It takes a short minute to overcome the Irish Heather nostalgia. The space has been gussied up, but the memories are still there. These pangs quickly fade when the bread basket is delivered with three different options, chief among them being a bacon brioche. Based on that buttery perfection alone, first impressions run high, and if the restaurant doesn't work out in the end, a bakery would be an excellent back-up plan.
The first course of starters continued the well-to-do introduction. The "dungeoness crab and chickpea toast" ($12) is perhaps the most understated of names: a chickpea wafer tower arrives, overflowing with crab custard, bits of crab meat, and a brioche base, as rich and luxurious as one would expect and hope. A soft-poached egg crowns a base of quinoa and swiss chard ($11), with tomato sauce and housemade ricotta rounding out the yolkiness with tang and cream, as rich in flavour as its bold colours implies.
The summer heat leads one to light seafood dishes, and though seafood is not L'Abattoir's sole focus, they clearly have a strength with it. Halibut ($23) is poached, dressed with a garlic sabayon, and served with spinach dumplings, morels and other vegetables, the dish tasting fresh, herbacious, almost vital, with the handful of mussels almost unnecessary. The steamed ling cod fillet ($23) is aqueous, served with celeriac croquettes, glazed celery, tomatoes and artichokes; whereas the halibut is a walk in the garden, the ling cod takes you through the sprinkler.
End things off with the apricot mousse ($10), which comes encased in a soft lemon meringue and a base of shortbread. Take a spoon and tear down those meringue walls, give sweet, sweet freedom to the mousse inside.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the cocktails, which are assuredly a good thing. Restaurants and boutiques may be the first wave of Gastown's gentrification, but vice and alcohol will always remain a constant. One finds it difficult to stroll down that block without finding, among other things, a few drinks in hand, and L'Abattoir's are in the upper echalon of those offered.
As opening jitters go, L'Abattoir has few of them, and if the restaurant has a quiet confidence about it, it's a deserved one. In a city where high-end - still a necessity despite our times - has been left to an old guard, things have settled into a mundane rut. With L'Abattoir, Lee Cooper and company provide new blood and momentum to that scene, and, even at this early stage, it's really their's for the taking.
(The photos, taken by phone, don't really do any justice.)
217 Carrall Street
604 568 1701