Imagine a restaurant where you can grab a freshly brewed cup of coffee and baked goods for breakfast, and then come back to the same place later that day for dinner and a glass of wine? It’s now possible at the recently-opened NELLI Cafe and Vin Nature, which is located at 104 St. Paul Street West, in the atrium of the Hotel Nelligan in Old Montreal.
By the Experience Old Montreal umbrella group of hotels, restaurants, bars and spas, the NELLI is an interchangeable coffee counter and sophisticated wine bar that offers its customers a chance to enjoy a house blend cup of coffee, a grab-to-go lunch or a glass of fine wine in an approachable, modern atmosphere.
According to Alexandre Cossette, the Restaurant Marketing Manager for Experience Old Montreal, the reason behind the creation of NELLI was to renovate the original space, which was the hotel’s bar since 2002, because it was quieter during the day. They wanted to give the atrium area a new look that would make it a much more attractive common space for guests and locals, as well as turn it into a much livelier space throughout the day.
“The mix of cafe during the day and wine bar at night seemed to fit, perfectly, offering food and beverage for every part of the day. We’ve seen a number of cafe/wine bars in other cities such as New York, London and Miami, including within hotels, and there are some great spots in Montreal as well,” said Mr. Cossette. “It’s a great way to optimize the use of valuable lobby space. We spent a lot of time on the decor with CAMDI Design to make sure to give the space new life, while matching it with the Hotel Nelligan’s warm luxury. A big part of the end result is all the greenery added to the atrium with the help of Chantal Royer Design.”
For starters, the coffee offered at NELLI is prepared by a team of experienced local baristas, who have worked in conjunction with Cafe Union to put together a unique kind of coffee program that has not only a special house brand, but also a large selection of third wave choices for espressos or pour over. Speaking of espressos, NELLI has become the first establishment in Quebec to feature the RS1 espresso machine by Rancilio Specialty, which utilizes the latest in cutting edge brewing technology.
What Mr. Cossette finds so impressive about the RS1 machine, which was the inspiration for NELLI’s house blend, is how it allows a high level of customization when it comes to making that morning cup of coffee. “The RS1 allows you to program the temperature so precisely that it can change during the extraction,” he said. “Also, you can even program different setting profiles for different beans, which can be quickly selected by the barista per shot.”
The NELLI’s food menu, which was prepared by its executive chef Kosmas Sfaelos, has been hand-picked or home-made, and each item has been tasted and tested to ensure the customer has a varied of selection to choose from. It ranges from pastries, homemade brioche buns, smoked salmon (lox) on bagels from St. Viateur, breakfast sandwiches, French crullers, buttery viennoiseries, healthy salads, French roasted chicken, oysters, cheese and charcuterie and shishito peppers. As well, there is a selection of natural wines that are hand picked by world renowned somelier Adrien de Philip.
“The objective was to offer great choices for every part of the day, for different types of diets and appetites, as well as for quick grab and go or more laid back sit down dining,” said Mr. Cossette. “We wanted to make sure that no matter what we put on the menu …. it would be elevated to the same high standards.”
When you walk into NELLI, you will be impressed with its new look that exudes a sense of comfort and luxury no matter what time of day you make your visit there. There are plush sofas, banquette seating, a communal high table plus a dark marble cafe counter. There are also plenty of alcoves, plus a a green moss wall in the inner courtyard, which surrounds the existing fountain that is filled with plants. And the NELLI has complied with strict COVID-19 guidelines to ensure its customers a safe dining experience.
“We unfortunately had to open NELLI in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so safety measures were put into place from day one. Luckily, the tables and lounge areas were already pretty spaced out, so we didn’t have to adjust the layout too much,” said Mr. Cossette. “We have added some protective plexi panels at the bar, all baked goods are well shielded, and coffee condiments are offered on demand at the counter. All our staff wear protective gear and clients must disinfect their hands and wear masks while walking to their tables or ordering at the counter.”