The Question: We want Montreal galleries, boutiques and bistros - but a bit off the beaten path. Suggestions?
If you've been there, and done that - Notre-Dame Basilica, Old Montreal, check, check - then consider one of the city's other vibrant neighbourhoods.
Take Little Italy, a short subway ride from the downtown hotels, which I checked out on a recent visit. Here at the Jean-Talon Market ( marchespublics-mtl.com/English/Jean-Talon) you can shop, mingle and eat (and stock up on edible souvenirs at Le Marché des Saveurs du Quebec, lemarchedessaveurs.com).
The neighbourhood is also home to Quincaillerie Dante, part cooking store, part hunting shop run by a renowned mother-son-duo Stefano and Elena Faita; the Madonna della Difesa Church and the Milano supermarket. Make your way back along Saint-Laurent Boulevard, checking out the clothing, shoe stores and coffee shops along the way.
As for galleries, off-the-beaten-path comes to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts ( mmfa.qc.ca) with The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. It's a creative exhibit for the non-conformist couturier. There are countless fashion highlights as well as animated mannequins: One male model wearing a feather and corset-style bustier and tuxedo pants talks to his reflection in a mirror: "Men didn't always wear suits and ties … Think of samurais… and dandies." But a quieter revelation? Have a look at the Parisian designer's teddy bear, Nana. The exhibit runs until Oct. 2.
As for eating, why not skip the tourist bistros and follow the local lineups to F Bar ( fbar.ca), situated in a glass-style cubicle in the humming Quartier des Spectacles. F Bar is the latest offering from Carlos Ferreira of Ferreira Café fame, and it serves up his fresh market-meets-Portugal-inspired cuisine. (Try the signature halibut, arriving in a silver dish and served with raisin-parsley-almond condiment.) Or book for brunch at L'Arrivage Restaurant ( pacmuseum.qc.ca), perched in the Montreal Museum of Archeology and History. Chef Pierre Lavallée offers finely prepared and creative cuisine (blood-pudding crêpe anyone?) among the glass-encased artifacts. One exhibit, displaying wine bottles and a barrel spigot, describes the booming cabarets and inns of the city's past. "Moderation was not yet fashionable," it says. How very Montreal!
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Karan Smith is a former editor of Globe Travel.
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