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Delmo, history goes on

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Delmo, the famed Old Montréal restaurant, has just reopened its doors after years of inactivity followed by a renovation that respects the space while amplifying its charms.

Architect Jacques Rousseau (Provencher Roy + associés) supervised the transformation. In the eighties, Rousseau designed the Braque café for the Holder brothers, the present-day owners of Delmo.

You have to head back to the 1860's to understand this space and its spirit. One of three identical buildings, it was first a warehouse store, then, in the twenties, it became a gentlemen's club frequented by businessmen, lawyers and journalists who worked in the area.

In addition to the club, which, according to legend, also housed a brothel, the space included a restaurant-bar. In the fifties however, the services offered and the space were reduced. This is when, for moral and security reasons, the upper floor was condemned. It remained so until the recent renovation.

Those who frequented the space until 2005, the year of the owner's death and its closing, will recognize the two bars that were preserved, the decorative mural and the box beam ceiling. They will be surprised, however, by the large opening onto the back room, now equipped with banquettes and mirrors, by the dominating colour -a spicy, fiery red- and finally, by the immense staircase that leads to a second room and to the kitchen, positioned as though on a theatre stage.

As a counterpoint to this ambiance half way between club and brasserie, Jacques Rousseau designed a lighting scheme composed of a multitude of dispersed light bulbs on hanging tavern-like fixtures and wall sconces. It's an effect that accentuates the music hall and sexy side of the restaurant, as does the huge stained glass sculpture hanging over the middle of the staircase created by Carlitto Dalceggio.

A step back in time and spirit awaits those who walk through the double doors that separate rue Notre-Dame from Delmo. It's like experiencing a change of scenery and complete familiarity all at once.

Translation by Jennifer Edwards