Two years ago, a fine-dining vegetarian restaurant in Montreal was virtually unheard of. Fast-casual places existed around the city, but there was a lack of trendy, full-service options. Chef Stéphanie Audet and restaurateur Dominic Bujold knew this was something the city needed, so they teamed up to open LOV, an upscale, vegetarian restaurant in the heart of Montreal.
“This is a concept that existed everywhere else—California, New York, Vancouver, Toronto—but no one had dared do it in Montreal,” says Audet. “If, for example, I opened a steak house, I could look to all the steak houses in Montreal and compare numbers and do my research. But, when we opened LOV, we couldn’t compare it to anything in the city, so it was a big risk to take—but I was confident it would work.”
Audet and her team were right: LOV was a success from the very beginning. The first location opened in Old Montreal in December 2016, followed by the downtown locale just six months later in June 2017. A third location is set to open outside the city in Laval by late March 2018.
“I think this was a concept that everyone wanted in Montreal, what everyone needed,” says Audet, who, at just 32 years old, has worked in kitchens around the world, owned a small restaurant in Hawaii and travelled extensively to help other chefs create vegan and vegetarian dishes and menus. It’s an impressive resume, considering the Montreal native does not have formal industry training and started her career as a dishwasher.
As Audet worked her way through the ranks and honed her culinary skills, her long-time passion for vegetable-focused cuisine (she doesn’t eat meat) and talent for creating incredible vegan dishes caught the attention of chefs and restaurateurs, including Bujold (LOV’s owner), who asked Audet to come on board in early 2016 to help open LOV as the head chef.
Naturally, with Audet at the helm, vegetables are the stars of LOV’s menu, which is entirely vegetarian (with many vegan-friendly options). Even hardcore carnivores and dairy-lovers will be wowed by menu staples such as gnocchi served with a hemp-basil pesto, the LOV poutine made with vegan cheese and miso gravy, or the kale mac ‘n’ cheese.
Audet is also a fan of natural wine, which is not only made from organic grapes (like organic wines) but also incorporates all-natural ingredients throughout the entire fermentation process. “It’s important for me to offer natural wine to our diners. It’s more expensive and can be harder to source, but I want our diners to be able to taste a very natural product,” says Audet.
LOV’s commitment to freshness carries over into the decor, as well, with both spaces giving off an airy Palm Beach vibe, complete with whitewashed brick walls, hanging wicker chairs and terrariums.
For Audet, these three elements contributed to LOV’s popularity. “The combination of botanical food, natural wine and impressive decor made for a simple, but
successful, concept,’’ she says.
Three sweet treats to try
Since LOV’s menu focuses mainly on savoury dishes, Audet works with a local vegan bakery, Sophie Sucrée, to offer diners delicious, vegan pastries and desserts on-site. Here are three of Audet’s favourite treats to try:
Salted-Caramel Hazelnut Brownie
This chocolatey brownie is gluten-sensitive and drenched in a coconut milk-based caramel sauce.
This classic dessert is dairy-free thanks to a rich, house-made coconut milk pastry cream.
This sweet treat is made with a fruit and nut crust and has a dense, creamy cashew filling.