The paper finally came off the windows at 309 West Pender Street yesterday afternoon, which is to say the highly anticipated Magnet is ready for its first customers!
The new restaurant and beer parlour is the newest project from the team responsible for Gastown’s iconic Alibi Room and Mt. Pleasant’s popular Brassneck Brewery. It’s been about nine months in the making, with local architecture firm Simcic + Uhrich handling the old bones of the address (formerly EXP Restaurant & Bar), Post Projects doing the branding, Cam Johnson and his Harmony Pacific doing the construction and artist Perrin Grauer responsible for the coloured-triangle motif repeated throughout the interior.
I slipped into the counter-service spot to take a look just before a friends and family service kicked off last night. Right away The Magnet looked and felt like a warm and inviting place for a bite and a sip with friends. The bright entrance and counter area gives way to a voluminous space full of benched booths, communal hightops and a series of centre tables that grow as they near the white chalkboard menu wall. I won’t spoil the whole of it for first timers, but there are lots of cool details to check out so be sure to take your first beer for a stroll around the room. Look for the Dan Siney photo series in the back hall; pick a favourite bathroom (mine is a photo shrine to electromagnetism); and search for the yarn-bombed table legs.
Unfortunately I couldn’t stick around for eats and drinks, but from what I saw of the menu (included in the gallery below) it looks to be anchored by plenty of beer-friendly snacks and hearty mains. I have my eyes on the duck and potato scrumpet; the Two Rivers burger with bacon and cheese; and the polenta with leek gratin and pork shoulder. I wouldn’t say no to some savory pie and sticky toffee pudding, either!
If this is the first you’re hearing about Magnet, here’s a little backstory, excerpted from the Scout piece the broke the good news of its coming back in December:
I spoke with co-owner Nigel Springthorpe in the 3,000 sqft space during the rainstorm yesterday afternoon. He told me that Magnet – that’s the name of the new, beer-focused, counter-service establishment – has been in the works since July. “We’d been looking for the right unicorn spot for 2 to 3 years.” he explained, showing me the plans by local architecture/design firm Simcic + Uhrich while pointing out how the previous tenants had only put in 50 seats. “Our occupancy will be closer to 90.”
It’s a cool looking space that dates back to the area’s boom time between the Great Fire and the First World War — lots of brick and high ceilings. At Nigel’s request, we won’t be publishing any wide-angle shots of the interior during this stage of The Magnet’s development, but I can tell you that it will see a variety of seating situations, from corner cloisters of hideaway deuces and bar height communal tables to a row of wall-hugging booths and window stools.”
A giant beer fridge will hide the large kitchen at the rear of the restaurant, drawing about 30 lines to the bar at the front, which will pour some ciders and wines, but mostly a constantly rotating selection of beer. To round out the drinks list in local and efficient fashion, Nigel says his team has arranged for local distillers Odd Society and Resurrection to pre-batch several cocktails employing their spirits. (It sounds pretty magnetic already.)
The food concept will be unfussy but high quality, developed and executed by chef Paul Finlay. Finlay’s been cooking at Steveston’s Gudrun Tasting Room for over five years, but he and Nigel go way back. Not only was he the first to take over the pans at the Alibi Room when Nigel purchased it some 13 years ago, but he’s also Nigel’s kid’s namesake. Nigel has dropped hints here and there about the Finlay’s menu, but the most I could get out of him yesterday is that we can expect a mix of small plates, share plates, entrees and snacks.
Rejoice, and dig in!