Montreal, Quebec – Taverne Gaspar

Restaurant: Taverne Gaspar
Cuisine: Canadian/French/British/Pub
Last visited: November 4, 2011
Location: Montreal, Quebec (Old Montréal)
Address: 89 Rue de la Commune Est
Price Range: $20-30

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6Tres Excellent!!

Food: 3.5 (based on regular menu)
Service: 3
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 3.5
Additional comments:

  • British Pub meets French Quebecois cuisine
  • Casual, comfortable, lively
  • Saint-Lawrence river view
  • French & English menu
  • Some Quebecois specialties
  • Daily specials
  • Good for sharing
  • Good for groups
  • Moderately priced
  • Local beers/wine available
  • Breakfast: everyday 6:30am – 10:30 am
  • Sunday to Wednesday: 5:00pm – 11:00pm
  • Thursday to Saturday: 5:00pm – 12:00am

**Recommendations: “Popcorn” Sweetbreads, Brownie

It was my first night in Montreal and I was taken straight to Old Montreal, which is pretty much the most gorgeous part. The cobblestone streets and European architecture was a little taste of Europe and I thought all of Montreal looked like this. The area is full of nice restaurants and I know I could spend a good month trying them all out, and then have to walk back to Vancouver, BC because I’d be too poor to fly home.

All of the restaurants in Old Montreal looked like hidden gems with discrete signage, and some of the local favourites are always the ones that are tucked away, much like what I experienced in Europe, or anywhere for that matter.

Luckily on this occasion I was with locals, so I didn’t have to do any previous research or random guessing. I was invited on a Van Houtte Coffee Getaway and Taverne Gaspar was the restaurant choice for the evening.

It felt like a nice neighbourhood hang out with a relaxed atmosphere. The random dish drying cloths for napkins were unexpected, but I guess the bar environment can cause for spillage so they did come in handy. The menu is inspired by British gastropubs with French and Quebecois influences and it came off as British comfort food with a Quebecois twist. It wasn’t really a special restaurant, but I felt the French-Canadian flare and the menu was fun and easy to warm up to.

The group was quite large so everything came out family style which also means it was a bit “mass produced”. Therefore I never find it representable of what the restaurant can do, although it gives me an idea. The food was generally good until it got to the mains, which were perhaps a bit rushed, but there were a few things that I would go back for and it has potential. I wouldn’t put Taverne Gaspar as a priority on my foodie list for Montreal, but I’m also not getting British-Quebecois pub meets bistro food in Vancouver, so I still think it made for a good foodie experience.

On the table:

Spiced Mixed Nuts4/6

  • $5
  • I love nuts, but I usually wouldn’t order them alone since I’m not a beer drinker. These were simple, but good.
  • It was mainly peanuts with some almonds, cashews and pecans and they were initially sweet and then mildly spicy.
  • I enjoyed the seasonings and it wasn’t that candied or sugary and probably had more of a spice than it was sweet.
  • I still snacked on these, but I mainly used them on top of the lobster roll, salads, green beans, carrots, lentils and brownie. These made all of them even better and gave it a nice kick!

Mixed Olives3/6

  • $5
  • I love olives, but wouldn’t normally order this either.
  • It was a decent variety, but nothing different than your standard mixed olives at a bistro.

Homemade Chips4/6

  • With truffle dip $5
  • Another item I wouldn’t normally order, but for what they were, they were done really well!
  • The home made chips were well seasoned, thin and crispy and tasted like gourmet home made Ruffles.
  • The truffle dip was delicious! I could immediately taste the truffle oil and it was creamy, thick and refreshing because it seemed sour cream based rather than mayo based.
  • It was like truffle sour cream dip as opposed to a typical Ranch dip.
  • A craft beer drinkers place and this was an ideal snack!

Cod Fritters3.5/6

  • Pimenton aioli $7
  • They looked like croquettes so I was really excited, but they ended up tasting like gourmet fish sticks and I was hoping for more although still good.
  • They were lightly battered and very crispy with a flaky and soft mashed fish filling, but I wanted it either creamier with a saucy filling, or with more cod texture like fish and chips.
  • The aioli wasn’t too thick and it had a nice sweetness and kick to it, and it was similar to chipotle mayo. It reminded me of a Spanish or Mexican style aioli.

**”Popcorn” Sweetbreads6/6

  • Sweet and sour dip $7
  • It doesn’t look that good, but good god was it good!
  • This is the one item that I will remember and go back for. Someone, please bring it to Vancouver!
  • This worked out so well and even “sweetbread-haters” will be converted!
  • It was addicting bite sized pieces of sweetbreads and I’d choose it over popcorn chicken any day.
  • I like sweetbread, but I can understand if people don’t like the texture of it. In this case the texture is almost masked and you wouldn’t even know you’re eating sweetbreads, although sweetbread lovers would be able to tell and still like it!
  • The sweetbreads were lightly battered and deep fried like popcorn chicken and they were very soft, fluffy, light and pillowy and almost melted in your mouth they were so tender.
  • The dip really brought them to life! It was served with a sauce that tasted like BBQ sauce meets sweet Thai chili sauce.
  • It wasn’t really sweet and sour, and it seemed like Japanese Tonkatsu sauce with some Sweet Thai chili sauce, but there were no chili flakes.
  • This kind of reminded me of Japanese Izakaya and it had  “Vancouver” written all over it.
  • It would be even better if the batter was done like Pearl Castle’s “Popcorn Chicken” batter – see here.

Caesar Salad a la Gaspar3.5/6

  • $9
  • There’s nothing too special about a Caesar salad, but all the points go to the bacon for this one.
  • I loved the shavings of salty nutty aged Parmesan and freshly baked crunchy croutons, but a Caesar is a Caesar.
  • The dressing was home made, but had no flavour and I wanted to taste anchovies in it.
  • The bacon was crispy, thick, juicy and incredibly tender… good as always. I kind of wish it was cut up and sprinkled over top like gourmet bacon bits though.

Heirloom Tomato Salad3/6

  • Blue cheese and vidalia onion salad $12
  • All I kept thinking about was Hawksworth’s Heirloom Tomato Salad in Vancouver which I loved so much.
  • The tomatoes were fresh, plump, meaty and served rustically, but I wasn’t a fan of the quality.
  • The big wedge of tomatoes were very pulpy and mushy without being sweet, acidic and juicy. It was almost the reason why people don’t like tomatoes.
  • The cherry tomatoes were great though and I loved the sweetness and tang those had. The onions were also nice and sweet.
  • It was simply dressed in olive oil and the cheese was very strong but it tasted like gamey goat’s cheese more so than blue cheese.

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad 4/6

  • $11
  • I really love beets, cheese and nuts in a salad so I loved this, but it wasn’t something I haven’t seen before. I still liked it regardless.
  • The beets were nice and sweet and well dressed and the cheese was very creamy, rich and salty and not gamey.
  • The green beans were a great addition and I loved the crunchy toasted almonds, but I wanted more of them.
  • I topped this off with the spiced mixed nut appetizer nuts and it was fantastic with that extra bit of spice.

Lobster Slider 3/6

  • $17
  • This was basically an East Coast lobster roll, but it looked like a hot dog.
  • It was almost all lobster, but it was overcooked and a bit rubbery.
  • The lobster was lightly dressed in garlicky aioli, minced red onions, lemon, chives and seasoned with herbs like dill and basil.
  • The brioche toast I found too thick and it wasn’t that sweet either and a bit dry and hard.
  • I found the bun too heavy for the lobster and I would have preferred something like a flaky buttery croissant or just a softer and lighter brioche bun.
  • The onion rings were thick cut, sweet, well fried, crispy and nicely seasoned with salt.

Pan Seared Scallops2/6

  • Normally to be served with pork belly, sauce vierge, lentils $28
  • They were only seared on one side and they were a bit overcooked and chewy.
  • It is a house favourite and this was a bit mass produced and I’m sure the actual dish could be better, but I wasn’t too keen on the execution of the scallops.
  • Sauce vierge is a classic French sauce made with olive oil, lemon juice, chopped tomato and basil, except this one used chives instead of basil and I missed the aromatic basil flavour. I think there was also a splash of red wine, but it didn’t come together very well.

Roasted Salmon2.5/6

  • Normally to be served with sauce vierge, lentils $22
  • This was the same as the scallops, but with a different protein so I found it kind of a “no-no” to repeat.
  • The salmon was seared on one side and it was crispy and quite moist and oily, but it had no flavour.
  • It just tasted like olive oil and some tomatoes again. The vierge sauce really needed classic basil and not chives.

Spatchcock Cornish Hen 1.5/6

  • Normally to be served with fries, warm salad $25
  • This is a house specialty, but I think it was really rushed and the family style serving probably isn’t representable.
  • It was butterflied and grilled with some herbs and the skin was good as it usually is.
  • I loved the charred flavour of the grill marks, but the hen itself was quite bland and overcooked.

10 oz New York Strip 3/6 (Just for the strip)

  • Normally to be served with fries & chef’s sauce $26
  • The steak was cooked to medium and I prefer it medium rare.
  • The steak quality was decent, but the sauce is what had me.
  • The sauce was well reduced, thick and syrupy, sweet and robust with lots of natural beef pan jus flavour and garlic. I loved it.
  • We didn’t have it served with fries, but the sauce would be great as dip!

Cheese Mashed Potatoes3.5/6

  • $6
  • It looked a lot creamier than it was. It looked like a pommes puree, but it didn’t taste like one.
  • It was creamy, but as it cooled down it became quite stiff and dense.
  • I almost wanted a bit more cheese in it. I could definitely taste some salty cheese and perhaps some sour cream, but it just needed more.
  • It almost wasn’t rich and indulgent enough, but it had so much potential.
  • I was hoping it could hold its own without gravies, but I did eat it with other sauces.

Green Beans with Bacon5/6

  • $6
  • They simply do a great job with bacon here. It’s thick, salty, crispy and just plain good.
  • The beans were delicate, thin, crisp and tender and they’re so different than the green beans we usually get on the West Coast.
  • I put the spiced nuts from the appetizer on this too and it was great.

Maple Glazed Carrots4/6

  • $6
  • It was actually more buttery than it was sweet and the maple was more subtle than I expected.
  • It was what it was, but the sourcing was good and the carrots had a nice organic flavour to them.

Lentils 3.5/6

  • These were very simple nice and firm lentils made from scratch.
  • It was sautéed with the aromatics of onions and carrots and they were very nutty, but I almost wanted more from them.
  • They weren’t saucy or very seasoned and a bit bland, so I needed the sauces from the mains to enjoy them.
  • It is meant to be a side, but sides can still hold their own.


  • With caramel ice cream $7 (Due to context, we didn’t get ice cream)
  • Any brownie for me is better served warm, with nuts and ice cream, however without having those ingredients, this was still a heavenly brownie!
  • It had a crispy brown crust and it was incredibly moist, fudgey, rich, sweet and decadent.
  • It was almost flourless so it was very tender and seemed half baked.
  • There were bits of chocolate chunks in it too and I just fell in love with this brownie.
  • The texture was a bit powdery (in a good way), cakey and fudgey at the same time and it’s worth ordering!
  • I didn’t pay attention to the caramel sauce, and I can only imagine how good it would be normally with ice cream.

Black Forest Cake – 1.5/6

  • $8
  • I’m a snob about this. I don’t like grocery store Black Forest cake, but if it’s the real deal, I don’t mind it.
  • This was just way too sweet and rich and had so many sweet layers going on, but the ratio of each were slightly off.

  • It was chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, tart syrupy cherries, and then a white layer of what seemed like thick, dense, sugary sweet fondant meets icing.
  • It was very chocolatey and unless you got a whole cherry in your bite it was overload.
  • It almost seemed like various textures of just creamy chocolate and I really wasn’t a fan of the white icing.
  • The cake was a bit dry and the chocolate walls captured a bit of air in the fridge, so it had that “fridge taste”.

Chocolate Cakes – 2/6

  • This was a special dessert of the day.
  • It’s supposed to be a traditional Quebec dessert (which I still don’t have the official name of), but apparently it didn’t do the dessert justice and it gets much better than this version.
  • It almost reminded me of a Ding Dong or King Kong or whatever they call those prepackaged cakes.
  • It was a thin layer of custard sandwiched between white cake and dipped in chocolate which hardened like a shell.
  • The cake was a bit dry and the custard was too thin that I couldn’t taste it, so all I could taste was the chocolate really.
  • If anyone knows what these are supposed to be, please leave a comment. Merci beaucoup!


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  • Sara says:

    I saw this on the home page and I thought ”Cool, I am going to discover a new restaurant in my city”. But based on your experience, I am going to skip this.

    By the way, the last dessert looks like a play on the popular but disgusting Joe Louis by Vachon cakes that are in most households here. It is so bad I run away when I see this thing.

    A lot of the items look very interesting (such as the lobster rolls). I wonder if the normal portion is 4 buns!? But it looks delicious.

    I rarely eat in the Old Montreal (like a lot of locals) because it is usually overpriced tourist traps such as this.

  • Sparkling says:

    I believe those chocolate cakes are called ‘May West’ cakes; apparently these were invented by a Québécois pastry chef in the early part of the last century. See:

    Many Montrealers know them simply as pre-packaged snack cakes sold by Vachon Inc. (See pic: Although, I think the original recipe called for custard, like the one you tried, and not the twinkie-like cream used in the packaged stuff.

  • Mijune says:

    @Sara – it wasn’t that bad though! lol… it was okay. I actually really like Old Montreal… but I am a tourist lol 🙂 The lobster rolls were an East Coast thing so it was interesting to see.. saw them all over New York too! I wasn’t overly impressed, but I definitely didn’t hate it or anything. The brownie and the sweetbreads I would actually go back for 🙂 Thanks for reading Sara! I like hearing your perspective since you live there! And thanks for dessert help! I think you’re right!

    @Sparkling – YES!! May West Cakes!! I think that’s what they’re called!! If not, it certainly reminded me of May West Cakes! I see the packaged ones at grocery stores sometimes, but I never realized they were called “May West Cakes” or associated with Vachon. Thanks!!

  • Linda says:

    mmm gastropub goodness 🙂

    ooo may west cakes! i think they sell some packaged item here in vancouver called ‘wagon wheels’… that’s the first thing that popped into my headed when i saw a picture of them… they look the same but the fillings are different.. wagon wheels have a cookie and then some marshmellow filling on the inside.. both sound equally yummy 🙂

    i’m a snacker when it comes to food.. i like picking at different things and popping them into my mouth so i think i’d really like this place.. and that popcorn sweetbreads dish is just uber creative… and who doesn’t LOVE fish cakes?! everything else here seems pretty standard and i don’t know if i’d order steak at a place like this but i guess it was passable 🙂

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – yes!! I meant Wagon Wheels instead of Ding Dongs lol. I like the cookie for texture! I like trying everything too! I’m surprised your not keen on izakaya!

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