A prominent Blood Alley establishment since 2006, Salt Tasting Room closed in August 2021, due to pandemic-induced challenges and escalating rents. At the time, owner Seán Heather safeguarded vital restaurant items – like the wine cellar and custom furniture – along with the hope of reopening in a new, suitable spot.
Earlier this year, Heather discovered the ideal spot for the next phase of Salt Tasting Room at 227 East Pender Street, an address formerly occupied by Shuck Shuck Oyster Bar. The venue had been out of operation since 2021, and its liquor license was expired, but it matched Heather’s vision for the rebirth of Salt, so he jumped on it. After renewing the liquor license (first things first), Heather began reimagining the room. After six months of cleaning, clearing and reconfiguring, the updated space is now prepared to welcome guests.
The last 48 hours of finishing touches were underway when I swung by to visit earlier this week, and the room looked good-to-go, right down to the friendly line of ceramic pigs (donated by former guests) perched atop a waist-high wall of wine crates partitioning the room.
Eight of Salt’s total 25 seats are arranged around four custom designed Brent Comber tables. Originally designed for the Gastown location, these tables now align the window overlooking Pender Street. A long communal table dominates the east side of the room, while the west side features four two-seater tables. Various art pieces (each with a story) adorn the space, including a wall-painting of a hand wearing a Claddagh ring and holding three bottles labelled ‘Poire’, ‘Cidre’, and ‘Pet Nat’, located just inside the entry, next to a cooler loaded with wine.
Clearly, the rebirth of Salt isn’t a carbon copy of its former self. While the Blood Alley Salt location was all concrete, wood and glass, the new Chinatown aesthetic is concrete, wood and glass with vibrant hues of Cherry Red, Orange Wine, and Norman Blue, influenced by Seán and Erin Heather’s recent trip to Paris.
Parisian influences are evident in the menu too (case in point: the smelts served on Nelson The Seagull brioche pictured above), but there will also be dishes nodding to the neighbourhood, such as mushroom dumplings sourced from Kam Wai Dim Sum a few doors up the street, and steamed clams using shellfish straight from Garlock Seafood, next door to the Irish Heather over on Georgia Street. Naturally, guests can expect a rotating variety of cheeses, cured meats, and condiments (the foundation of Salt’s culinary reputation), all of which are showcased on the charcuterie board mounted on the room’s eastern wall…and a generous wine selection.
Doors open at 4pm today (Thursday, November 2nd). Hours will be 4-11pm, Tuesday to Sunday, to start, with a focus on small plates, charcuterie and wine. Eventually, once the team finds their footing, they will also be serving soup, sandwiches and salads during the daytime.
For those unfamiliar with the resurgence of Salt, here’s a recap from our July 2023 article:
A Blood Alley stalwart since 2006, Salt had been forced to shutter in August 2021 due to the double-whammy of pandemic-era business hours and crippling rent. While owner Seán Heather packed the restaurant’s trappings (wine cellar, custom furniture and kitchen gear) into hibernation, he knew it wasn’t for good – he was only waiting for the right space to materialize in order to rebuild.
That space presented itself earlier this year at 227 East Pender Street in Chinatown (previously Shuck Shuck Oyster). Though Shuck Shuck had been dormant since 2021, and its liquor license expired, the space and location resonated with Heather’s vision for Salt’s next chapter. Once the license was reinstated, his plans for rejuvenation were set into motion.
When I met with Heather on site in May to talk about the project, his eyes sparkled with enthusiasm, and his anticipation for Salt’s return was infectious: “I can’t wait to get Salt open again” he said. “When it comes to wine, I have a passion for discoveries, I try new things wherever I go, and I’m excited to share them.” Heather aims to reinstate Salt’s status as an unpretentious wine bar, stressing that it is a welcoming place serving “fun wines that we’re enjoying and want to share with our friends and neighbours.”