Old and new worlds collide at Barroco, a trendy restaurant star in one of North America's most competitive foodie markets since its 2008 debut.
Located on cobblestoned St. Paul Ouest Street in Old Montreal, Barroco is lively, popular, and upscale with a supperclub vibe, a small dining room inside a building dating back to the turn of the nineteenth century.
Part exposed wood beams à la country cottage, part 200-year-old stone walls meet eccentric Transylvanian castle owner with a penchant for chandeliers and white studded leather seats, Barroco is arguably one of the neighborhood’s top five dining establishments if partially for its dedication to hospitality.
Management’s commitment to a high staff to patron ratio springs to mind. There are local restaurants with more than twice the seating capacity of Barroco and yet half the staff working the floor. A cost-cutting strategy for the business, granted. Slow service for customers? Close to guaranteed. Barroco clearly grasps this trade-off, refusing to play that game.
Barroco Specialties: Paella and Short Ribs
Then there’s the food, a combination of French, Spanish and Italian persuasions, from homemade pasta to some of the city's best paella.
Ingredients are top notch, from the foie gras and seafood to a rotating selection of in-season truffles.
Presentation is generally simple and spartan, at times mildly imperfect, in tune with the locale’s namesake. In Italian, the term “barroco” came to mean “contorted idea,” “off-kilter” or “bizarre” throughout the Middle ages and Renaissance eras. “Barroco” is also the Portuguese (and Spanish) word for “baroque,” a rough translation of “irregularly shaped pearl. ” In other words, imperfect beauty.
Eat at the Bar
Some restaurant bars are a last-resort seating arrangement but at Barroco, it's a sought-after highlight with some regulars insisting on sitting there for their meal. Bartenders manning Barroco typically ooze personality, part of the locale's charm.
Cocktails, meanwhile, have an old-school speakeasy panache to them. Concoctions on the rotating menu have included the Maple Old Fashioned (bourbon, Angostura bitters, maple syrup and a slice of orange), the Hemingway Daquiri (rum, fresh lime juice, maraschino liqueur and fresh grapefruit juice, which Hemingway used in lieu of sugar because he was diabetic), and Sazerac (bourbon, brandy, sugar, Peychaud’s bitters, Angostura bitters, orange peel and absinthe).
A best bet for a romantic tête-à-tête, a key business gathering, a girls or boys night out, or even a tourist-trap-free introduction to Montreal foodism and nightlife, anticipate spending $250 for two, including appetizers and wine.
The crowd is all over the map, from young and hip to sophisticated and senior. Dress code ranges from smart casual to semi-formal.
One of Barroco's specialties is its paella, a classic Valencian rice dish commonly served with seafood, chorizo, and chicken. In the case of Barroco, it is made with squid, shrimp, scallop, chorizo, and morcilla, a Spanish-style blood sausage.
Inside Barroco's Dining Room
Everyone from tourists to locals to Formula One race car drivers to Bono have eaten at Barroco. Its small, inviting dining room features a bar with speakeasy accents and a sumptuous studded white leather booth fit for a castle in the corner, a regal nook perfect for small groups.
Barroco serves oysters as appetizers in addition to charcuterie, assorted cheeses, and foie gras all usually available throughout the year. Menu items typically rotate with the seasons.