What is it about Lea (4922 Sherbrooke Ouest) that’s so seductive?
Sure, it’s easy to point out the smooth oak wood ceiling that looks like it came from Ralph Lauren’s personal yacht, the intimate space, the raw textures, or even the transparent mezzanine floor that gives the perfect voyeuristic touch.
But it’s also that certain je ne sais quoi – that hot-without-trying vibe that makes Lea so appealing.
JF Corriveau is one of those people who just gets it. Easy, fun, simple, and sexy – that’s how Montrealers like to dine.
He did it at Grinder, again at Le Hashoir, and now he’s coming back to bring Montreal the perfect hat trick. Just one step into Lea, his swank new sweet spot in Westmount, and you’ll be oohing and ahhing before you even get to your table.
Before we give you the official tour, let’s get a little backstory. It was designer extraordinaire Zebulon Perron, JF’s longtime go-to design guru, who conceived the unique and intimate space that makes Lea so special. “This was one of the most challenging spaces,” says Zebulon . “A real mental exercise.”
“We were working with a small space so we had to be very creative. Sometimes you get a great idea and you just go with it.”
The idea? A yacht cabin – where tight, narrow spaces imbue comfort and luxury. “We used a lot of veneered walnut in a nice, dark wood pattern, luxurious textures, and the highest quality finishes everywhere.”
The main level features a sleek wood table with banquette seating, enveloped in windows and white painted exposed brick. Above, a mirrored glass ceiling is lit with retro stage lights and a bespoke hanging lamp – a DIY project by JF himself. “I came here last night to make sure the lighting was perfect and it felt a bit dark in this corner. So I made this fixture, and I think it turned out great.”
One floor up is the bar level – a breathtaking polished Carrera marble-toped central bar is the focus of the action. Large banquette tables are the ideal spot for a large group to kick back in comfort.
The 4th level is for those who like a side of adrenaline with their dinner. The floor, the reverse side of the main level’s mirrored ceiling, is completely transparent – a trippy dining experience that doubles as the ultimate people-watching spot.
Finally, the bottom level is an open kitchen where Chef de cuisine Matthew Doyle will do his thing in front of a sprawling chef’s table. Exposed rock walls add yet another too-cool texture to the space.
“In Montreal, people’s taste is very educated, in food but also in design,” says Zebulon. “In fact, it’s really getting quite competitive.”
For Zebulon, who has conceived the spaces of well-known Montreal hotspots such as Furco, Philémon, Grinder, Hashoir, and Buvette Chez Simone, it’s all about people’s experience in each section of the space.
“I look at this corner and I ask, what happens when someone is sitting there? What makes the experience special?”
Once you take your seat at one of the industrial-chic chairs or retro-vibed banquette seats, it’s time to feast. The Lea kitchen offers an array of Spanish and Portuguese inspired dishes that are anything but traditional.
“It’s not tapas,” says Chef Matthew, “It’s very small or very large dishes. Too large not to share or too small to have just one. So you end up tasting and trying, eating off everyone’s plate.”
Think: whole fried chili-cinnamon prawns with honey, coriander, and almonds. Sautéed wild mushrooms served with a poached egg. Portuguese brioche and “herbes salées”. Braised lamb shoulder done in chili-espresso sauce with pecans, pickled cucumbers, and fingerling potatoes.
“To create a successful restaurant, you have to have great décor, great ambiance, great food, and great staff. If you are missing one of those pieces, it’s just not going to work,” explains JF.
Unique, inviting, and with an original menu to boot, Lea clearly has all its pieces in place. It’s a breath of fresh air for Westmounters, who will surely be clamoring to get a seat as word of the city’s new hot spot spreads.