Out on the Town, Student Life

Auprès de ma blonde falls short on Mediterranean delights

Score: 1/5 stars
Price: $$

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Mediterranean cuisine is a complex term. I mostly think of it as Greek––and while Greek food is Mediterranean, not all Mediterranean food is Greek. There’s a big slice from Turkey, the South of Italy, France, North Africa, and the Levant, too.

I’d been meaning to find a good Mediterranean spot in Montreal when I came across Auprès de ma blonde on St. Denis. It looked like a sliver of the Cretan coastline, with its sunshades and rustic bistro chairs on the front terrasse, so I stopped by.

It was one of those unbearably hot and humid days. That’s the thing about Canada actually: Everyone talks about the winters, but no one mentions the summers—they make you sweat like Prince Andrew in Café Campus. Sweltering, I went inside and sat by the window, as it was too hot to sit outside on the terrasse. There was another outside area at the back too, which was less run-down than the front, but again, it was too bloody hot.

For a late lunch on a Saturday, the inside dining room offered the same warm and welcoming hospitality as a shabby casino in Paphos. It had this eerie light brown colour scheme, and not the trendy kind in pricey Scandinavian furniture stores, but the unpolished, decrepit kind Legault has in his living room. The chairs were out of an 1980s Hilton and were in desperate need of a pension—and a Hoover. But the art on the walls took the cake. Utterly, utterly bizarre. One was of a sullen witch sitting behind a steering wheel—the sort of painting I imagine Marjorie Taylor Greene would cheer “girl power” to.

(Harry North / The McGill Tribune)

A selection of mains

Beef burger wth Tzatziki, feta, salad – $16

Couscous (vegetarian, lamb, chicken) – $13- $24

Fish and chips – $19

Souvlaki pita (chicken, pork, vegetarian) – $7.50

Steak and chips  – $24

The menu was reasonably priced and fairly expansive. To start, I got the soup of the day, which the waitress described as a “mushroom herb soup.” What arrived was a puddle in an ashtray. Grey as it was gloomy, with herbs floating on the surface like life jackets, doused in resolve, without the faintest idea how they’d be getting out of this alive. 

Through the surprising thickness, I managed to make out a mushroomy flavour. It had the same pizzazz as a SSMU email. Oh, and just in case my eyes and taste buds were deceiving me, I could see my live reactions by the mouthful in the soup’s reflection: A fierce grimace followed by a look of despair as I pondered how I’d stomach the next.

(Harry North / The McGill Tribune)

For a main, I was swayed by the half page of burgers over the fish, and opted for a beef burger with tzatziki, salad, and fries on the side––hold the feta. 

Burgers are best when they’re simple and made with fresh ingredients. And to its credit, this burger was simple. It didn’t collapse and the bun was lightly toasted. The patty, though, had been left in the freezer long past its bedtime. Not vile, but far, far worse: Dry, insipid, stomach-tickling in a bad way, clinging to the back of my mouth like a new astringent L’Oréal exfoliating cream. Then there was the tzatziki, which was bitter to the point of being outright hostile. I didn’t blame it, though. I felt the same. 

The fries on the side were Mediterranean-style, too—medium thickness and sprinkled with herbs. Most of them needed Viagra, poor sods. There was the side salad as well but by that point my stomach was aching and my patience withering. 

Tell me, how does Auprès de ma blonde make money? If you have to be a local retiree to return, how does it stay in business? I’ve spoken to a number of restaurants in the Plateau recently, and inflation is biting and margins are slimming. My sneaky suspicion is that they aren’t making money and that their days are numbered. My other sneaky suspicion is gigolos come here to play board games, but that’s more of a gut feel than anything else. 

Places nearby to try instead:

Auprès de ma blonde

3845 rue St. Denis  (25 minutes walk from McGill’s downtown campus)

Read more of Harry North’s restaurant reviews on Instagram: @roasting_reviews

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