The Dominion Square Tavern is a wonderful Montreal restaurant that is steeped in history. The Dominion’s recent incarnation as a restaurant has only been open for just over a year, however the place has been around since the late 1920′s.
Situated in the heart of the Golden Square Mile (once Canada’s richest neighbourhood), the Tavern was originally adjoined to the Dominion Hotel. The hotel burned down in the 1930′s, but thankfully the Tavern survived the blaze. The Dominion had been Montreal’s first Gay Bar during the 1970′s. Only in 1988 were women allowed past its doors due to a new law.
Thankfully, throughout the years the owners and managers of the space have maintained the charming décor in true Roaring Twenties style. Much of the décor seems to be either original or actual period work. The terrazzo floors are bordered by porcelain-tile wainscoting, and some of the ornate brass lamps hanging from the ceiling still have pull-chains hanging from their bases. The walls testify to the ‘Dominion’; the coat-of-arms for each province hang there. Somehow the soft leather winged chairs are curved to perfectly coddle your kidneys. This comes in useful after sampling the cocktails. There is so much more to sit back and take in. The Dominion is perfect for pondering.
Besides the decor, history, the charming clientele and the pleasantness of the wait staff, there is the food. A winning idea in the Dominion is the daily lunch special: The Dish of The Day. One main dish, with a side salad or soup is $20. A glass of wine or pint of beer is an additional $6. The lunch special of seared trout is light and satisfying. Perfect for a Tuesday! On Thursday, the Duck Confit is simply amazing. In this one leg of duck, there are about five distinct attributes. It is rich, succulent and meaty. There is an indescribable divine tenderness in the meat, fat and skin that is just all-out flavour. A few little thinly crisped potato pieces add a crunchy treat, and the hollandaise sauce that surrounds the duck could not be any more appropriate.
Starter salad and side salads are fresh, made from watercress, with bits of herbs such as dill and fennel added. The dressing is light and tasty, smoothing the path for the healthy greens to be digested.
I happily ordered the Pulled Pork sandwich on two separate occasions. This sandwich is lightly flavoured with a tangy mustard and fennel sauce. The bread is a house-baked bun, large but not overwhelming. A very generous pile of steaming hot fries accompanies the sandwich, and an overflowing, marvellous bowl of house mayonnaise accompanies the fries. The fries stay hot for a good long time, as fries in good restaurants tend to; I am quite certain that they are cooked in duckfat. A starter salad is a good idea if you order this, to try to fill up on greens before diving into the huge pile of delicious fries and sauce.
Except for the micro-brewery beers, the drinks at the Dominion are all made in-house. This goes for the syrups as well as the filtered water. The house even makes its own tonic water. In the case of the latter, the gin and tonics are quite simply the best in town. Not only is there a good choice of gins for the mix, no other G&T tastes quite like theirs. There is absolutely no harm in establishing a cocktails budget to make the round of the Dominion cocktail menu.
All of the above are served in excellent glassware. Beer pints are, simply, adorable in their roundness. Beer just tastes better when it is served in a large, rounded glass! Perhaps this aids in the appreciation of the beer’s bouquet.
If you still have room, finish off your meal with a sticky toffee pudding, a nutmeg donut, or anything that suits your fancy from the dessert menu. You will not be disappointed.
Dominion Square Tavern, 1243 Metcalfe Street Montreal. Monday-Friday 11:30 to midnight, Saturday 5pm to midnight. 514-564-5056 Reservations welcome.