Neighbourhood: St. Boniface
Address: 112 Marion St
The best restaurants identify exactly what a neighbourhood is missing and step in to fill it, and it turns out that a modern, Parisienne-style cafe is exactly what Winnipeg’s central French quarter needed. Enter Pauline, a sun-drenched daytime bistro named for historic St. Boniface painter, Pauline Boutal, who was celebrated for her fashion illustrations in the early 20th century.
Inside, pretty honeycomb-tiled floors complement a stylish nude palette; clay-coloured booths are cozied up with plush pillows, and taupe walls are decorated with classic burnished brasserie mirrors and Boutal’s charming Gatsby-era illustrations. Within its first few days of opening, tables were already jam-packed with brunchers eager to try petit dejeuner a new way.
Tartines, fancy toasts a la francaise, have Millennials’ mouths (and eyes) watering with five different Instagrammable variations. As expected, avocado tops the list but gets an elegant upgrade with pickled onions, sweet blistered tomatoes and a perfectly poached egg. An eye-catching prosciutto and pear topped sourdough toast is gussied up with a whipped dollop of creamy chevre. Its pepper-dusted egg wobbles over a generous fold of the cured meat, threatening to burst at any moment. Grainy Dijon infused mayonnaise offers a lovely contrast to sweetness from fresh slices of pear. We’re betting on these tartines quickly becoming the toasts of the town.
Classy comforts reign in the afternoon. Putting an upmarket twist on a Winnipeg classic, Pauline reinvents house-made perogies with a decadent lamb filling, frying them until crisp and serving with a delicious mint crema rather than sour cream. A generous pile of coal-roasted onions compliments each bite with a hit of unexpected smokiness.
Those same onions invigorate a fresh take on traditional French onion soup, served dripping with stretchy Gruyere cheese. A few croutons even manage to magically retain crunch despite swimming in robust broth – a total rarity for soup-soaked bread. Pro tip: sub any side with this soup for a mere two dollars. It’s worth it.
It may not be typical French fare, but the veggie burger is an under-the-radar standout. Mushrooms are the star of this thick patty, keeping the inside moist and the outside super crunchy. Slathered between a soft and buttery brioche bun, jalapeno aioli provides some serious kick to this winning sandwich.
Grabbing a cappuccino to go at the coffee counter on the way out is a must, though it may mean falling prey to the glass display of daily-baked cakes, fruit-filled scones and pastries. Ah, c’est la vie.