If you’re an adopted Montrealer like I am, you always remember your very first visit to the sugar shack. I was 19 years old, freshly arrived from Toronto, and had never even heard of the traditional Quebec cabane à sucre. To say it was an artery clogging, spectacular, pork and maple revelation is an understatement of the highest order. Since then I’ve always made an effort to go to a sugar shack at least every couple of years, but that can be a bit complicated. Like many Montrealers, I don’t have easy access to a vehicle, which makes getting to one a bit of a challenge. And when I rent a car, there’s the no drinking and driving reality to deal with, and curiously enough, few of my friends raise their hand to be the designated driver.
That’s where Hotel Nelligan’s sugar shack comes in. Located on the rooftop terrace of the lovely Old Montreal hotel, this terrasse à sucre is probably the most traditional-style sugar shack in the city. With a full buffet of all of your expected favourites including oreilles de crisse (pork rinds), egg omelettes, sausages, ham, brown beans, homemade ketchup, cretons (pork spread), pickled beets and endless maple syrup, the food isn’t fancy in any way, but it’s hearty, filling and exactly what you would hope for from a visit to the sugar shack. And yes, they’ve got the sweet desserts as well, including the unbeatable tire d’érable (maple taffy) served up on a bed of snow.
As to the decor and all around feeling of the space, think slightly kitschy lumberjack and you’ll have an idea of what they’re going for. Just before you enter, there’s a photo shoot with crazy costumes to get you in the spirit. Then there are the servers in their boots, jeans, plaid shirts and Davy Crockett hats. As you’re brought to your table (plastic red and white plaid tablecloths, naturally!) with a glass of warm, mulled wine in your hand, the exciting sounds of a full-on, live gigue and spoon band help transport you back to those heady days of countryside sugar shacks. There’s even a small petting zoo of sorts with baby bunnies and chickens.
Since the sugar shack is located on the rooftop terrace, it also means you’re outdoors. But in reality, the space has been well designed to deal with the cooler weather – it’s completely covered and there are transparent plastic walls to keep the wind out. Add to that the numerous overhead space heaters, and your urban sugar shack experience is complete.
Terrasse à sucre
March 30 – April 22, 2012
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY $35 (adults only)
Buffet : 7pm to 9:30pm
*Bar : 5:30pm to 11:30pm
(adults) $18 (11 to 18 years) – $12 (10 and under)
Buffet : 10:15am to 12pm and 1pm to 3pm *Bar : 10am to 3pm