Meet a Local - l’Abattoir’s Paul Grunberg

Vancouver restaurant veterans, Paul Grunberg and Chef Lee Cooper, partnered up to open l'Abattoir in 2010. Its combination of carefully selected wines, first-rate cocktails, and flawlessly executed French-influenced West Coast cuisine have made it a Gastown favourite that attracts foodies from across the Lower Mainland. We sat down with Paul to talk about what makes him—and his restaurant—keep ticking, seven years later.

Why Gastown? How did you decide on this location?
Why Gastown? Gastown is cool. Gastown has grown tremendously since we opened, and we wanted to grow with the neighbourhood. I’d like to think that we’re the community staple for approachable, well-executed dining.

What were you doing before opening l’Abattoir?
I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was 16-years old, but right before l’Abattoir, I worked as a consultant for Bao Bei for six months before it opened. Before that, I was the General Manager of Market by Jean-Georges. The transition from being a tight-ass in a suit to going into Chinatown wearing my skinny jeans and a plaid shirt was refreshing. It got me working independently and creatively again, which was a great spring toward opening l’Abattoir.

Can you describe the concept for l’Abattoir?
It’s like a total-package restaurant. You can come and drink a great bottle of wine over a great meal with great service, or you can sidle up to the bar for veal sweetbreads and a cocktail. It’s not fine dining, but it’s not overly casual. It’s a happy medium, and I think we do it well.

Can you talk more specifically about the food and cocktails?
The food is ever-changing and seasonal. We work with farms and direct production. We’ve always been known for having a slick cocktail program, and we work really hard to stay current and to motivate our cooks and staff to put out their best.

Concept for the space?
It’s a two-level space, so you can sit in the back atrium or the upstairs dining room and have two different experiences, even though the menus are the same.

What do you love most about l’Abattoir?
It’s got this electric energy that’s really hard to find elsewhere… it’s loud, it’s boisterous, it’s fun. The clientele are always the best, and I love working with the staff.

What has given you the most pleasure since opening?
Seeing the entire project come to fruition…and seeing it grow over the years. Watching the staff develop as they’ve worked with us. It’s not always about trying to make money. You don’t open a restaurant to get rich, you open it as a passion, and you get to share that passion with the people you work with. If I wanted to get rich, I would have been a banker.

Describe one of your favourite customers.

We have a really great customer who’s been coming in for years with his daughters, who don’t live at home anymore. He trusts our knowledge and always gets us to pick his wine. It’s his opportunity to connect with his kids, and it’s just a really nice family dinner.

How do you think your regular customers would describe you?
Oh, man… I think they would describe me as a gracious host, who’s got a keen eye for the guest experience. They would probably describe the restaurant as a place where you can feel comfortable, let your guard down, and trust that the food will always be hot, the drinks will always be cold, and service will always be on point.

Do you have a favourite hidden gem in Gastown?
I like escaping to Milano Coffee for an espresso.

What’s your other favourite local business? Why? 
Roden Gray and Neighbour are men’s clothing shops that are so beautifully curated, and the staff is fantastic.

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