What is it?
Launched earlier this year, No. 1 Gaoler’s Mews is a restaurant-within-a-restaurant by the team at L’Abattoir, which hosts the dinner once a month.
What’s the big deal?
With its French-influenced West Coast food, L’Abattoir was a finalist in the Georgia Straight’s 2017 Golden Plates Award for Best Fine Dining Restaurant. It does things differently than most upscale restos: while it executes food and service at an extremely high level, the feel is relaxed—kind of informal formal.
Inspired by similar events in London and New York, the Gaoler’s Mews event is a one-of-a-kind dining experience for just eight guests in a small, standalone building behind the resto (see below). Diners share a long high-top table, seated theatre-style, each with a front-row seat for the culinary action unfolding before their eyes: L’Abattoir chefs prepare the 10-course meal right in front of them.
Throughout the evening, you have the chance to chat not only to your neighbours but also to the hosts: restaurant co-owners Paul Grunberg and chef Lee Cooper, as well as restaurant director Lisa Haley.
You’re encouraged to ask any of them as many questions as you want, and they’re keen to share stories, too. Haley in particular has all kinds of cool tales behind the wines she’s chosen to pair with each course and life in the industry in general.
Some words to describe the overall experience: fun, intimate, educational, interactive, dynamic, filling, lively, exclusive, delicious, experimental, indulgent, special occasion, splurge.
What the hell is “Gaoler’s Mews”?
That’s the name of tiny alley where the building sits, behind L’Abattoir, in a cobble-stoned courtyard. The city’s first jail stood in the area. The prison burned down in Vancouver’s great fire of 1886 and was later replaced by a fire hall.
How do you pronounce “gaoler”?
Think “J”, not hard “G”. In other words, it’s not “gowler” or “galer” but rather “jailer”.
What’s on the menu?
It changes every time, but here’s a sampling of dishes from the most recent dinner on October 27:
- Canapes including sea urchin on rice cake; foie gras royale with quince and sesame seeds; and L’Abattoir’s signature baked Pacific oyster with whipped garlic butter and Burgundy truffle (killer!), all paired with Marie Demets nv Pinot Noir Tradition Brut Champagne.
- Pasta with pumpkin, saffron, and Acadian sturgeon caviar paired with Chateau Musar 2006 white (made of ancient grape varieties of Obaideh and Merwah) from Lebanon.
- Smoked tuna Nicoise paired with Truchard Vineyards’ 2014 Roussanne Carneros from Napa Valley.
- Preserved-apricot pavlova paired with Mia Amata Amaro from Vancouver’s Odd Society Spirits.
Have any celebrities ever been there?
Yes. Matt Damon as well as Chris Martin and the boys from Coldplay.
How do you get tickets?
The recurring soirées sell out in seconds, putting the competition for seats right up there with getting your kids into daycare or French immersion or finding a decent rental apartment in Vancouver.
You’ve got to sign up for alerts then, when the day comes, install the second hand on your desktop clock and keep hitting Refresh so you can click on “order” as soon as he tickets go on sale.
$275 per person including wine and spirits pairings, tax, gratuity, a mailed invite, and a goodie bag.
The next event, on November 27, is sold out; the one after that is December 31. See www.gaolersmews.com/. Take a cab.