On St-Laurent boulevard near Montreal’s Little Italy, lies Douro restaurant, a little corner of Portugal serving authentic Portuguese food in a casual, yet refined ambience. Douro is a hidden gem with its minimal signage, but once inside the bright and airy space it feels as though you’ve discovered something quite special.
The decor is tasteful and not over-the-top Portuguese, with artwork consisting of azulejos (Portuguese ceramic tiles) adorning the walls. The floor and bar are made up of black and white tiles resembling the stone pavements of Portugal and the dramatic curve in the bar is reminiscent of the ocean’s waves. Douro’s menu speaks for itself so they don’t need to have an overly Portuguese atmosphere to prove the authenticity of their cuisine.
I love Portuguese food and can even speak the language fluently, so you can imagine my delight when my sister and brother-in-law surprised me with lunch at Douro, one of their favourite restaurants.
We were shown to a lovely table and service was friendly and attentive throughout. While we waited to order, we nibbled on queijo fresco (fresh cheese), pão de milho (corn bread), lupini beans and black olives. High quality extra-virgin olive oil was on hand too.
My brother-in-law recommended the house wine, a white wine that was light, fresh and minerally. I don’t know the name of it but it was a private import, so it was quite special. After all, the restaurant is named after Portugal’s Douro Valley, one of the world’s oldest protected wine regions with a stunningly beautiful landscape. So you really can’t get a bad bottle here, not even the house wine.
Douro’s lunch menu was simple with an emphasis on fresh ingredients. Our appetisers were watercress soup as well as tomato salad featuring the same yummy fresh cheese as our nibbles. This was a very tasty start to the meal.
There was a choice of 4 dishes for our mains: salmon, rabbit, paella and leitão (suckling pig). One of us went for the proverbial whole hog and chose the suckling pig, complete with crispy skin and garnished with oranges. It was served with a black pepper and garlic sauce, thinly sliced fried potatoes and a nice green salad.
The rest of us were tempted by the paella, which featured lamb, mussels and clams as well as the tasty vegetables that made up the sofrito. The paella was delicious and not too heavy on the saffron. My only minor criticism would be that the lamb wasn’t tender enough and a bit chewy. The mussels and clams were very fresh and went very well with the lamb.
I loved the presentation of the dish, served in individual-sized paella pans. This also helped keep the paella warm while we tucked in.
I was full by this time but I couldn’t help notice a tantalising aroma emanating from the kitchen. Was it… could it be… freshly made crème caramel? Why, yes! Don’t mind if I do! That was my dessert sorted and beautifully creamy and sweet it was too.
Now you don’t always see pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) on dessert menus but Douro obviously recognise the popularity of this specialty. Who can resist a pastel de nata? Not me, ever… so of course I had a bite of my sister’s dessert.
Espresso and port wine were available to finish off the meal. Our waiter recommended a tawny port to go with the sweetness of the crème caramel.
We were all very pleased with our lunch experience, from the lovely ambience to the delicious food and excellent service. Our happy, full bellies were a testament to that. I only wish I had a few more days in Montreal to go back and sample Douro’s dinner menu of more Portuguese specialties. Next time!
The owners, managers or staff did not invite me to visit this establishment and were unaware that my experience would be the basis of a written review. It is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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