It's the month of January, and you know what that means... Happening Gourmand is back! For those of you unfamiliar with Happening Gourmand, it's when several select restaurants in the Old Port offer an exclusive table d'hôte menu - including appetizer, entrée and dessert - for either $23 or $27, depending on the restaurant. It's a perfect opportunity for people who can't often indulge, like us poor students, to splurge a little and eat fancy. Taverne Gaspar, to my knowledge, has been one of the more popular choices on the list since last year, and this year, I finally got to go and check it out.
So, every January, foodies from all over Montreal brave the cold and journey to Old Port in order to have a little taste of the supposed good life, and every time, I ask myself why the heck I put myself through the torture as I trudge through the ice and snow in the old port. Then I remember that I write a blog, and though it may not be the most read blog, I still have some readers counting on me to bring the happenings of Montreal eateries. At least, I hope. In any case, I was happy to find that Taverne Gaspar was worth freezing my face off for, and definitely deserves its reputation for being one of the better Happening Gourmand restaurants.
Accessibility - Grade: B-
To be fair, Taverne Gaspar isn't that far from Place d'Armes metro. Maybe a ten minute walk? But when the weather is -20 out, it might as well be located on the other side of the world. It's also very discreet and hidden, with no big signs. You also have to enter from another door, called the Auberges du Vieux Ports, or something, and go through a lobby.
Service - Grade: B
The service was fair. Everyone was polite and courteous, but there was no extra small talk, or anything that made them outstanding in this area. The ambiance was pretty average for a restaurant in the old port, and their drinks were pretty damn expensive for their size.
Food - Grade: B
The food was pretty good. Not an eye-opening experience of any sort, but definitely solid. Taverne Gaspar also offers more choices in their table d'hôte than the other restaurants do, which was a nice plus.
|Warm tomato tart|
I started with the warm tomato tart, which was a flaky pastry tart with slices of dried tomato on top, and covered with arugula and goat cheese. The tart itself is actually very small, approximately the size of a tea biscuit, and very flat. Taste-wise, it was good. The tart itself was crisp and buttery, and the tomatoes and arugula added a touch of juicy tanginess. The goat cheese was probably the highlight of the tart, bringing it all together with its creaminess. Overall, not bad, but again, very small.
|French Onion Soup with Bone Marrow|
I'm not a huge fan of french onion soup, which is why I didn't order it, but I have to admit, this is one of the better ones I've tasted. The major problems I have with them is that they're either too salty, or there's too much bread in them, but neither of those were the case here. Gaspar is quite generous with the cheese gratine on top, and the soup was mild-tasting, with a sweet aftertaste. There was also a good bread-to-soup ratio so that you aren't left with very soggy bread instead of soup with chunks of bread inside. If you like french onion soup, I definitely recommend picking this appetizer.
|Braised lamb shank|
My friend and I had the lava cake. Again pretty average, with a soft, cakey outer shell and a gooey, chocolatey inside. However, depending on your luck, you might get one that's slightly overdone, like my friend did, which just ends up tasting like a very moist chocolate cake. To be fair, I've baked these, and it's really hard to get them to that perfect consistency. But I guess restaurants should have a better idea about these things than I do...
Price - $$$
Since we went during Happening Gourmand, the three-course costed us $23, which ended up being around $26.50 after tax. With tip, that still comes up to around $30 for a meal, which, for a student, is still a pretty hefty sum. And if the regular menu is even more expensive than this, then yeah, this tavern is probably quite pricey.
Final Grade: B
So far, including this one, I've tried three restaurants on the Happening Gourmand list, and I have to say, Taverne Gaspar has been my favourite out of the three. Despite being pricey, given the options, you do feel like you're getting your money's worth here, and the quality of the food is better than what I've seen at other places. So if you are planning on partaking in Happening Gourmand and don't know which restaurant you want to try, I recommend giving Taverne Gaspar a look-see. In the meantime...
|Me, while walking through the old port in winter|
Keep warm, folks.