Chef Derek Dammann, alum of Jamie Oliver’s London flagship restaurant Fifteen, opened up Maison Publique in October 2012. A casual neighbourhood pub where one can find both good food and drink, Maison Publique also featuresa cozy and welcoming ambiance. On its outer brick façade, there is a mural of the classic Montreal Molson brewery. Inside is a striking handmade wooden bar. The walls are covered with antique wallpaper and accented by a tin ceiling. Maison Publique deviates from pretentious designs; its simple, home-like interior accentuates its purpose— to serve good food.
The menu changes daily—with new specials written on a chalkboard above the kitchen window—as well as a staple menu displayed on pieces of paper posted on the wall. Options include gnudi with deer ragu, fried rabbit, pork, clams, and sautéed cabbage with water chestnuts and bacon. According to Dammann, he prioritizes the flavour and quality of his food above all else.
“I take pride in serving sustainably grown and harvested produce, meats, and seafood because food tastes better when its ingredients are the products of thoughtful stewardship,” Dammann said.
Dammann also believes in utilizing the whole animal, featuring at least one dish with offal (organ meats), because it gives the customer the chance to experiment with new foods.
“[Using offal] preserves an overlooked part of our culinary heritage,” Dammann said.
One of the classic dishes at Maison Publique is the maiale tonnato, a riff on the Italian classic vitello tonnato. Tonnato is a traditional Italian sauce made from tuna, anchovies, and capers. Damman pairs this creamy sauce with thinly sliced house-cured pork. The flavours contrast to create a wonderful mixture, with the tonnato sauce highlighting the saltiness of the cured meat. This dish brilliantly displays Drammann’s cooking philosophy, which is to have fun playing with established classics.
Dammann is willing to take risks with his menu at Maison Publique. For example, one of the specials of the day last summer was pork tartare. Until recently, it would have been considered harmful to eat raw pork, but Dammann said he responsibly sourced the pork from a personal friend and farmer, and prepared it with care.
A specialty of Maison Publique is its brunch menu. On Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m to 2:00 p.m., Dammann offers classical British pub food that is simple, but cooked brilliantly. The English breakfast for two is a great way to start off the weekend. It is a meat-focused feast with pork chops, bacon, sausages, and marrow served with baked beans and a side of bubble and squeak (sautéed potatoes and cabbage). For a smaller option, try the bangers (English breakfast sausages) and mash topped with gravy and peas. It is a crowd-pleasing favourite, as it pairs the luxurious fattiness of the homemade sausage with the creamy mashed potatoes and fresh peas.
Maison Publique is without a doubt one of the best restaurants in Montreal and it is definitely worth the visit. For vegetarians or vegans, however, this may not be the best option, as Dammann truly loves cooking with meat.