L'Express was on my radar long before I made it over to Montreal so I was really excited to head here for dinner one evening during Emily's visit. It's very popular, but not so popular that getting a table gives you a headache (ahem, Joe Beef), I was able to make an online reservation a few weeks in advance for a sensible hour. How it should be.
We arrived a bit late because we'd spent waaaay too long rewarding ourselves for walking up Mount Royal by buying all the make up in Sephora. I've got a problem. I called to say we were running late and they were cool about it. Excellent start. We sat down and this was presented to us.
Now, I'd spent the best part of a week banging on to Em about how I've developed an addiction to cornichons. Lots of the supermarket jars contain sweet ones which annoys me no end. These weren't, they were perfectly pickled, and look how many there are. Any restaurant that gives you unlimited cornichons is a winner in my eyes. Some baguette and butter and water also arrived, very good.
For starter I opted for the fish soup ($13). It came with little cheesy toasts and aioli. Brilliantly salty and intensely shellfishy, as it should be. The toasts were a bit chewy yet overly crispy, in the way that toasted stale bread is. Only gripe, they're obviously using yesterday's leftover baguette to make them. Perhaps not the smartest dish to order on a hot August day, I was slightly overheating.
We ordered a bottle of chablis. Their wine list is immense and very reasonably priced, starting at as low as $30 a bottle. Which is significantly lower than anywhere else we dined throughout the week. I knew I'd love this place. The feel is very French, obviously, checkerboard tiled floor, waistcoated waiters (who are all lovely) and simple rustic dishes which deliver some serious flavour. Em had the celeriac remolade ($8) to start.
I confess I wasn't too sure what to have for main. I wanted the coq au vin but it was far too hot for soup followed by stew so I opted for the mushroom stuffed ravioli ($20.90). These had a nice deep flavour and a rich gravy, the pasta was perfectly cooked, they're obviously home made (raviolis maison) and it was just the right amount to mean I had room for pud. Em went for the tartare ($25.90) which looked great, it was massive and came with loads of fries.
We wanted a cheese course, we got a hunk of Brie de Meaux with crispbreads and walnuts ($7.20). Loved the nuts coming with it, a tad hard to prize out of the shells with your bare hands but we persisted. What we were really waiting for though, was this beast.
The Ile Flottante ($8.40). The size of it was literally drawing gasps from diners each time one emerged from the kitchen. I'd seen pictures of it before, but had no idea it was such a behemoth. The thick layer of caramel contained a light meringue, all sat on a bed of creme Anglaise with a few bits of almond brittle sticking out. It's not the daintiest of desserts, but it was amazing.
This rounded off the meal nicely and we head off, full and happy for drinks elsewhere in the Plateau. Everywhere is open til 3am, it's incredible. I'll definitely be back to L'Express to try more, it's a real gem and is certainly in my top 10 meals here so far. I need that chicken stew in my life the minute the cold weather hits.
3927 Rue St Denis