Paris is always a good idea.
That's the infamous quote we see everywhere, and it's because the feeling of being in Paris makes one instantly feel more sophisticated and relaxed, like the pace of life suddenly slows for you to savour every moment.
This mis the feeling you get once you step past the welcome sign at Au Comptoir.
Circular round tables remind us of the cafe tables in Paris, where the patios spill onto the wide sidewalks lining Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The teal and red wicker chairs, huddled cozily around the tasty pastries, and charcuterie boards shared amongst guests as they sip on espressos and buttery cappuccinos - this, is living the life.
We sat down with co-owner Maxime Bettili, who is likely to be found labouring behind the bar crafting foamy, buttery Cappuccinos. As pedestrians walked by first staring, then jaw-dropping at the delicious spread we had on the patio tables, we chatted about the story of Au Comptoir and how it all started.
The co-founders, Maxime Bettili and Julien Aubin, first met at a hospitality school in Europe. On a trip to Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics, the duo decided that they would stay and see what Vancouver had to offer. Both had trained and worked at high-end establishments in Europe, and while they loved the Vancouver vibe, they also felt there was something missing in the food scene, something authentically Parisian, so the duo decided they would open a Parisian Café.
Being newcomers and entrepreneurs in a city known for its high cost of living, Max and Julian built most of the interiors themselves, laying down each tile and pouring their time into recreating the Parisian vibe for Vancouverites.
Max shared with us that the name Au Comptoir means 'at the counter', because there are two levels of pricing in Paris, if you sit down for a meal it's more expensive, whereas if you stand at the counter, you can hang out casually at the counter and pay less. We love the meaning behind the name, as it highlights the friendly, approachable vibe of the cozy neighbourhood café.
They saw that other restaurants were only open for lunch and dinner, but they wanted a place where people can come in for food all day, so Au Comptoir is open from bright and early in the morning at 8AM to 10PM.
When asked whether deciding to have such long operating hours took a toll on their personal lives, Max responded that it was definitely tough for the first 2.5 years, but they are now learning to take a step back and enjoy more personal time.
Because no one would ever say no to an indulgent escape to Paris that's open all day every day, Au Comptoir has made its way into the hearts of locals and sees regulars visiting them every morning for an espresso with a Pain au Chocolat.
Just as Max mentioned, they offer food for anytime during the day, so if you feel like a sharing a charcuterie board with a few drinks, its the perfect combination for a friends get together. If you are feeling hungry, the bavette steak with fries and salad offers carnivores a hearty meal.
Au Comptoir also offers plenty of decadent sweets to choose from for those with a sweet tooth. An afternoon treat such as the triple scoop Café Liégeois with an espresso pick me up can be your daily ritual, as you sit outside gazing at passerby meandering up and down the sidewalk.
The Fraisier, a strawberry shortcake with shortbread crust. is a lighter choice for those who prefer a tangy note to their dessert.
If you still haven't had enough, the glass display case in the back of the café has all of the delicious options rotating in a glass case.
Whenever you have a craving for Paris, you can save the plane ticket and head to Au Comptoir, where their authentic menu and interiors replicates the feeling to a tee. Be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, you will find a slice of Paris waiting for you at Au Comptoir.
2278 W 4th Ave, Vancouver
Photos: Florence Leung