L’Abattoir was one of the first—and finest—restaurants to sprout up among the cobblestones of Vancouver’s original city centre during its rapid gentrification 10 years ago. The French-inspired charmer set in an historic brick-and-beam building has kept up with its increasingly posh neighbours (Versace Home et al.) through creative innovations: a sophisticated happy hour with, for example, half-price veal sweetbreads on brioche; an elegant weekend brunch showcasing Hilary Prince’s sensational pastries; and a self-contained private dining facility across the alley at No. 1 Gaoler’s Mews, home to exclusive fundraisers with visiting chefs. (The coveted eight seats are auctioned off to the highest bidders with all proceeds going to the BC Hospitality Foundation.) Since his latest venture, Coquille Fine Seafood, closed in December, Executive Chef Lee Cooper has been playing a bigger role in the kitchen here. Expect keenly contemporary Western European cooking with a nod to international classics (like steak Diane). Chicken gets dressed up in black tie with a stuffing of foie gras and Burgundy truffles, accompanied with morels. A smart new king crab tart buried under potato foam and caviar is giving Cooper’s signature baked oysters some stiff competition.
Photos: ERIC MILIC PHOTOGRAPHY