For this week’s edition of #ThrowbackThursday we look back at the beginnings of West 4th Avenue’s Au Comptoir, first when it when knee deep in construction and second when it was just a few hours before their first service.
Can you believe it’s been five years since the launch of Au Comptoir? Granted, the transportive space and the staff – led by owners Maxime Bettili, Julien Aubin and chef Daniel McGee – had so much character on opening day that it felt like it had been there forever, but mon dieu…five years.
If you’re unfamiliar with the restaurant, Au Comptoir quickly established itself as a neighbourhood and hospitality industry favourite. It is home to one of the city’s very best burgers (seriously), ridiculously good frites, superb croques, excellent brunches (the omelette aux fines herbes is especially amazing), decadent desserts and pastries, and snappy, professional service. This is what it looked like in the middle of construction followed by a snippet of what I wrote about it when we first got wind of the project in the summer of 2014…
Au Comptoir” should be on every Vancouver food-lover’s radar. The 50 seat restaurant currently under construction at 2278 West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano is being launched by Maxime Bettili and Julien Aubin, two old friends who met at hospitality school in France 17 years ago. The front of house veterans toiled at cafes and brasseries in France before moving to Vancouver nearly five years ago. Aubin has been a fixture at Les Faux Bourgeois in the Fraserhood ever since, while Bettili has worked at Bistro Pastis, Les Faux Bourgeois, Jules Bistro, and The Acorn.
What’s in a name? Au Comptoir translates as “at the counter/bar” — an honorific of the universal restaurant industry practise of always dining at the bar. Oh, and Au Comptoir will sport a gorgeous tin bar, built especially for them in France. The only other one of its kind in Canada is the absolute thing of beauty at Toronto’s Le Select.
What they have planned for the space is not like most French-themed cafe/bistros one readily comes across here across the pond. They’re going to strive for the same kind of cafe-style service that predominates in Paris, which is to say it’ll be open all day, from morning until night, with no reservations. Such establishments are liberating for customers used to New World protocols. One doesn’t feel rushed or guilty for taking up a table for an hour and a half with a good book and a beer. To French servers, refreshment has no check average, and the pace of a guest’s experience is none of their business. Whether you’re in for a bottle of wine with a steak frites or a cafe au lait with a pain au chocolate at 9am or 9pm, service is service.
And this is what it looked like in October of that year, five years ago last week, just hours before their very first friends and family service…