A poutine-forward disco flowing with champagne and cheese curds swings open this weekend in Adams Morgan. Le Mont Royal, equal parts bar and bistro, makes its glitzy debut in the two-level former Southern Hospitality space.
Owners Bart Hutchins and Chas Jefferson channel Montreal’s funky nightlife culture to deliver a bar with a disco soundtrack that goes heavy on natural wines and stylized dishes (1815 Adams Mill Road NW).
The bar is “the ultimate celebration of wine, food, and music,” says Jefferson, as “neo-bistro fare, natural wine, and vinyl are all staples of Montreal culture.” Noting that the French-Canadian spirit is a slightly more libertine environment than D.C., the duo turned the idea of a French restaurant on its head, ending up with an atmosphere they playfully coin as “Canadian maximalism.”
Jefferson, an alum of nearby Jug & Table, notes that he has spent much of his career “trying to democratize luxury in beverages.” After living in France, his interest in natural wine grew, and he offers plenty of types behind the bar at Le Mont Royal.
The wine list will feature 54 wines sourced from small producers in the U.S., France, Canada, and beyond, presented on a deck of cards with each suit corresponding to a different category (red, white, sparkling, and skin contact/rosé).
“When I think about what I want to drink when I’m out with friends having a good time and listening to music, it’s fruit-forward wines that drink like juice”, he says.
Behind the long marble bar, three draft cocktails dominate a trendy drink menu. The Polar Espress riffs on an espresso martini, while a Negroni Sbagliato capitalizes on the Italian cocktail’s recent surge in popularity. The drinks are delivered from a custom draft line that introduces nitrogen “to achieve maximum froth,” says Jefferson. Other offerings include the Québécois Old Fashioned with Canadian rye and maple simple syrup, and several drinks can come with a champagne topper to make them “royale.”
Despite the transportive theme, “I want people to feel like this is their neighborhood spot,” adds Jefferson.
The downstairs space is for drinks, dancing, and disco (see: a marble DJ booth for spinning vinyl), done in a dialed-up color saturation with magenta floral wallpaper and gold accents. Bathrooms feature wallpaper of koalas and monkeys engaging in risqué activities.
The more low-key upstairs (“fur-trapper vibes,” they note) comes decked out with bistro tables, comfy booth nooks, a pool table, a stuffed Wildebeest head named Wilbur, and a Saskatchewan-sized bear rug. More than 40 disco balls shimmer across the space, supplied by D.C. “disco dealer” Libby Rasmussen.
If nothing else, Montreal is known for its poutine obsession, and Hutchins serves two kinds to nosh on: one for carnivores doused in a hearty chicken-and-duck sauce, and a vegetarian version marrying mushroom and miso. When the gravy-and-fries pas de deux isn’t enough, decadent add-ons include foie gras, duck confit, black truffles, and caviar.
“We also drove up to Montreal together to obtain some undisclosed poutine ingredients. I hope we did it right and I hope it really is a shock to the system,” says Hutchins.
Unlike the rest of the menu, the poutine will be available until midnight. Along with an a la carte menu, diners can partake in a $75-per-person, four-course option.
Other dishes on include French bistro classics “put through an LSD filter,” says Hutchins. Traditional nods to Parisian fare includes lobster, escargot, duck breast, and venison tartar with shrimp toast. There’s also a serious Canada-sourced seafood program with oysters, razor clams, scallops, and other rotating options.
Naturally, an indulgent seafood tower is available. And where other French restaurants may proffer foie gras macarons to end a meal, Hutchins swaps out the delicate cookie for a truly North American replacement: a Twinkie. Another tongue-in-cheek ending is the “Trois Eclairs Une Aventure Stupide”, a selection of three eclairs, including one that receives a shower of champagne dust.
Le Mont Royale’s joie de vivre is in line with other new restaurants eschewing moderation, like Royal Sands Social Club. A post-pandemic world is reason to celebrate, adds Jefferson.
“Taking serious things and making them fun and playful. We could probably do the same menu in a pretentious space, but you wouldn’t have nearly as good of a time,” he says.