I stepped into L’Abattoir, the sleek French-meets-Northwest restaurant in the Gastown district of Vancouver, British Columbia, on a particularly rainy night. I squished into my seat at the bar, desperate for a cocktail to help me thaw from my cold, damp walk.
L’Abbatoir’s intimate bar and dining room opened to much fanfare in 2010, and by all accounts, it’s still holding down its corner of the always-exciting Vancouver dining scene. Despite its macabre name (l’abattoir is French for slaughterhouse) there’s nothing off-putting or even strictly meaty about the menu.
The food incorporates a range of Pacific Northwest ingredients, like oysters, scallops, salmon, foie gras, halibut, lamb and a fair share of vegetables on beautifully executed plates from owner and Chef Lee Cooper. The bar program is equally strong, with a mix of original cocktails and expertly sourced wines. There’s a standard wine list, plus an ever-changing “reserve” list built of small-batch vintages from around the world.
My meal starts with five baked Pacific oysters, each perched on a bed of sea salt and wearing a sumptuous dollop of whipped garlic butter with a sprinkle of black truffle. Next came a foie gras tart arranged with flower petals, pumpkin seeds and small scoops of pear. The bright fruit perfectly complemented the bites of rich foie gras. Rather than order a filling main dish, I opt for the springtime special: a heap of Northwest-sourced morels on toast, with shaved truffles and miner’s lettuce.
A friend had suggested the avocado gimlet, and I watched the bartender scoop nearly half an avocado into the cocktail shaker and convulse it into a creamy mix of rosemary and olive-infused London Dry gin, lime and Apfelkorn, a slightly sweet, apple-flavored liqueur. I was initially skeptical of the combination, but it went down with almost alarming ease.
L’Abattoir is a delightful place to unwind for an evening, or over weekend brunch. The restaurant’s exposed brick – hinting at the building’s origins as Vancouver’s first jail – contrast with the sleek steel and black-and-white mosaic tile. Dim lighting is offset by large windows looking out toward Gastown’s Victorian buildings. It’s a charming – and delicious – transformation.