Independent Cinemas, Serene Walks, and a Haven for ‘Coffee Snobs’: The Eclectic Offerings in Montreal

benedek / Getty Images

By naming Léuli Eshrāghi as its first full-time curator of Indigenous Art, the 163-year-old Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is taking a fresh approach to Indigenous culture. 

It’s a new position for Canada’s oldest art museum, but not the first Montreal stint for Australian-born Eshrāghi, self-described as “a member of the Sāmoan clans Seumanutafa and Tautua, as well as a person of Persian, Cantonese, and European descent.”

After post-doctoral studies at Montreal’s Concordia University in 2019, Eshrāghi worked as a curator across Canada and Australia, and has exhibited their own art at museums including the Tate Modern in London.

At the MMFA, Eshrāghi hopes to “enrich the collection and be useful to local communities. I want to pay more attention to artists in and around Montreal.”

Their adopted home city may surprise visitors, Eshrāghi tells Penta. “Everyone thinks Montreal’s firmly bilingual, in French and English. But it’s actually very multilingual. Everybody here effortlessly switches between a third and fourth language.” 

Eshrāghi, 37, speaks five:  Samoan, French, English, Spanish, and Creole from Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

Here are Eshrāghi’s picks for exploring the finer things in Montreal.

Léuli Eshrāghi of the Montreal Museum of Fine Art.

Rhett Hammerton


I favor the same places whether I’m meeting someone for work or meeting up with friends. Tiradito is a contemporary Peruvian restaurant downtown. The classic ceviche is out of this world. And Gia is a great restaurant and wine bar in the southwest neighborhood of Saint-Henri. I love the octopus.  


Le Système, in the Villeray/Jean Talon Market neighborhood north of downtown, close to where I live. They’ve got amazing live music and DJ gigs. There’s a great menu of bar food and a smart drinks list. I always have the Sons of Wine Soulagraphie, a terrific white wine from Alsace. 

In the Latin Quarter, there’s L’Idéal, which also has a great bar menu, terrific cocktails, and natural wines. I always have the Naturalmente Frizzante, a Venetian sparkling wine. L’Idéal is easy to get to from the museum, so we often go there after work.  

More: Trading Mansions Sounds Like a Dream. It’s Also a More Sustainable Way to Travel.


The Lachine Canal runs through the southwest part of downtown. It’s just beautiful, with nice parks, ice cream places, cafes, and bars on both sides. You can also rent bikes. I love it for listening to a podcast on a long walk.. Saint-Henri’s one of the neighborhoods near the canal, and I love showing people around there. It’s got great little bars and cafes, and some of the best street art in Montreal.

Mont-Royal, the mountain in the middle of Montreal, is also great for walks. There are two circuits, and one of them is quieter. But you have to beware of the snow cover in winter. 


For art—aside from the MMFA—I enjoy the MAC [Musee d’Art Contemporain], Montreal’s contemporary art museum. I like the shows they present. There are two terrific independent spaces in Montreal that I follow. The Centre Clark, northeast of downtown, supports a lot of up-and-coming artists. And Daphne, just east of the Mile End neighborhood, is Quebec’s first Indigenous arts center. It’s named for Daphne Odjig, the late Indigenous painter and printmaker. 


My partner and I just moved here, so we were going to MUST a lot—it’s a Quebecois furniture company. For clothing, I go to Simons, a big Quebec department store. And when I want scents for the home, I stop at Aesop. 


Montreal still has great independent cinemas. Cinema Moderne, on Boulevard St-Laurent, was founded in 2018. Cinema Beaubien, in the northeast part of the city, dates back to 1937, and it’s in a beautiful Art-Deco building. We should support these theaters—they’ve come close to closing, and people have rallied to save them. I love the experience of seeing a film there, where you’re one of 20 or 30 people in the audience. 


I’ve stayed at Maison Sainte-Therese in Old Montreal, and it was quite plush. I also enjoyed the Hotel Griffintown, which has fully equipped apartments. The William Gray, near the Old Port, is very comfortable, and speaks to the history here. 


I’m from Australia, and we’re coffee snobs. Almost every morning on the way to work, I stop at Cafettierra, a real Italian coffee bar with real espresso. It’s near the museum. If I’m meeting people, I’ll suggest Café Parvis, near the Place des Arts performance complex. The coffee’s really good, and there’s a bar next door, Furco, owned by the same people. You can have your coffee meeting, then go straight to happy hour. 

Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox, everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.