What can I write about Olive + Gourmando that hasn't been covered before? This cafe and bakery in Old Montreal has a loyal following among local residents and area office workers, attracts people from across town, draws in tourists, and has been the subject of countless reviews. The good food offered at Olive + Gourmando warrants all of the attention, though.
First things first
The food is excellent. I chalk this up to three factors: the high quality of the raw ingredients, the fact that everything is made from scratch, and the superb choice of flavor combinations. The menu includes breakfast items, lunch items, and baked goods. Various items float in and out of the offerings. Everyone seems to have favorite items. Mine are the almond croissant, maple and pecan brioche, chocolate brioche, anything from the "This is Not a (fill in the blank) Cupcake" series, the smoked trout sandwich, the smoked meat panini, and the #24 salad. A lot of people rave about the palmiers and the cubain sandwich, too. Just pick out whatever looks good. You really can't go wrong.
How do I best navigate the chaos?
One thing you'll notice right away is the crowds. Another is that the ordering process is not obvious. Once you know the system it isn't too bad, though. There are several steps to follow if you'd like to eat in. It may seem like overkill to list them, but trust me, it will make your life easier:
- Get a table. Olive + Gourmando does not take reservations. There is a sign near the entrance asking you to allow a host to seat you. Stand near the sign, and get the attention of a host when he or she is nearby. Each table is numbered. Once you have been seated, the table is yours.
- Decide what you want to eat and/or drink. There is no written paper menu. You can find out what is available in two key areas: the cash register area near the entrance and the deli case area at the rear of the restaurant. Chalkboards near the cash register list the non-alcoholic drinks that are available, as well as some food items, such as granola for breakfast. All of the baked goods are displayed in the register area. At the back, many of the lunch items are displayed in the deli case, and sandwich choices are written on chalkboards above.
- Order your food. The person who seats you will have given you a white ticket. If you'd like to order anything displayed or listed in the deli case area, take this ticket with you to rear of the restaurant, give the ticket to the person behind the counter, and tell them what you want. You may have to wait in line, and the line may extend all the way to the cash register, but you only need to wait in the line until you've ordered what you want. During very busy times there may instead be someone in front of the deli counter who is expediting the process by taking orders. If you only want drinks and/or baked goods, you probably can order these from the person who seats you and hand over the ticket to that person.
- Wait at your table. The food and drinks you've ordered will be delivered to your table when they are ready. Enjoy!
- Order coffee or dessert. If you've popped in for lunch, someone will come by to pick up the dishes when you've finished. Given how busy it can get, the tables are usually bussed very quickly in order to turn over the tables. At that time, you can order drinks or pastries directly from the server to be added to your bill. Again, the drinks and food will be delivered to your table.
- Pay your bill. When you are ready to pay, get in the line that leads to the cash register. Depending on how busy things are, the line to the cash register may extend all the way back to the deli case. Tell the person at the register where you were sitting so that he or she can gather up your white ticket and ring up the bill. There is a container for tips at the cash register.
Finally, if you want to experience Olive + Gourmando in a calmer setting you might consider visiting during off-peak times. One sure bet is to arrive at opening time. At 8 o'clock in the morning few people have ventured out, especially on Saturday. Just before closing can also be very good, but keep in mind that many items may be sold out by then.
Is the service good?
The short answer is that service is a mixed bag. This is generally not the kind of place where you build relationships with the staff. Some servers are quite friendly, others not so much. Some are intermittently grumpy. The vast majority of the time, service is efficient.
Tip: Watch your belongings when at the cafe. The crowded tables and busy atmosphere are just what pickpockets like.
Olive + Gourmando
351 St-Paul West
Metro: Square Victoria
Price: Allow $20 - $30 per person for lunch including tax and tip. Sandwiches are around $10 and baked goods run $3 - $5.
Highlights: Hands down, the food. Delicious baked goods. Tasty sandwiches. Killer #24 salad. Housemade lemonade. Coffee drinks made with care.