Monreal Bread Company: Buttered up

Buttered up

Photo: Montreal Bread Company: fancy pantry

Montreal Bread Company serves delicious fare to the downtown power hungry

The Montreal Bread Company is the antithesis of an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet. Don’t get me wrong, I love the hot-plates-o’-steaming-curries-and-naan genre of resto. Stanley Street has three in two blocks at last count. And in among these paeans to pakoras lies the latest in food trends to hit town – the hip and healthy gourmet shop cum lunch counter.

The aforementioned new place likes to go by the streamlined moniker MBCo. Open barely a month, it’s already the hot downtown spot for power suits and sleek model types. The space is tiny, yet packed to the rafters with gourmet goods, with sit-at counters inside and tables spilling onto the sidewalk while the weather’s still temperate.

Before you order, pause to sample the green pools of oil in platters laid out for your perusal. Chunks of bread for dipping are a meal unto themselves (the moist dark pumpernickel’s my fave – buy some to take home). Infused with truffle, boleto mushroom, garlic, these oils are emblems of MBCo’s dedication to top-notch ingredients.

For breakfast there are fluffy-cloud omelettes – baked, not fried! – that offer fun fillings such as rosemary ham. Or you can get one made with egg whites, spinach and goat cheese. Simpler egg fare is available, as are fruit salads and toast (with jams like maple vanilla pear).

For lunch there are chi-chi pizzas, upscale wraps and baguette sandwiches. Defying any attempts at elegance, I ordered a bun overstuffed with chunks of toothsome lobster meat and curly shreds of cucumber. (An older friend in Nova Scotia remembers the days when poor kids brought lobster sandwiches to school, while the rich ones toted Wonderbread with the mass market meat of status: bologna. Let’s just say she’d be amused by the price.)

A cold roasted salmon salad provided my lunchtime mate with a dense piece of the flavourful fish wrapped in a slice of prosciutto. The greens were pleasing, save for a few flecks of grit. Another salad, another day, was totally grit-free, made with Asian pear, arugula, shavings of Parmesan and slips of oven-toasted prosciutto. "Try the truffle vinaigrette – it’s amazing," the chef said as he handed me my plate. A spoonful from the taste-test table, drizzled over my greens, rang his words true.

MBCo’s plain croissants are made with the renowned butter from the Charentes region of France. Does it make a diff? My own midriff is looking a little like a dairy pasture these days – gently rolling and lush – so I pass up finding out the answer. Yet the orange custard and coconut croissants look delectable, as do the other select pastries. Even the muffins are arty. Cylindrical in a way that goes against mall muffin form, they’re chocolate or orange-flavoured bundles of appetizing baked goodness tied up with cord.

Don’t feel reluctant to order an espresso. The busy barista pumps out a good one. Sip it and contemplate the bags of coffee beans you could take home, or fancy oils, risotto rice, pasta and kitchen tools. They may not help you recreate the hustle and bustle of this button-sized joint, but you could probably serve up a mean salad.

Montreal Bread Company

1447 Stanley, 284-0404

Lunch for two, no tax, no tip: $20-$50

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