MONTREAL -- A beloved institution passes four decades of operation this year serving quality French food in the Plateau with unpretentious style and a quality beverage pairing.

The menu at L'Express hasn't changed much in 40 years with its fine selection of beef tartar, steak frites, veal kidney and other very French foods.


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Robert Gendron has worked behind the bar since the early days.

"We have the chance to have a nice collection of wine for almost 40 years," said Gendron, who helps manage the wine cellar with its impressive 11,000 bottles.

L'Express serves around 400 to 600 people per day from 8 a.m. to 3 in the morning.

Chef Jean-Francois Vachon's bustling kitchen keeps everything fresh such as the bone stock that's prepared daily, kidneys delivered and served almost immediately, and even the desserts prepared in house.

"It's not pretentious," said Vachon. "It's pretty easy to understand. If you want good steak, you have good steak and that's it, very simple."

For four decades, the restaurant has operated with a simple concept: everyone can eat there every day, no matter their budget.

"When they first opened the restaurant, Collette and Pierre wanted it to be like a service publique," said manager and co-owner Josee Prefontaine.

The prices have gone up, but so has the demand.

Some regulars come to L'Express every day.

"Sometimes with friends, I come at the table, but most of the time I'm alone and I come at the comptoir," said Denis Cormier, who has been dining at the restaurant since it opened, and eats at the restaurant four or five days a week.

"For me, coming here for eating it's more than to eat. It feeds my soul," he said.