When talking about food porn, Universel is the pay-per-year, high definition stuff. While it may come across as fancy and formal, the tacky 80’s music videos and movie clips that constantly play in every corner of the place erase that impression fairly quickly.
Whether you’re seated in the hip and trendy interior with cramped benches and designer overhead lights, or the simple, classy terrace that juts out onto the sidewalk on Peel, two things are guaranteed– the first being, you won’t have much privacy or space. This isn’t the place for an intervention… or at least an effective intervention (like the one my sister’s roommate was unfortunately seated next to). The second guarantee is that the dish in front of you is going to be absolutely delicious.
Food: I’d been there a few times before with family and friends, and the food never disappoints. This time, I went with a friend who could put the portions into perspective, since I have a pretty small appetite. While Universel has your run-of-the-mill breakfast options like eggs Benedict and omelettes, they also have a couple of unique additions to the menu. The first thing any newcomer should try if they stop by before 5pm (or 7pm at the St. Denis location) is hands-down the “Mexican Breakfast”– a burrito filled with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and beans and topped with salsa and guacamole with a side of potatoes and fruit. It’s incredible and an exotic alternative to the usual eggs and toast morning meal.
Since I’d already had that before, I tried the “Pizza Breakfast”, which is a little deceiving because of the loose definition of “pizza”. It’s a foundation of naan-like bread with apples and bacon bits on top, smothered in maple syrup. If this sounds strange, just wait until you taste it! It’s without a doubt the oddest, yet most scrumptious meal I’ve ever had for breakfast. The dish also comes with two eggs, potatoes and fruit. My friend wolfed down a “Universel Breakfast”, which is a pretty standard combo breakfast, and approved of the portion and quality. This place can satisfy anybody’s appetite!
Atmosphere: While I can’t speak for the Universel on St. Denis, I’d expect it to be similar to its downtown sibling– that being, a sea of bustling waiters and busboys, just like the atmosphere of the Golden Square Mile in which it resides.
Service: It tends to vary, which is the only big downside to Universel. Getting your order can take anywhere between 5-45 minutes, regardless of the amount of people in the restaurant. Again, if you’re planning to get breakfast, lunch or dinner, it’s best to reserve in advance, since there can also be a pretty long wait at the door.
Price: The breakfast is affordable, but the other meals are on the steeper side.
Location: Montreal is blessed with two Universels– there’s one spot near the Peel metro station and another about a block from the Sherbrooke station.
Despite the sometimes unreliable service, it’s definitely worth checking out for any meal at any time of day!
Sam Ergina is a Food and Drink contributor at The Main.
Photos by Universel. All rights reserved.