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Nov 24, 2012 08:56 PM

Maison Publique: my experience

My friend chose this restaurant, we hadn't seen each other for awhile. I looked it up first and thought "Oh it's Jamie Oliver's restaurant, I love making stuff from his website, this will be good, he uses healthy and whole ingredients" and then I checked the internet to see a bit more about it because I eat fish and seafood but not meat and I just wanted to get an idea. Everything looked good- fish dishes were mentioned, a few "disappointing" reviews but I don't put much stock in it.

We are on the waiting list, and are well accommodated. We were able to have drinks elsewhere and came in to a table waiting for us. Awesome. No wine list on the table, so I ask for a red that has bite and hope for the best. Then they explain the concept- the menu is itemized a la carte style with titles like "greens" and "raclette m.v.p" and "brussel sprouts and cheese" with prices. Waitress tells me the concept is that food doesn't come out at once, the idea is that we eat, and share. Ummm ok. We all have disparate tastes.

I find out that there is either bacon or sausage in most of the fish/seafood dishes, there is no veg. option. They will not accommodate me, so I order the fish with b├ęchamel even though it doesn't sound interesting or particularly delicious. Otherwise, the waitress tells me, "you won't get any protein." So I order "greens" and "brussels sprouts and cheese." Menu was a bit boring if you ask me, how many more raclette/ pork cotelette/ french onion soup type of menus do we need in Montreal? Somehow my stuff all came together, they were nice enough to put the b├ęchamel on the side (thank God- it was well worn territory of herbs du provence and cream...) the fish was cooked nice but looked to be about 2oz...all for 26$. The sprouts were covered with bacon so I gave it to my fellow diners. The greens were nice- Swiss chard in loads of butter.

There was no offer to compensate or anything for the sprouts, so I ended up eating a 2oz piece of fish with sub-rate sauce, and a bunch of Swiss chard. My feeling is if you are going to go with this concept, all your dishes need to stand on their own, and the consensus was that they did not. This was just a la carte, build your own main, with little idea of flavours or textures. I guess if you love bacon and don't interact with food on a personal, taste driven level- this is your restaurant. For me, and even my meat-loving diners, this was just meh, only expensive in addition to meh. I think it's pretty ballsy to choose not to accommodate your guests at all with this concept too, as if I were Jewish there would have been serious limitations to what i could eat, and a vegetarian would have been stuck with swiss chard and cheese-toast. All in all I found it shocking that 1) Jamie Oliver is involved in this, 2) that they just offered the usual French bistro fare that you can get pretty much anywhere in Montreal, only deconstructed.

I've paid far less for far more, and I would pay far more for better food.

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  1. Just so you know, Jamie Oliver is just an investor and has no input on the food. It's also more British pub comfort food fare than French bistro cooking... You would be hard pressed to find most of the dishes on the menu in any French bistro. The food deconstructed? Really? Absolutely nothing deconstructed about the food there IMO. Also, a fresh piece of high quality sustainable fish is expensive and should be. It sounds more like a vegetarian went to a meat-centric restaurant where the chef's specialty is offal/organ meats. Sorry you were disappointed but I can't really fathom a favorable outcome in this situation. Vegetarians beware!

    1 Reply
    1. re: j_do

      That was my first reaction, it's not a Jamie Oliver restaurant, it's a Derek Damman restaurant who happens to have Jamie as an investor! And the name is the literal french translation of public house, or pub, so it's definitely british inspired and not french bistro. (the first links on google all give you the restaurant as serving british/pub food

    2. Some of my friends suffered something similar at Liverpool House awhile back. The vegetarian was faced with very few options but as one of them sounded good another friend decided to join her in the one vegetarian offering (zucchini flowers, I think it was). But those veggies ran out so she got a plate of very plain fiddle heads for about $26. It would be nice if vegetarian options were also priced properly. Can't believe the waitress said "you won't get any protein". Sounds like something you'd see on Restaurant Stakeout.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Plateaumaman

        you have to be a pretty crappy chef or person if you can't whip up a decent vegetarian entree

        1. re: catroast

          some restaurants have a specific culinary aesthetic and style of eating that they present as something special and unique... and sometimes it involves a lot of animal product... think momofuku, joe beef, LA's Animal, etc... can't expect them to deviate from this at a diner's whim... it's like going up to a techno DJ and asking them to play some justin bieber.. not always appropriate lol

          1. re: j_do

            whereas requesting that a disk jocky change musical styles affects everyone, making a dish suitable for a vegetarian to eat while dining among normal diners does not - unless of course the chef has a fragile ego. it barely takes foresight to make a suitable dish. it lacks class - they are in the hospitality business. it's no wonder the service industry gets a bad rap here for the quality of service.

            1. re: catroast

              you may also be asking an artist to create something that they find to be an inferior work/dish by asking them to omit animal product. and if you consider a certain chef to be an artist and not purely a hospitality vessel, perhaps you should respect their right to decline.

              1. re: j_do

                ok the kitchen staff at maison publique are not artists

        2. re: Plateaumaman

          Sorry, but you can't expect a chef to "whip up" something to every diner's whims. Menus exist for a reason, it's a list of what the cooks make to keep the dishes going through the pass. They're well within their right to charge the same as any other main regardless of ingredients if you insist they make a special effort to accommodate you. Maison Publique is obviously a spin on pub grub (as is Liverpool House), so LBeth & your friends didn't do their research and made a bad choice. You can't blame the house.

          That comment from the waitress does sound wrong, though. But hey, maybe she was just tired of people thinking they could order anything out of Jamie's cookbooks.

          1. re: Shattered

            I think you re right if you are vegetarian you have to do research ahead or call ahead, I know some wont have poutine in general as not always vegetable oil is used in frying.

        3. Can I just point out that you were on the waiting list. Suggests the restaurant was pretty busy that night. Maybe not such a great time to expect the house to cater to off-menu requests.

          1. "if I were Jewish there would have been serious limitations to what i could eat" - no, actually there would have been no limitations whatsoever just because you were Jewish. Now if you were Jewish and kept kosher, that would be another thing altogether. In which case, you probably wouldn't have been eating at that restaurant in the first place...

            1 Reply
            1. re: cherylmtl

              there are many jewish people who do not keep kosher but do not eat meat with dairy

            2. Folks, the general debate on whether restaurants/chefs should accommodate vegetarians and other food preferences is one that's happened many times on Chowhound and inevitably gets very unpleasant. It's not really on topic for a regional board, and it's usually kind of a train wreck. This one was already headed down that path, so we removed some posts.

              If you have specific experiences at Maison Publique to share, then please go ahead. But a general debate about whether restaurants should accommodate these kinds of requirements is really off-topic, and we'd ask that people let that part of the discussion go or start a new conversation about it on the General Topics board.