Disappointed by dwindling revenues and an exorbitant rent on St-Denis Street, a restaurant owner moved his business to Rosemont and found success.
Clients followed the small upscale bistro Chez Chose from the Plateau to its new location on Cartier and Bélanger Street corner last year. And why wouldn’t they? An authentic, locally-sourced and of-the-season food defines Robert Martin’s and Manon Nadeau’s family owned enterprise.
Marie-France Desrosiers, Nadeau’s daughter and cook, who smokes her meat, prepares fresh blood pudding and decides the night’s menu every day, might just be the reason behind the restaurant’s success. One can always find something interesting on an ever-changing black chalkboard, where foie gras and rabbit often sit right along vegan meals. Martin merely considers himself as a representative for Desrosiers’s cuisine. “She makes the good stuff, and I sell it,” he said.
Chez Chose’s old place on St-Denis Street between Mont-Royal and Villeneuve was a nightmare for the owners. “It was frigid in winter, and it needed lots of renovations,” Martin said. Chez Chose had been there for five years, and they were thinking about moving elsewhere. Their landlord told them their rent would be raised to almost twice what they were paying. That was all Martin needed for a new start.
The Rosemont location was far from perfect. It had been vacant for two years, and it showed. Cables dangled from the ceiling, walls were torn apart, and a thick layer of dust and filth covered everything. However, rent was half what they were paying on St-Denis, and a necessary kitchen appliance, the exhaust hood, was already there. It was full of potential, and the family trio made of it a very charming place. Hardwood and recycled materials complement each other, and some rustic details like the stretched skin of a black bear on one of the walls add to the cozy ambiance.
There’s a sparkle in Martin’s eyes as he remembers the moment he made the decision to move there. “It was a sunny day. I was driving around the borough, and you know, I looked at the cars and houses here, and I just knew these people had the means for and wanted the kind of experience we offer.” He was right: the bistro is jam-packed every night, and he already is taking reservations for Valentine’s Day.
Martin does not think he has competition in the area. “We are in a different league,” he said. He added that the only other restaurant in his ballpark would be the well-known Chez Régine Café on Sunday mornings for the brunch. “People wait in line outside Chez Régine, even in bad weather. That is what I want to see here,” Martin said.
Excellent food is not his only strategy to make his way in the market. He has hired a social media consultant to take charge of Chez Chose’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts. “She is a young blogger with quite a following, and she is brilliant at it,” Martin said. “And anyway, I do not have enough time nor the will to put in all the effort I would need to get the same results.” He had doubts at times of the pertinence of a social media presence. “But every time I feel it is not worth it, a new client comes through the door saying he learned about us on Twitter or Instagram! This is always going to be so weird to me. I am a bit of a dinosaur with computers.”