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Brunoise Experience

I wanted to relay a experience I recently had at Brunoise in Montreal to see if anyone had any thoughts. I am not making any judgements, but I was a little perplexed that I was turned away.

Here's what happened: I was in town from New England and dining alone on a Saturday night. I arrived at the restaurant a few minutes after it opened for the evening - just after 5:30 p.m. There was only one couple in there at the time - sitting at a table. No one was at the bar.

I asked for a table for one. The host said they were booked for the entire night. I said that was not a problem - I could sit at the bar. The host said the bar was fully booked for the entire night too.

I politely asked him to check to see if there was anything he could do. He walked to the back and checked with someone, I assume, and said I could not be accommodated.

I was a little amazed because there were only two other customers in the restaurant at the time. Was everyone else simply late for their reservations? And every seat at the bar booked too? OK, I know it's a popular restaurant, but what was the deal do you think?

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  1. The BAR was booked?
    Was it a private party, maybe?
    Otherwise... ew.

    1. No, no private party. And believe me, it's not like I look like a lady of the night or anything. More like an English teacher.

      1. Saying all the tables were booked probably just meant that each one was reserved for sometime between 5:30 and 7. I guess the same could be true of the bar, but I've never heard of reserving seats at the bar. That's a new one for me, too.

        1. Back in the early '70s when we feminists were attacking the barriers, some of the toniest restaurants had a policy of refusing to serve unescorted women. Their stated (and probably real) reason was to keep out the hookers. A group of us targeted the best-known fancy place and staged an invasion of their cocktail lounge and dropped hints of lawsuits. After this event they quietly changed their policy.

          Seems to me that your woman-alone status turned them off and they were giving you the bum's rush.

          1. Us Montrealers really enjoy sitting at the bar. So sometimes we do reserve for seats specifically at the bar. That might explain why you could not get a seat there.

            1. Brunoise on a Saturday night, without a reservation? That would be difficult, in most restaurants in Montreal on a Saturday night, especially the very good ones. See this CH link about reservations at Brunoise:
              I'm certain that it had nothing to do with you being a woman walking in alone. It was about it being a Saturday night, with everything booked (including the bar)! There was probably a reservation 'block' starting at 6 pm. It't too bad you missed it; another time, call them ahead & make a reservation, or book online at www.brunoise.ca

              1. I've never head of reserving a seat at the bar. I've always enjoyed the bar for being able to get into a popular place without a reservation.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Rick

                  As a frequent visitor to Montreal, I can tell you that they really do put reservations on bar seats in that city. I remember phoning a few places and being told that all the tables were booked, but that they were still taking reservations for the Bar and thinking that that was odd (coming from T.O. where no one takes reservations for a bar!).

                2. Brunoise is one of my favourite restaurants, and I have never had a bad experience, food or service-wise.

                  It is also very popular, especially on a Saturday night. Although you may have arrived before the usual dinner crowd, I find it entirely plausible that the whole restaurant (including the bar) were booked. If I were the front-of-house manager, I would need to consider how long it would take someone arriving at 5:30 to eat their dinner against my arriving reservations (consider that the restaurant offers a 3 course Table d'Hote format, not an à la carte menu), in the interests of not bumping those who had actually booked.

                  I encourage you to call ahead and give Brunoise another try. I expect you will the treated with the same warm service I have in the past, as well as delicious food.

                  1. I would have just sat at the bar and asked for a menu.

                    Bartenders are much better at working things out than some of the people at the front of the house.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Tugboat

                      Yeah... that wouldn't really work! It has nothing to do with snobbism, or any of that. It really is that the restaurant is just that popular. They book the space at the bar because... people want to eat there badly enough that they are willing to book a spot at the bar. Seriously. Not uncommon here. L'Express is another example of this. 'Just sitting at the bar' is not going to get you anywhere, unfortunately. Most of these types of restaurants work like a well oiled machine, because they are so busy, they have to.

                      1. re: gokkusagi

                        Montrealers in general have high expectations of food outside the home (this has been true for a very long time). And Montrealers truly love their food - and this applies to the casse-croute as well as the haute cuisine establishments.

                        So, a resto that develops a rep for well executed dishes can easily put up its bar space for reservation. C'est normal. Bienvenue à Montréal. Enjoy your stay.

                    2. Brunoise is extremely popular and yes, people do reserve seats at the bar (either because they enjoy the ambience there or because the other tables are already booked when they call.) The bar at Brunoise is a bit different from most restaurants - you can't just come in off the street for a drink or a bite; it is really just another seating area of the restaurant. When my husband and I go up to Montreal, we make sure to get our reservations in at least a week in advance, usually more. Even if the restaurant was empty at 5:30, they couldn't put you in a seat that was reserved at 6:30 or 7:00, as Brunoise serves only a prix fixe menu (3 courses) and they would not expect you to be out of there in time.

                      We have dined all over the world and Brunoise is one of our favorite restos both for food and service. I hope you will make a timely reservation and give them another chance.

                      1. I was turned away from from a restaurant in London once for being solo. Not that they were fully booked, they just refused to "waste" a table on a busy night on a single. Never happened to me anywhere else, though.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: BobB

                          Come to Montreal. You can dine at the bar (often the most interesting seat in the house). But you may need to reserve, depending on the resto.

                          1. re: mrbozo

                            I do, my son's attending McGill. Gives us a good excuse to get up there and chow down a few times a year. Sometimes we take him and his friends out to Le Petit Extra, they like it a lot.

                            1. re: BobB

                              Proud father. Lucky son. Good stuff. And Le Petit Extra is a nice destination. What other restaurants have you tried in Montreal?

                              1. re: mrbozo

                                Au Pied de Cochon, a few others I can't recall the names of. A very good Japanese place in an unusual (round?) room.