"Le Mal Nécessaire" didn't always have consistent cocktails. Lets just say that some bartenders relied on free pour and didn't exactly have the eye for it.
That never happened when Val Chagnon was behind the bar.
Val was a bit of a good luck charm. I used to warn my guests that, while it was one of the best cocktail bars in the city, sometimes the quality was a bit off depending on the bartender. There was always an added "If Val's there, then we're good".
It goes without saying that I was a bit sad when I learned that Val quit Le Mal Nécessaire to go to a restaurant. A japanese peruvian fusion restaurant?
Why would I go for cocktails at a restaurant?
Fortunately, Val is starting to be a known quantity in Montreal and when I heard she was part of the Nacarat team I immediately paid attention.
Nacarat is a new Bar in the Queen Elizabeth. It was opened last July in the big Queen Elizabeth revamp.
The whole place looks very retro and has a definite "70's lounge" vibe. A big bar act as the anchor of the room and is surrounded by an assortment of classy couches and chairs.
The crowd is very "business 5 à 7" and range from 25 to 50. The place will become a hub for groups and individuals looking to have an after hour cocktail.
The room is not too loud and I couldn't hear any music (although some lounge music would have been perfect to complement the design). Is is pretty spacious, airy and is a great place to sit down, relax and discuss.
The cocktails are variants on classics. They are very well executed but, at 16$, they are maybe 20% more expensive than what I expect to pay for a similar cocktail in another bar (usually they go from 10 to 12$), There's nothing there that you wouldn't find at Midway and I wouldn't put their cocktail list in the same league as "Le Mal Nécessaire".
I enjoyed the "angus knows", a very light cocktail that reminded me of a sour (when done with egg white) or a tradewind cocktail (essentially a gin sour).
I loved the brulée Galliano meringue on top of the "Mr.White" but the "fruity" profile was pretty common.
The old fashionned was fair but classic.
The Negronen had a very nice presentation (presented in a smoky glass box) but I didn't try it.
They have a very nice Champagne section (would you mind a glass of Piper-Heidsick tête de cuvée for 95$?) but outside Champagne and their Tête de cuvée there's nothing (no crémant, no cava, no small producer). Their cheapest glass of bubbly was 23$.
Their beer selection is small but well built. A bit expensive maybe but that's on par for the course.
I wasn't blown away by their wine selection. A lot of french stuff. They had a 12$ glass of Pinot Grigio Robert Mondavi and that's just lazy... Why not have a McDonald's burger in your tapas section while you are at it? No obscure cépage or producer. Nothing new or sexy. My friend was surprised to learn there was Marsannay by the glass (it was 30$).
Overall I really liked the place. I would not celebrate my birthday there or go do any serious drinking but I will come back with co-workers and friends for cocktails and 5@7. The space is elegant, comfortable, stylish and tasteful.
The Mal Nécessaire is still the gold standard for cocktails for me but it is often too crowded (not a problem with Nacarat yet), the bar is way smaller, the tables are not super comfortable and the noise level is often a bit too high (DJ on weekends?). Plus the music is really bad.
Big in Japan Bar is still my favorite "ambiance" bar but you can't go there in groups larger than 3 people since the whole space is essentially one big bar.
I recommend you visit Nacarat before it becomes too popular to get in.