While many people jet off to the Maldives or the Caribbean for their honeymoon, and America is an eternally popular choice, Canada is often overlooked. But with an abundance of wildlife, once in a lifetime tours and an incredible culinary offering, it’s high time Canada was on your honeymoon destination radar.
We flew to Montreal to find out what the French-Canadian city has to offer foodie honeymooners, from the street food scene to fine dining, plus everything in between, not forgetting the need for some much-needed R&R and a touch of luxury.
The adventure begins at the Place d’Armes Hotel in the heart of Old Montreal, where the city’s French history is at its most cobbled-street apparent.
The hotel overlooks Place d’Armes, one of the oldest squares in the city , dominated by the gothic revival Notre-Dame Basilica.
Waking up to a delicious breakfast of fresh bagels – a Montrealian must-try, they boil them in honey water before baking them – and coffee, the hotel soon presents itself as the ideal spot from which to explore this richly historic part of town.
The food in Montreal
The Montreal honeymoon experience starts with a ‘Food Tour of Old Montreal’ courtesy of Local Food Tours. Our infectiously-enthusiastic guide is Etienne, who takes us on a three-hour tour of the old town’s most popular and quintessentially Montrealian food haunts.
First up is Crew Collective & Café where we meet, nestled within one of the city’s finest 1920s bank buildings on the Wall Street-inspired St-Jacques Street. It’s an impressive place to start any journey, and it’s where we taste our second bagel of the day – and it proves by far our favourite of the entire trip, plumped up with lashings of cream cheese, smoked salmon and fresh salad.
What follows is three hours of eat, walk, pause, repeat, and we love every morsel-filled minute, from the Montreal staple poutine (French fries, gravy and cheese curd) – but here with a Portugese twist and topped with chorizo and chicken – to the maple-syrup infused pouding chômeur that melts in the mouth.
Each of the five stops is sandwiched with a brief history of the building, area and/or cuisine by Etienne, who never loses focus or zeal for his fascinating subject matter.
Following the tour, our next stop is the Notre-Dame Basilica for something truly special.
Entertainment in Montreal
We’re here to watch Aura, described as ‘a luminous experience in the heart of the Basilica’. It’s a light and sound show inside the church, and what I can best describe as the opening scene in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet meets Disney meets the enchanted ceiling in Hogwarts meets Tron.
In short, our mouths aches from resting agape for close to half an hour. But we leave feeling incredibly uplifted… and surprised to discover we’re hungry again.
Romantic Montreal restaurants
We eat dinner at Chef’s Table, a concept restaurant that offers a seven-course tasting menu like no other, and by that we mean we literally eat the menu. Once we decide on courses, a green vegetable emulsion is sprayed onto the rice paper, which then dissolves on your tongue. The emphasis here is on the exquisite food, with subtle nods to Montreal – maple syrup sauce with the sea scallops, for example – against a warm, intimate backdrop.
Next, we went for a spin on the Grand Roue (Montreal Observation Wheel) at the Vieux-Port (Old Port). Although spin might suggest speed, this is more a leisurely rotation, four times in total, the city’s twinkling lights reflecting in St. Lawrence River providing the perfect romantic backdrop.
Spas in Montreal
After a busy first day, the next day we’re thrilled to check into our second hotel – the William Gray – and take advantage of the spa, which includes a Himalayan salt room, Finnish sauna, steam room, experiential showers, cold room, herbal sauna and a seasonal outdoor pool. It’s divine; the perfect antidote for our cobble-weary feet.
Fully rejuvenated, it’s not long before we start thinking about food again, so we make a reservation at Maggie Oakes, a renowned steak restaurant which handily sits within the hotel. Before that it’s up to the roof to the Terrasse William Gray for a cheeky pre-meal aperitif overlooking the bustling Place Jacques-Cartier and across to the St. Lawrence River, as the skies turn a dreamy, dusky rose pink.
We chose a deliciously juicy sirloin washed down with a heady glass of Malbec, and close the door on another phenomenal day in this fast-becoming-a-favourite city.
Our final day in Montreal starts with a short walk to the Old Port’s beach front, a quiet stretch of golden sand facing the city’s sparkling marina. It’s the perfect spot to get lost in a book for a couple of hours before lunch, which today comes courtesy of Europea mobile, the street van spin-off of celebrated Montreal restaurant Europea, headed up by Jérôme Ferrer, Canada’s answer to Jamie Oliver.
Don’t let the van deceive though, this is still restaurant-quality food – choose the fresh crab and shrimp salad on garlic bread with celery root remoulade and yuzu juice, and discover the true meaning of ‘fresh’.
The afternoon is spent at Bota-Bota, spa-sur-l’eau, inside an old passenger ship and one of the finest spa complexes we’ve ever visited. Silence is cherished here, but in the outdoor on-deck pool, it gives us the perfect opportunity to survey the city skyline, reflect on the last few days and consider where to go for dinner…
Flights from London Heathrow to Montreal on Icelandair start at £600. Icelandair is a transatlantic airline and offers an opportunity for passengers to take a stopover in Iceland at no additional airfare.
Words by Liz Barrett