Jan 26, 2011

Café Vasco Da Gama

After discovering this little downtown gem less than a year ago, we’ve found ourselves using downtown shopping sprees as an excuse to come here for a cup of coffee – and    nothing soothes the post credit card bingeing blues like a warm latte. Ten months and too many shoes later, we now count Vasco Da Gama as one of the best coffee shops in the city. If you’re a tourist and looking for an authentic gourmet coffee experience, head no further than this quaint downtown locale. 

Considered the younger sibling of Café Ferreira nearby, Vasco Da Gama offers more than just great coffee and delicious pastries. While we could go on about its mouthwatering cappuccinos, the food here is equally spectacular. Stop by for a healthy breakfast of goat milk yoghurt topped with fresh blackberries and kumquats, or a custom-made omelet.  The array of burgers, sandwiches and paninis makes for some difficult decision-making at lunch time. Prepared on-site, each is a creative combination of ingredients, flavors and color. When half the workday has passed and you’ve already been worn down to a drooling buffoon at the site of any kind of nourishment, how can you choose between the eggplant goat cheese and the duck confit panini, topped with caramelized figs, mango and St-Jorge cheese? To make matters worse, you have to choose a side salad from a spread that would rival the health factor over at Liquid Nutrition. Each is expertly dressed, and a color palate coordinated to perfection. The celery root is speckled with dried cranberries, and the baby string bean tomato salad was like summer in a bowl. Our favorite is the simple and understated Ferreira Club with a side of quinoa salad. And why not enjoy a glass of champagne with your quick and tasty panini, followed by a frothy cappuccino? Or how about trading in that after lunch breath mint for a Fleur de Sel caramel at the check out counter?

The menu isn’t fussy – only pure flavors arranged in fresh, innovative ways.

The room is a narrow stretch of brilliant ocean blues and pale creams – reminiscent of a Mediterranean dream. Tall arched ceilings and painted mosaic tiles on the walls offer a much-needed sunny escape from the dreariness of Montreal’s winter weather. The ambience is always quietly buzzing, and you’ll likely see an eclectic mix of business people, students, couples, and exhausted shoppers. Cordial and efficient, the staff is always on top of their game, along with the manager –who comes around regularly to mingle with patrons. With the convenience of coffee to-go franchises around every corner, it’s easy to forget to take the time to visit the smaller, lesser-known cafés the city has to offer. 

Vasco Da Gama is a small place that packs a big punch. Alone or with friends, this downtown gem is definitely worth the visit.

Café Vasco Da Gama
1472, Rue Peel
Montreal, Quebec
(514) 286-2688

Café Vasco Da Gama on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. If you happened to be in downtown Montreal, a great place to experience Portuguese cuisine and hospitality is a small picturesque café called Vasco da Gama located on Peel Street right in the heart of Montreal. Except if you go there only to have a coffee, you are out of luck.
    Recently a friend of mine and I went there after another friend of ours had recommended the espresso. It was a lovely Friday afternoon and we saw a table for two at the terrace that was vacant. However, to our surprise, few minutes after the waitress took our order, a man who seemed had either managerial or ownership authority, rushed towards us and mumbled something like “they could not serve us coffee unless we ordered food”. I looked around and noticed the three ladies sitting on a table next to us, who had indeed been served exactly that …three cups of coffee. Well who could not have felt humiliated… right? We both looked puzzled and what could be the real reason. We were both well dressed with friendly manners and just wanted to have a quick coffee. I in fact, could not really remember anyone ever to have refused me a service. Later I shared this awful experience with another friend of mine, who coincidentally is half Portuguese, who said that he does not go anymore at Vasco Da Gama since last summer for exactly the same reason. He added that their preferable clientele would be the one who spends more money on food in order to increase their daily revenues. Perhaps tough times, but is that the right way? They probably do have the right to refuse service without prior notice; however, they should place a big sign right at the door, so we and other coffee lovers are rightly informed. On their website they advertise a great traditional food, which might be true, however, the big question is: Would that food taste great if the unfortunate customer stumbles upon some of their other prejudices that might or might not cross the line. They should all indeed be included in the same sign right at the door.
    Luckily, Vasco Da Gama is not the only café in the vicinity, never mind the espresso. If the readers would like to save themselves time and similar experiences, they should try actually the café not far from Vasco Da Gama down on Peel Street across Carlos and Pepes. It is called Au Pain Dore. An excellent place to purchase traditional French baguette or a great grilled sandwich, and on the second floor is a cozy French café offering a magnificent view over St. Catherine Street. The espresso is out of this world indeed, but most importantly the friendly and polite service can make you feel at home.