As Melissa Campbell, one of three founders of Montreal’s Santa Barbara restaurant, explains, Saint Barbara is the patron saint to “things like fire, explosions, anything with a spark.” When asked why the restaurant is named after her, Steven Horwood, former owner of the Sugar Refinery in Vancouver and another Santa Barbara founder, answers, “Montreal is always playing with the theme of saints. There are saints everywhere, church spires everywhere.” It seemed a natural choice.
Horwood and Campbell have been working together for over a decade, first at the Sugar Refinery, then at another restaurant in Montreal after moving there 10 years ago. The two knew they worked well together, and with third founder Markus Dresler, opened Santa Barbara in 2012. Currently they are developing an expansion, opening next month, which will offer additional space for smaller groups. The theme for the back room is “a subtle play. The space we have now is for saints, the back is the side for sinners,” she says, with a laugh. “Everyone is welcome everywhere within the restaurant.”
If you were a patron of the Sugar Refinery, you may remember the perogies. Thankfully, the new restaurant has kept up with that tradition and currently offers a well-refined, house-made, whole-wheat perogy dish, complete with red cabbage, russet potato, empire apples, ricotta, and poppy seeds.
Santa Barbara strives for organic ingredients whenever possible, offering a wide range of dishes from beet carpaccio to bison alongside a fantastic list of cocktails. They change the menu three times per year to work with seasonal ingredients. As Campbell points out, “When discussing the produce grown and available in Quebec, we realistically only have three seasons.” The kale salad is a permanent fixture, as are the mussels and perogies, though their recipes and accompaniments change. “Santa Barbara is also a nod to our West Coast roots and ideals regarding balanced diets. Approximately 75 per cent of our menu is vegetarian with a few meat and fish specials available. There is something for everybody.”