Location: Montreal, QC
Rating: 5+ [see key]
If there's an item that woefully lacks in coffeehouses these days, it's unique atmosphere. Few shops seem to transcend the usual trends or really put their creativity to work when putting together their environment. My theory is that due to the crucial nature of atmosphere, most places either play it safe, sticking to tested convention versus more interesting ideas, or find themselves limited by time/money/laws/themselves. Whatever the reasons, unique digs definitely elude the average cafe.
Yet every now and then, there's a caffeinated oasis that really hits the aesthetic nail on the head. Take Crew Collective and Cafe, a coworking operation housed in the main hall of the former Royal Bank. The space is naturally expansive with its endless stone walls, impressive arches and neoclassical stylings, all of which captivate admiring visitors. The cafe itself sprawls nearly the entire hall, with plenty of tables and lounge areas for patrons, not to mention some nifty, privately-walled booths on either end.
Regarding their coffee, they use a few different roasters. The day of my visit, they had St. Henri's Espresso Holycow for espresso, and a Guatemala from Kaito Coffee Roasters for pourover. The espresso, pulled medium/long with brown crema, emanated notes of cream, pretzel, chocolate, a touch of tobacco, lettuce, lemon zest and sugar, proving a little dark for my liking but a good, traditional-style espresso. The Seraphim-brewed Guatemala produced a sweet, deliciously hearty brew of whole milk, apple, caramel, bran muffin, vanilla and black tea within a medium body.
Taking my time to drink in the atmosphere along with my beverages, I mused about how fortunate Montreal was to have such a venue. If you're anywhere near Old Montreal, definitely swing by Crew Collective and Cafe for a one-of-a-kind coffee experience.