There’s always a buzz and thanks to Michèle, the service at Agrikol runs smoothly. Outside the back is a small jewel – one of Montreal’s most beautiful patios. There’s another bar in this outdoor space, which together with the good food, all adds up to a fabulous summer evening.
Behind the menu at Agrikol is Paul Toussaint, former chef at Toqué!, Aromate, Kitchen Galerie and the Karibe Hotel in Port-au-Prince. When putting this together, Paul said he likes to take traditional dishes and at the same time, he tries to see how these can be evolved. He’s certainly successful and Agrikol is on our list of Montreal bars where we eat the best food! These dishes aim to introduce everyone to new and delicious aspects of Haitian cuisine. We love the abundance of fish, rice and beans and the oxtail dish with bean sauce – our personal favourite.
Everything matches well with Agrikol’s homemade cocktails, many of which are understandably based on rum (Barbancourt is the most-recognized Haitian rum but Agrikol offers many other Caribbean rums). These cocktails are both original and excellent, thanks to the initial creativity of David Greig, and further elaborated by Win.
An evening spent at Agrikol is always about having a great time. Just chatting with Paul and Ralph Destiné, the manager, it is easy to feel the passion they put into Agrikol, and their pleasure in being able to share the world of Haitian gastronomy. The music and energy mean that it’s always lively, the Haitian cuisine is delicious, the cocktails are very good, and the patio is gorgeous – so if you haven’t already been to Agrikol, it’s yours to discover.