After three years of informal pop-ups under the name of Baby Duck, Renée Deschenes, Louie Deligianis and Blake Hickerson—all alumni of the high-end Old Montreal restaurant Pastel—will be opening a restaurant of their own as of next Wednesday in Westmount: Bistro La Franquette.
Located in the space that previously housed Antonio Park's latest solo project, a Thai restaurant called Kwai, which opened back in November of 2019. The space's new incarnation, however? It's a 45-seat New French restaurant designed by Deschenes replete with a new bar space of dark-stained wood that mixes antique and new textures, serving on handmade plateware by Pauline Pottery (whose work could be found at Pastel).
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What's on the menu? To start out, Louie Deligianis and Blake Hickerson will be in the kitchen producing dishes like Cornish hen, oxtail, and rabbit to go with house-baked breads—a key element they've demonstrated at past pop-ups—as well as legumes, and heartier seasonal vegetables like kale and celery root. To give the menu a boost, the restaurant is working closely with local producers and food scouts like Anthony Evans, who curates produce and products from across Canada.
"We're trying to hit the middle ground," says Deligianis. "Normally we cook with higher quality ingredients—truffles, all of these fancy things that would translate better to a dinner service then takeout—so, yeah, we're finding a middle ground."
The height of the bourgoisie would say they would dine à la française—white glove dining service, dessert carts, the whole nine yards—and then there was a countermovement where people would say they would dine à la franquette
It's a menu that will develop over time and work within the chefs' whims, so no weekly visit is expected to be the same. In addition to that, there are plans to expand a prêt-a-manger marketplace from the dining room. "We're already figuring out what we're going to do with delivery partners, baskets to families to take home on the weekends, and what we can do as a tiny team to provide the most convenience and diversity for clients," Deschenes explained in an interview with Time Out Montreal.
On the boozier side of their offerings, Deschenes is bringing in her past experience from restaurants like Foxy and Liverpool House, plus her curatorial work at Pastel, to the wine list.
The name refers to the phrase à la bonne franquette, which finds roots in 17th century Normandy, meaning frankness. "The height of the bourgoisie would say they would dine à la française—white glove dining service, dessert carts, the whole nine yards—and then there was a countermovement where people would say they would dine à la franquette," Deschenes elaborated.
"We appreciate everything that connotes, which is honesty, transparency and generosity, and the welcoming and giving spirit (exhibited) to people coming into your home."
That said, the team is looking forward to offering an alternative to the current restaurants in their neighbourhood. "I like to say we're de-gentrifying Westmount," Deschenes says with a laugh. "People have been seeing us all summer, it's a very small community, and I'm sure (Westmount) is wondering what kind of Saint-Henri trash has been lurking around their neighbourhood."
It's a trying time for any new restaurateurs and chefs to open a new project, but the team at La Franquette is optimistic. "It's not how we would envision opening a restaurant, but I think we know how to run NOT in a pandemic, so we have some easier time to look forward to, for sure," says Deschenes.
For now, it'll be takeout, but there are big possibilities for the team down the road: La Franquette plans to class things up while making it accessible. "We want to provide an experience, and we've talked about having server filet fish at the table, to have cheese carts, these nice things of lore that people don't necessarily take the effort to do anymore," Deschenes explains.
"This is the first time we're actually going to be able to think of an idea, and then execute the idea on our own terms," says Deligianis.
Bistro La Franquette (374 Victoria, Westmount) will be open as of next Wednesday, November 25 for takeout, with a weekly schedule of Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 9pm.