L’Abattoir chefs Lee Cooper and Jack Chen are ready to unveil their new restaurant project at 181 Carrall Street in the heart of Gastown. We’ve been charting the course of Coquille Fine Seafood ever since it was just an idea and paid the address one last visit before it launched for friends and family over the weekend. The official opening is Tuesday, February 13.
The place had really come together since my last walk-through a few weeks ago. When I arrived yesterday around noon, I found Jack hunched over a laptop at the bar and Lee glued to his cell phone, so I walked the big, 4,000 sqft restaurant on my own. Several of the tables were already set and floor staff were busy to-ing and fro-ing with the thousand little tasks that need attention prior to launch; menus required printing and stuffing, glassware and stemware awaited their inaugural wash and polish, and so on. Their final health inspection was imminent. It was all hands on deck.
The space looks beautiful. The interior is a lot more elegant than I imagined it would be. The sharp edges of its construction of it have been smoothed away with soft fabrics, curves and colour, and the concept is harkened to throughout with a repeated fish scale motif. The menu looks great, too. Hats off to Glasfurd & Walker — the branding/identity is super tight.
Mmm, read that menu again. That scallop gratin; the stuffed clams; the Petrale Sole with Sauce Supreme; the fish and chips; those crab and shrimp rolls! I can’t wait to sink my teeth into all of it!
Lee and Jack are set to turn on the stoves and start cooking today (Friday), so I trust there’s a staff tasting/orientation this afternoon and evening. The friends and family dry-run they’re doing this Saturday will help them work out any service and flow kinks, and though the official launch is being heralded for Tuesday, I’ve been told there’s a chance they’ll softly open on Sunday and/or Monday as well, but don’t quote me on that.
One thing is for certain about the place, there is no trace of Secret Location, the restaurant Coquille is replacing. Not even a whisper. A consistently full, buzzing room of happy diners eating delicious food will be the ultimate test of its success, but I think designer David Hepworth (who also dreamed up L’Abattoir) has done a fabulous job in making us forget what it once was. That’s no small achievement.
I expect Coquille will be an exciting, welcome addition to Gastown’s food scene, which could definitely use an independent shot in the arm. I say that because corporate chains have been eyeing the neighbourhood for some time, and they’re starting to circle with greater intensity. With the Joey people recently installing a “Local” next door (formerly Chill Winston) and another behemoth swinging – and thankfully missing – on an address close by, the writing is definitely on the wall.
Until then (and after, damn it), we bend elbows and raise glasses at the smaller spots, and remember Coquille’s short and sweet bar program, which is being set up by L’Abattoir alum (and long-time Scout contributor) Shaun Layton. It’s a clean card of classics like the Boulevardier and the French 75, plus they have Negronis and Margaritas pouring on tap. The wine list is pretty slick too.
Oh, and I almost forgot…there’s a 30 seat patio! Of course it’s hard to imagine dining outside right now but the sun is coming back, and when it does this will be a sweet, shaded place to enjoy a summer afternoon and evening.
Take a look…