Wednesday, September 18, 2013

La Crêpe Bretonne: Sweet Memories of Montreal

La Crepe Bretonne on rue de la Montagne © Office du film du Québec

I was introduced to my first crêpe at La Crêpe Bretonne in Ste Adele, Quebec in the 1960's, and later at the rue de la Montagne location in downtown Montreal. Growing up in Montreal during that time, these restaurants were my favourite childhood places to go and eat. The crêpes were very large, paper thin, and cooked on a hot stone grill until they were golden brown on one side, then filled with almost any kind of filling you can imagine. Finally, they were folded over like an envelope and served hot with a jug of local maple syrup. My favourite crêpe was apples and ice cream — after all, I was only 6! Their French onion soup was also legendary, baked in earthenware pots and served overflowing with cheese. I’ve often wanted to return and go there once again and was disappointed to learn that it closed years ago. Maybe it's best left to fond memories, which only get richer with time.

Louis and Josette's charming original logo 
for their Crepe Brêtonne in Ste Adele-en-bas

According to an old article in the Montreal Gazette, "the original Crêpe Bretonne was brought to Montreal in 1957 when a french immigrant named Louis Tavan opened a restaurant called A La Crêpe Bretonne in an old house in St Adele-en-bas. Tavan acted a manager and his wife Josette made the crêpes, which were available in pate au froment — wheat mix + slightly sugared — and pate au sarrazin — buckwheat + slightly salted. The restaurant was a success and four years later Tavan opened his first A La Crêpe Bretonne in Montreal at 2080 Mountain Street. The second crêperie was much more sophisticated, done like a Breton inn with polished oak table and benches, clogs and Breton hats on the walls and French waitresses dressed in starchy white lace aprons and caps. There had never been anything quite like it in Montreal. In addition to the 78 crepes usually on the menu, there was always a vegetarian crepe du jour, and a poultry or fish crepe du jour. A plain crepe cost 90¢. The most expensive was crab at $4.95 and almond paste whipped cream flambéed with kirsch at $4.85"

Le Papillon on Front Street East, Toronto

Since then, prices have gone up and times have changed. After moving to Toronto, we discovered Le Papillon, the city's first crêperie, when it opened in 1974. After a number of moves within the historic St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, Le Papillon has now settled at 69 Front Street East, exuding a friendly French brasserie atmosphere and serving old favourites such as French onion soup and traditional crêpes Bretonnes. Although the menu is much more abbreviated than the extensive selection of crêpes served by Louis and Josette Tavan at La Crêpe Bretonne in Ste Adele, Le Papillon is a charming dining option if you’re a fan of casual French and Québecois cuisine. 

The interior of Le Papillon on Front Street East

Colourful posters dot the exposed brick walls at Papillon

The Papillon team with Head Chef Pascal 

Le Papillon luncheon menu

A basket of warm bread

Thick French Onion soup topped with a crostini and smothered in melted Gruyere cheese

Salade Caesar with crisp romaine lettuce topped with Papillon's homemade spicy Caesar dressing with parmesan cheese and homemade croutons

Papillon's simple Green Salad

Soupe du Jour: Lentil and Tomato

The Florentine Crepe with spinach, Béchamel sauce, cheddar cheese and mushrooms,
with a side order of Québecois maple syrup an extra $2

Omelette Végétarienne with mushrooms and Gruyere Cheese served green salad

The classic Tourtière with seasoned veal, pork & beef served with frites 
and homemade apple and tomato chutney 

8 oz Filet Mignon served with a peppercorn cream sauce, potatoes and seasonal vegetables