Tunnel Espresso Bar, A Hidden Gem
It’s a minuscule commercial space located in an underground passageway connecting two shopping malls downtown Montreal: the Eaton Center and Place Ville Marie known as PVM. To the right, there’s a cellphone repair store, a boutique selling suits for men with price tags that are a bit too ordinary is located immediately across and to the left, it may have been a vegetarian food-to-go type of business or another boutique selling clothes and accessories for women. To make a long description short, this corridor comes to life only during the week between 8AM and 5PM when professionals and shoppers alike, make their way from one side of the street to the other without having to go outside. Businesses close in a matter of a year or so. The only ones that survive from the lack of exposure and interest from the passersby are where inexpensive lunches can be bought quickly: pizza, pre-rolled sushi and an express version of this Korean restaurant that make delicious bibimbap.
When Tunnel Espresso Bar first opened its sliding doors, I was unimpressed and thought there was no way they would make it. It looked like an extra storage space for the neighbouring stores. Three baristas can fit comfortably behind the rolling counter that they pull out every morning to install a tray of daily baked goods and their cash register along with an extra table for the milk, cream and jars of biscotti. It’s still be pretty tight with a few elbows thrown here and there occasionally if not careful. At night, the counter is rolled back into the closet-like space and the routine starts again the next morning. My concern was the absence of tables and chairs for the customers. Where are we supposed to sit to enjoy our latte or espresso? Is this place supposed to be a get-your-coffee-and-go coffee shop? Indeed it was. Two years later, this espresso bar is still running strong, and has been praised on many occasions in blogs and newspapers for its coffee…and staff. Nobody likes to be wrong so I had to stop by last month to see for myself what the fuss was all about.
First of all, the staff is simply delightful. You get to the counter, ask for the coffee that you want and the barista is happy to be there to take your order. She’s in a good mood, she’s smiling and she’s dedicated to making you the perfect cup of wake-me-up with an artsy foam motif as a finishing touch. The drink is served in a modest white paper cup with “Tunnel Espresso Bar” stamped on the side in blue, similar to their neon sign.
Secondly, the coffee itself tastes heavenly. I’m not too much of an espresso connoisseur; I’d usually get a latte or cappuccino with almond milk for the taste. Whoever said coffee beans from McDonalds or Tim Hortons were the best clearly has an ordinary palette. The flavour within each sip literally makes you feel like your coffee is hugging you but from the inside. It’s not watered down. You can taste every distinctive element of your cup of joy: the coffee, the milk, sugar…
Last but not least, the baked goodies of the day! Who doesn’t like a fresh croissant, muffin, cookie or even cannoli (on Fridays only) to go with their coffee? Not this girl. It adds a little bit more love to your experience. You would be crazy to say no to LOVE! :)
After the first time, I got hooked. Every now and then when time would allow me to venture off my path to work, I’d stop by for a cappuccino before heading to the office or in the afternoon for a little boost to finish the day. I like that their coffee is beautiful and uncomplicated; just the way I prefer everything to be. By the looks of occasional lineups, others share the same opinion too.
Wishing you an awesome last day of the week and an amazing cup of coffee!
Tunnel Espresso Bar
1253 McGill College (Tunnel Level)