I happily slink through a buzzing crowd of patrons as I make my way to our table. We heard that the Holts Café was a hot spot for business lunches and mid-afternoon shopping breaks, but the sheer Pac-man-like shuffling to reach the table really drives the point home. This is the place to be.
As conversation floats around me, I scan over the menu and compile a mental list of standouts that make my mouth water just reading the description. It is a lengthy list, but I manage to make up my mind and choose the warm goat cheese salad, which amounts to a pile of watercress, pecans and apples drizzled with a warm maple and apple cider vinaigrette. We also select an order of the truffle-oil potato chips and chives for the table since this appears to be the dish locals crave and the server pushes it as a must.
In the meantime, while I anxiously await our server’s return, I jump into the chatter my girlfriends are having about the decor and atmosphere. Holts Café is nestled on the first floor of Holt Renfrew, Montréal’s luxury fashion destination for more than 175 years, and has a primped and polished modern design. Sitting just outside the women’s fashion area, I ogle the latest collections from Burberry, Theory and Judith & Charles while noshing on my delectable lunch. It is the perfect playground for my fashion-focused girlfriends and me to fuel up before we dive in wallet first. But we aren’t in this alone.
Clearing our plates and licking our lips, in walks our shopping guide for the day, Carrie MacPherson, who is affectionately described by one of the ladies as “Montréal’s own Carrie Bradshaw.” I spot Carrie as she elegantly saunters through the crowd as if on a runway in an outfit we would all happily steal and a glamorous necklace to top it off. Introductions are made and instantly I know we are all in for a legendary shopping and city tour.
And so, I asked Carrie to pass along her top shopping spots, most adored spas, and delicious restaurants picks to you in this happy girls guide to Montréal.
Often spotted running in heels from event to event or discovering new restaurants for her e-zine, www.zurbaines.com, jet-setter Carrie is happiest in Montréal, whether at a cocktail party, unwinding at a spa or shopping at one of her favorite boutiques for her next party outfit.
“I love Montréal for its joie de vivre attitude. We live to eat, drink and play. Creativity is omnipresent – there’s a festival, concert or party everywhere you turn. And we communicate in our own language, combining English and French in the same sentence.” — Carrie MacPherson
“A carefully curated boutique, owned by a local designer, which is a must for affordable local fashion and souvenirs like toques and bags (cross-body and messenger).”
“Houses Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Prada and Hermès boutiques. What’s not to love?”
“For the girly-girls with an excellent selection of denim.”
“The only boutique belonging to this online destination for carefully curated luxury fashion.”
“The designer duds, like Dries Van Noten and Marni, are displayed like an exhibit in a contemporary art gallery.”
The Want Apothecary
“I find this to be Montreal’s most aesthetically pleasing boutiques. It is filled with brands such as; Acne, Filippa K, Nudie Jeans, Maison Kitsuné and, naturally, WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie (the house brand of high-end handbags and accessories). The boutique is owned by twin brothers and renowned accessory designers, Dexter and Byron Peart.”
“Now part of the Holt Renfrew family and just down the street, Ogilvy carries names like Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren and Marie Saint-Pierre (a local Montreal designer).”
“Maison BIRKS is the Canadian equivalent to Tiffany’s and the sparkles seen in the window displays are sure to suck women right into the store. It is also a great place to grab an afternoon tea or brunch at Café Birks.”
“A spa on a boat, moored in the Old Port, with four stories of spa pleasure. They also have a chic bistro and aesthetic services if anyone needs an express mani pedi!”
Scandinave Spa Vieux-Montréal
“Offers an intensely relaxing atmosphere and amazing smoothies.”
“A short cab ride from Old Montréal – this spa is on Nun’s Island and is an oasis in nature but contemporary with all the services you want in a spa, including a bistro and aesthetic services (they use Shellac so you can jump right back in the water).”
AmeriSpa – Hôtel Le Crystal
“Excellent mani-pedi, massage services and their hot tub overlooks the city – amazing view!”
Rouge Nail Bars
“Get your nails done while catching up on your Sex and the City episodes.”
“I eat here all the time! The Niçoise salad and the truffle chips are my go-tos.”
Foodlab in the Quartier des spectacles
“Original menu items, fun ambience and affordable prices.”
Brunch at Communion
“Perfect location in the Old Port area with a long list of delicious meal options.”
Dominion Square Tavern
“It’s like stepping back in time and has the best gin fizz in town! It is a long-standing favorite of mine.”
“Great spot to go out with a group of women – great cocktails, Japanese tapas and sushi, chic decor and ambiance.”
“Chic gourmet dinner spot for women who appreciate gastronomy.”
“Excellent food, ambiance and wine – for a nice, fancy, but not stuffy dinner.”
WHERE TO STAY
Book a room at Hôtel Le Germain. The rooms are full of luxurious comforts (including power outlets directly next to the bed!) and the amenities are exceptional. Call 1.877.333.2050 to make reservations.
WHAT TO PACK
Black Flats by CH Carolina Herrera
Infinity Neon Pink by A Peace Treaty $220
Mini Shield Earrings by PUSHMATAaHA $89
Bitossi Clutch by Kelly Wearstler $495
Lewis by SHAUNS $260
Men’s Neutral Chukka by CH Carolina Herrera
Ornella – Python by Love, Alex $4,200
Delman Darci by Delman $598