Our friends Rick and Sarah have a fairly regular routine going for their visits to Montreal: on a Saturday morning they drive up to Mile End, load up on bagels from Fairmount Bagel, buy some beer at the local beer store (Depanneur AS, who have a great selection of Quebecois beers), and queue up for brunch at Lawrence. It sounded like a rather good way to spend a Saturday morning, so this time when we were up there, we went with them.
Lawrence, like L’Avenue, is one of the hot breakfast spots in Montreal, and, like it’s counterpart, it has a tendency to form long lines. Finishing our beer shopping (picking up some Dieu du Ciel for the road, along with some other Quebecois beer treats), 20 minutes prior to their 10am opening, there was already a short queue forming. But we were second in line, so only minutes after they opened, we were seated at a large central table in the dining room.
Lawrence is basically a British restaurant. Okay, you can stop your snickering. No really, don’t make me come over there! You should know by now from my various UK reviews that the tired old jokes about British cooking should be retired. And Lawrence is a good place demonstrating why, since they are putting out some seriously good British-inspired brunch dishes, made well, and using local in-season ingredients.
Starting out, I opted for a nice start to the meal by noting they they had cold process coffee on the menu. While I may get tired of some of the various aspects of “Third Wave” coffee shops (such as waiting forever for your V60 pourover coffee while some snobby barrista acts as if you’ve never had coffee before), I do appreciate a really good cup of nicely done iced coffee, and the iced coffee here was really pleasant, smooth while robust. I always drink mine black, but I did enjoy watching Sarah pour cream into her coffee (one of the byproducts of a PhD in fluid mechanics is that I enjoy watching cream swirling in coffee, even if I don’t usually drink it that way).
Shortly after the drinks arrived, our other starters started showing up. Our table split two orders of Lawrence’s beignes, which were perfectly-fried up little dough fritters filled with one of three fillings: a smooth and dark chocolate filling, a nicely tart lemon filling, or a basic custard. All three filling were perfect: if I come back to Lawrence I can easily see myself spoiling my appetite by eating entirely too many of these little things.
For the main meal, I opted for the English Breakfast. Also known as the “Fry Up”, this is the cornerstone of the English breakfast tradition, and Lawrence isn’t skimping on their rendition, the meal comes with one fried egg, served over bubbles and squeak, with some black pudding (which I was delighted to see, so many Americans shy away from black pudding that it’s rare sight in the States), some beans, a rasher of streaky bacon, a banger, and some toast. I actually enjoyed that they made this a modest portion by only including a single egg, bacon slice, and a small portion of black pudding, so I can get my variety without completely clogging my arteries. But this was a seriously good English Breakfast. All the meats were very tasty (although I keep finding myself looking around Montreal in vain for a place with good Toronto-style Peameal Bacon), the egg perfectly fried, the beans tender and toothsome, and the bubbles and squeak nicely herbed.
Carol opted for a similar breakfast, the black pudding with spinach. While the black pudding served with my English Breakfast was quite flavorful, it was a small portion of ~1″ sausage slices, while Carol’s full order of it was an inch thick slice of black pudding from a ~4″ sausage, and it had a much richer flavor and slightly more flavorful spicing. In any case, it was a really great black pudding as well, and nicely complemented by the simmered greens served alongside.
Overall, I’ll have to say that Lawrence was a great recommendation from Rick and Sarah (who I think found out about it in turn from their friend Nick). A great English-style breakfast, some excellent pastries, and some good coffee were a great start to the day. I’ll have to add them to my Montreal hit list for return visits.