Located where the Royal Phoenix Bar once stood in the Mile End, the Ping Pong Club (PPC) is a trendy new hangout that evokes nostalgic memories of favourite afterschool meeting spots. The casual restaurant and bar opened on Oct. 16, serving up a combination of finger foods and outstanding drinks, with TVs, a foosball table, and a ping-pong table thrown into the mix. The PPC offers an affordable addition to the vibrant young neighbourhood of Montreal’s artistic district.
According to owner Calvin Suggitt, the inspiration for the bar came from a nifty spot in Brooklyn, New York.
“A lot of interesting people hung out [there] in the afternoons around picnic tables and Ping-Pong tables,” Suggitt said.
In line with its origins, the PPC is equipped with large cafeteria-style tables and smaller booth-style seating where friends can easily converge. One side of the PPC is taken over by a large mirrored bar. The place is lively and loud, with a DJ playing a wide selection of alternative and indie artists. Intimate conversation is not ideal in this setting, as it becomes hard to hear over the brassy laughter and rowdy banter of the typical PPC crowd. As there are a small number of tables to seat a large amount of people, it’s easy to make new friends with other patrons seated at the restaurant.
The PPC is a clean minimalistic venue with little to no decor. The restaurant bar is dimly lit by modern light fixtures, yet still offers the cozy, familiar feeling of a great house party. The atmosphere brings to mind the relaxed days before university that were carelessly spent with friends.
Suggitt and his design partner Nicholas Hamel stated that they wanted to invoke this feeling.
“There is nothing like [it] in Montreal,” Suggitt said.
A tentative food menu is currently in use, and the chefs are looking for feedback on its rotation of Mac n’ Cheese balls, Satay Saumon, and various finger foods. What really stood out was its house BBQ sauce, which is infused with a surprising kick of ginger. The Thursday night special consists of chicken wings, with options for ranch and blue cheese, or honey-drizzled and spicy. The spicy wings were disappointingly mild—go for the significantly more flavourful blue cheese wings instead. The food tastes good, if not a little predictable. The PPC has the potential to be a great late night food joint, but the kitchen unfortunately closes at 11 p.m.
“[This] menu is based on the concept of [diner] burgers, sandwiches, and salads taken to the next level, but is still in an affordable price range,” Suggitt said.
The PPC’s real attractions are the creative and innovative drinks that they offer. Popular Montreal mixologist Andrew Whibley, who recently returned from a Hennessey competition in Sweden, created the menu in collaboration with the owners. The milkshakes and smoothies come in plastic soda cups, with the added option of any choice of alcohol. A whisky vanilla milkshake is hard to come by outside of this bar, and is wonderfully delicious.
Another interesting concept is the cereal milk that is used in several PPC cocktails. The bar uses Kellogg cereal to flavour the milk and then filters the flakes out. This does not alter the milk’s taste in a bad way, but creates an interesting flavour that is difficult to pinpoint. One of their charming beer-based cocktails, the Bière Noisette, combines cereal milk, Hennessey, hazelnut syrup, and their very own “Ping-Pong beer.” This is served unceremoniously in a sturdy red solo cup for the no-fuss drinker.
The only setback is the shortage of ping-pong tables at PPC.
“For a place named after Ping-Pong tables, there [should] be more than one table to play at,” said Edward Park, a patron at PPC.
The Mile End is one of the French-speaking communities in downtown Montreal, and is definitely outside of the ‘McGill Bubble.’ The Ping Pong Club may be a long trek from campus; it might not be worth it for the food, but on a night that calls for some unexpected and tasty drinks, there’s nowhere better.