The famous Scottish chef does rotisserie chicken at Laurier Gordon Ramsay
Much has been made of how celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay mouths off on his TV shows. Mind you, there are times I swear like a stevedore in the kitchen, and I don’t even experience the pressure of cameras or a restaurant empire. I expect a lot of choice words – or at least puzzled ones – were said by Montreal traditionalists when they found out Ramsay was taking over the beloved if tired Laurier BBQ. But I suppose the former soccer player who grew up in an abusive, itinerant household is as capable as any to reinvigorate Outremont’s fave rotisserie. Enter the wolf in a henhouse.
I had planned on bringing the bairns to this family friendly spot, but plans shifted instead to as romantic a date as possible that smells like chicken. I’d never been to the original Laurier BBQ, so I was naively surprised when I walked into what I felt was basically a diner. In chic white tones, mind you, with some decent enough modern art, and basic banquettes with pickle jars on the tables. It evoked downtown burger joints rather than high-end London dining destinations.
But the menu definitely speaks in hipper tones than greasy bird nostalgia. I contemplated the likes of a porchetta sandwich, grilled (three-)cheese (parmesan, cheddar and aura, which is a Finnish blue) and crab cakes while I ordered a sparkling wine and Campari cocktail called the Laurier Chic. My date accused me of getting a girly drink, but the pink and bubbles were bitter enough to provide a steely edge.
A French onion soup to start was a bit too sharp, though my mate’s smoked meat mac-and-cheese was superlatively smooth with cheese flavours that managed to be both pronounced and delicate. M’n'C has become the iconic retro comfort food, so hip as to be now widespread – what’s next? we wondered.
For a main, I had the meaty, chorizo-rich chili, accompanied by sweet moist cornbread. I loved it at first, then found it too much of a muchness. A little pot of sour cream on the side would go a long way to break up the sameness of each bite. For kicks, I ordered deep-fried pickles, which were perfect pickle pogos, crisply battered and fried, juicy inside.
And the chicken? My swain had the quarter bird: a thigh, fries, sauce and slaw. The brown sauce was excellent, sort of spicy, some cloviness. I tried my expert sleuthing techniques on the waiter, who admitted to reduced poultry stock and bacon before saying the recipe was a secret. "Five spices?" I asked. "All kinds of spices," he said. "It really is a secret." I’d make a lousy spy.
The chicken was fine, the fries were crisp, thick cut but not too much so, and gloriously, suspiciously addictive. All this was balanced by the simple vinegary slaw.
For dessert, our firm rectangle of bread pudding with whiskey cream and candied pecans was put down with a flourish and a polite, "Bonne dégustation." You wouldn’t get that at St-Hubert.
If you’re expecting a Gordon Ramsay dining experience, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re looking for a great St-Hubert type meal, at 50% higher prices you’ll be 300% happier. I’d wager a pound on the $10 menu after 9 p.m. (including grilled salmon, tourtière and pork schnitzel) being eminently worth it.
Laurier Gordon Ramsay
381 Laurier West; 514-273-3671
Dinner for two: $25-$60