Let us take a break from luxury hotels, says the gal – and head to the Westmount area of Montreal. An invitation to lunch with Serge and Nimi Simard is an opportunity too good to miss, but there are another couple of beings around. One is Tamu, the resident African grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus), who has the temperament of a two year old – human, that is. Ignore her for five minutes and she screams like a toddler, squawks and yells and more. She is generally only happy when playing with toys, especially rattles and other noisy things, or when Serge Simard picks her up. She even goes shopping with him.
Like a human, by the way, Tamu needs good fresh vegetables, especially broccoli and kale, and peas. Fortunately there is a chef right here, at home. Baptiste Peupion, the charming Parisian who left Alain Ducasse and other great culinary names to be Executive Chef of Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth (‘The QE’) here in Montreal, is preparing lunch. As it happens the 952-room hotel closed June 18th, 2016, for a year-long extensive renovation, so M. Peupion does have a little time on his hands. He has brought over all the ingredients, including three whole fresh-baked loaves of bread (for four). He starts preparing, in front of us all. First there are small-bites in spoons, say stuffed baby tomatoes, or mélanges of organic vegetables.
Next come salads of longwise-quartered baby Romaine lettuce with herbs. These are followed by tapenade-topped black cod. We have now used up all our cutlery so I thought it was time for dessert but, oh dear, what a social blunder. I ask for a coffee without realising the main course, veal with morels, is still to come (I never did find out what dessert was going to be as I had to leave for a train). We talk about what new restaurants the QE will have. The Beaver Club, the restaurant that was inherited meeting place of members of the club founded 1785 by 19 French Canadian hunters, is no more. Coming in is a massive lobby eating facility, a shopping mall of edibles, with seven counters that include a bakery where the hotel’s own bread will be prepared and baked.
While all the work is going on at this luxury hotel, Serge Simard, who had always dreamed of coming back to work in his home town, is signing up for courses on art history. Nimi Simard has started what she had long dreamed of doing, namely designing silk scarves to beat Hermès at its own game. She designs, and has the silk printed and its edges hand-rolled beside Lake Como. Watch out for Niminimi designs, they are beautiful – as far as I know she has yet to do one featuring parrots but who knows? If the Alexa bag, named for Alexa Chung, put Mulberry’s handbags on the fashionista map, perhaps Tamu could do the same for Niminimi scarves. Meanwhile, see another noisy parrot, Einstein, on this video, below.