Feb 4, 2012

Taverne Gaspar

Few places in the Old Port know how to combine the perfect amounts of laid-back and trendy. On the one end, there are the restaurants too chic for their own good and are too intimidating when you just want to throw back a beer as you catch la game. On the other hand, we have the pub style restaurants that offer nothing original and satisfying in terms of food. It’s a good thing – no, a great thing – that Taverne Gaspar has shown up.  

Gaspar is all about juxtaposition. The authentic grey stone walls and wooden beams give it that old-school tavern style, but the fancy light-up bar and track lighting lend to its trendy atmosphere. It’s a great space that allows for easy mobility, making it an ideal venue for groups, but is equally catered to intimate dinners for two. Nothing is worse than pretentious staff at a restaurant that is so self-aware of its trendiness. This is not the case at Gaspar. The service can best be described as friendly and attentive for the most part. We went on a quiet night and yet we found ourselves waiting a tad too long for our cocktails. We had to pull the old “glance around” to show we were not pleased with the wait time. But things picked up after that and food was delivered speedily and courteously.

 The cocktail list is worth noting as it contains some anomalies which we were more than eager to try. Highly recommended by our waiter was the cucumber Tom Collins. Refreshing and tasty – a great departure from the usual bevy of cosmos and martinis. The house beer is a standout as well. While we’re not experts in the beer department, we can confirm the house brew is light and flavorful and makes a great accompaniment to practically any dish on the menu.

 Appetizers were fantastic and highlights included the onion bone marrow soup and beet and goat cheese salad. We asked which were the most popular mains and decided to sample the Tavern burger which is hands down, the winner in this category, as well as the Cornish hen. The hen was cooked to perfection and was surprisingly light. We like to think of ourselves as extremely discerning burger experts with high expectations that are rarely met, so its worth pointing out how impressive the Tavern burger is. The Manchego cheese and touch of pork belly add just the right hints of tanginess and succulence. The onion rings that accompany the dish have the perfect blend of crispiness, tenderness and salt. If you order one thing at Gaspar, this is undoubtedly it. The fried chicken is also a favorite but to our great disappointment, was no longer available that night. 

The dessert menu is dangerously tempting, but the main courses are so filling they leave absolutely no room for even a bite of pouding chomeur – which was a huge regret. Upon our next visit, we will definitely leave room to sample the rootbeer float or banana split and provide an update because the desserts sound too delicious to be ignored.

Hockey fans finally have a great alternative to the bland pub fare up the street. Big flat screens on either side of the bar provide great viewing angles from almost every table in the restaurant. So ladies, be very strategic in your seating choice if there’s a game on and you want some level of focus from your date!

The number of Old Montreal restaurants that you can put on your “repeat” list is scarce and Gaspar is undoubtedly on that list. A harmonious blend of fantastic food, drinks, reasonable prices, service, and ambiance make Gaspar worth a repeat visit. 

Taverne Gaspar on Urbanspoon