Montreal Musts, To Eat: Liverpool

Little Burgundy was once home to jazz musicians who fled Prohibition for Montreal to resume “normal” living – or at least get wasted regularly. Now, the pace isn’t what it was in the 1920s, but you can still find plenty of reasons to head over to this part of town. Among the best is Liverpool House, a small restaurant with a profound menu.

From the outside, Liverpool House looks like a neighborhood restaurant, the sort of place I’d find in my part of New York. The signage is subtle, hinting that you should really know about the restaurant already, and the external décor is almost unassuming. Yet, when you step through the front door, the scene changes entirely. The restaurant is overflowing with activity, from guests talking over meals to waiters and waitresses dashing around with plates of delicious food.

Make sure you have a reservation, particularly for peak nights, or you could be waiting for a while. If you don’t mind sitting at the bar, though, you should be able to squeeze yourself in at just about any time. Whether you choose this or to eat at a table, make your first stop Ryan. The bartender, he obviously has his finger on the pulse of this restaurant and can recommend dishes and wine pairings, explain the food in front of you and provide the insights that can unlock a spectacular culinary experience.

I had no idea, for example, that the boar belly I ate was smoked in the restaurant’s back yard … in a smoker the owner built with his own hands (literally welded it together himself). This is why you have to talk to Brian.

The service was prompt without being rushed. I received the courses as I expected them – they didn’t stack up on each other and did not leave me waiting impatiently for the next round. The oysters were from eastern Canada and perfectly delightful, and the boar belly evades any attempt at complete description. The combination of tenderness, texture and taste was perfect, but you’d have to taste it to understand. I also ordered the caprese salad and learned that some of the tomatoes are grown in the garden out back (in the same yard as the smoker). Liverpool House mixes in some of its own tomatoes but isn’t able to grow enough to support the entire restaurant (and the other two – on the owned block – that the owner has).

The star of the evening was the “lazy lobster.” By 8 PM, there were only two left, so it’s obviously a popular item (if you want it, get to Liverpool House fairly early). The lobster is served cracked and on a bed of lobster roe-infused mashed potatoes. Even if it means eating earlier than you’d like, make sure you have reservations that keep you from missing this.

The Little Burgundy neighborhood – and thus Liverpool House – is a bit of a hike from the downtown and Old Montreal hotels, so take a taxi both ways. It’s a bit of a pain compared to the ease of just eating near (or even in) your hotel, but the experience will be worth the 30 minutes (roundtrip) spent in a cab.

Disclosure: Tourisme-Montreal picked up the tab for this trip, but my views are my own.