We've been huge fans of Titanic for years now. We started going there on our lunch breaks five years ago or so when we were both working downtown, and our memories of a string of lunchtime get-togethers that we had with our friends D & S are among the fondest we have. There was something about beating a hasty exit from work, hopping on our bikes, having that death-defying ride down Beaver Hall, that nice summer weather (in my memories, it was always summer), then meeting up with our late-rising colleagues, that spelled freedom. Then there was the food. Always fresh, always thoughtful, always delicious--a perfect antidote to the poor fare that dominates downtown. I appreciated the atmosphere, too: bustling. Given our affection for Titanic, you would have thought that we would have run when they started serving breakfast, lunch, and the occasional dinner (two nights a week) at their latest creation, Cluny, when it opened a few years ago. In fact, today was our very first visit. We were on our way back downtown after paying a visit to the truly amazing St-Armand paper works, purveyors of the finest handmade papers, the imprint under which master papermaker David Carruthers has been operating since 1979,
when we decided, "why not have a truly amazing lunch?" We thought about going to Titanic, then decided it was time we paid Cluny a visit, especially because its setting--inside the post-industrial splendor of the Darling Foundry Building--seemed like the perfect way of following up our visit to the banks of the Lachine Canal, the cradle of Canadian industry.
The setting was perfect--high ceilings, massive windows letting in some much-needed sunlight, and counter service from behind a big, beautiful counter--and the food was right on the mark. My associates--Michelle and K--were less crazy about the concept--something one might call cafeteria-nouveau--which involves trays and a fair amount of self-service, but I like it. Along with the communal and semi-communal tables, it makes for an unfussy ambiance. [For the record, Titanic, too, has adopted this system over the last year, but I prefer the way it works at Cluny. It just fits better with the layout of the place.] I had a panini caprese with a hearty potato salad (complete with corn niblets and cornichons), while Michelle and K had the special of the day, chicken à la Mexicaine, roasted beets, a romaine salad, and a hot flour tortilla. We finished things off with three Café Union espressos (yes!) and an order of the drop-dead gorgeous braised pear and crab apple combo.
The crab apple we had wasn't at its prime, but the pear sure was, and the rest of our spread was just we needed on a blustery winter day.
The sun may have been shining, but we knew we were in for another wild ride as soon as we got back out on the sidewalk (the wind was gusting up to 110 km/h today), so before we braved the streets again we bundled up and braced ourselves.
We'll be back, Cluny. We're sorry it took us so long to visit.
Papeterie St-Armand, 3700 St-Patrick, (514) 931-8338 [note: the St-Armand paper works are only open to the public on Fridays]
Cluny, 257 Prince St. (corner of Ottawa), (514) 866-1213