Every so often I wind up at a culinary establishment where I ask myself the question, “How is it possible that I have never been here before?”
Such is precisely the case for the iconic Duc de Lorraine, located on Côte des Neiges Road just off Queen Mary. Since 1952, this truly magical spot has served French pastries, seasonal cakes, viennoiseries and macarons, using traditional recipes by great French pastry chefs. Victoria Sørensen became the owner 12 years ago and she clearly has the magic touch for this is a restaurant, catering service, dessert emporium and a pastry shop all rolled into one.
There are 52 seats inside and two fabulous terrasses with tables separated by plexiglass that can accommodate 100 diners. Then there is the bonus section, a series of plastic chairs and tables just across the street that was set up by the city, but that Victoria and her staff maintain. During the COVID-19 shutdown, it was perfectly acceptable for people to make a take-out order and then go and sit there to enjoy their food. Customers even did so in the winter.
“A couple of years ago the city created this area, initially as a pilot project,” Victoria explains. “The land in the park is owned by the city, although we help maintain the park daily by cleaning, wiping down tables and chairs throughout the day. During COVID this was a wonderful space for customers to enjoy a coffee and pastry.”
Brunch and Dinner
Duc de Lorraine is open seven days a week, from 6:30 am to 10:30 pm. It came highly recommended to me by friends Michael and Frank that this is a great choice for a splendid breakfast. The first piece of good news for me is that they serve brunch until 3 pm.
Start off with an Americano or a Cappuccino, then try some of their specialties. There are a few superb renditions of eggs benedict: the lobster version comes with two eggs, fresh lobster and hollandaise sauce, homemade brioche bread, roasted potatoes and fresh fruit. There is also a version with filet mignon instead of lobster, which got a big thumbs up from Frank. Michael, who has been a regular here for many years, opted for the Omelette Cabri: egg white, goat cheese and spinach omelet with roasted potatoes and fresh fruit. Frank could not resist ordering one of their critically acclaimed buttery croissants. Michael favored a side order of sausages. You can also get pancakes, crepes, French toast and more.
I intend to return for lunch and dinner sometime soon. From 11:30 am to 3 pm you can order a mimosa, Bellini, Rossini and champagne. The second menu, available from 11 am to closing time, has salads, soups, burgers, quiche, pasta, steak, filet mignon, fish and shrimp just to name a few. And of course for dessert, wow is there a selection. Tapas dishes are served every night from 5 pm and are meant to be shared.
Delicacies To Take Home
Besides a quiche pie, Victoria sent me home with a package of macarons, a selection of breads and danishes and a box full of pastries to die for: chocolate éclair, cheesecake, lemon, mousse royale and millefeuille. Needless to say, I was thrilled to bring all of this home to share with the family. Just walk in one day and take a look at what is in the display cases. It will make your mouth water.
Duc de Lorraine’s reputation stems from its commitment to using only the finest natural ingredients. One bite will transport you into the magical world of France. Victoria proudly notes that they have maintained the original recipes from their great chefs over the years, valuing the importance of quality above all. It is for the sake of quality that they always use the best ingredients, such as the highest grade of eggs, real butter, 35 percent cream, fresh fruit, and many other quality ingredients.
In a non-pandemic year, this place will welcome over 250 000 customers. Many international celebrities are attached to the warm atmosphere, as well as many regular customers who have been visiting this establishment, some for more than 50 years.
If you are looking for a cake for a wedding or another special occasion, this is the place to go.
Victoria Adds Her Own Touch
Before Victoria became the owner, Duc de Lorraine had more of a bistro menu of grilled baguettes and quiche. Over the years she developed separate menus for brunch, dinner, cocktails and added wine. “I wanted to create a space where the food would be at the same level of our pastry chef Bruno’s creations,” she said.
Victoria says that restaurant Chef Henock is very talented and she worked with him on the current menu, consisting of classic dishes with the best of ingredients. “I created a terrasse that would wrap around the restaurant with a perfect view of St Joseph’s Oratory,” she notes. “The second terrasse was years later. Duc can serve as a space for a morning coffee and croissant, a business lunch, a mimosa-filled morning with friends over brunch, classic tea with dessert or an evening with cocktails.”
As for her background, Victoria says it is filled with many years in the restaurant sector. Originally from Ottawa, she fell in love with Montreal as a young girl visiting her grandmother, who lived here. “We had many trips to the Oratory together, so it’s special to me to see this view daily and remember our moments together,” she says.
Duc de Lorraine survived the COVID-19 storm by maintaining its opening hours and consistent production by both the pastry and kitchen teams. They added Uber Eats for deliveries. “What was most important was to remain open,” Victoria says. “Our customers got to enjoy even a simple coffee and little dessert to go. We offered a space where it was welcoming, as we were in lockdown. We gained many new customers during this time. Perhaps we all needed a little bit of fine pastry to get us through this time.”