Brasserie L’École Turns 10 plus a Q&A with Marc Morrison

It’s been ten years since Marc Morrison and Sean Brennan took a chance on the Chinatown lease that brought Victoria its beloved Brasserie L’École, the little bistro that’s nestled among the produce markets, temples and import shops of lantern-lit Government Street. Nowadays, ‘The Brass’ is downtown Victoria’s go-to spot for casual French food and wine, and Morrison and Brennan have a fully packed restaurant five nights a week.


The inspiration behind Brasserie L’École was born a pipe dream. Good friends from the food and beverage industry (Brennan is a chef, Morrison a sommelier), the two blue-skied over dinner one evening about bringing a classic brasserie to Victoria. In the fall of 2001 a restaurant space opened up for lease in a heritage building that used to house migrant workers in the early 1900’s (the location of the Brasserie kitchen was at one time a separate building that was a Chinese school; hence, L’École).


“We thought about it for about half an hour,” Recalls Morrison, “Then we said we’d take it. But we had no financing, no business plan.”


And so, the pair embarked on the always-exciting adventure of restaurant proprietorship. At first, Morrison admits they were in over their heads. “Contractors would show up to work, and we had no idea how we were going to pay them.” Financing eventually came through via family members, allowing Brennan and Morrison to open Brasserie L’École’s doors. It was a tough start, Morrison says, recalling the days where he lived at the bistro most of the time, sleeping in the back office on a futon. But there were good times in the early years too, including one memorable evening where the pair agreed to host a party of 60 industry friends (they only have seating for 40) for dinner.


“Everyone was mingling around, we couldn’t get out of the kitchen to run the desserts, so we just started passing plates through the doorway and hoping for the best! Vikram Vij, who was a guest of the party, had to help us serve. Now we only book groups of 30 people max.”


It’s a testament to Brasserie’s locally-sourced French Country cuisine and thoughtful service that a bistro which started so humbly has flourished into one of Victoria’s busiest and top-rated restaurants. Their reputation has caught on with guests from afar as well, including a growing list of celebrities––well, actually 3 lists, Morrison keeps separate track of authors, musicians, and actors––like Sir Ian Mckellen, Alice Munro, and Burton Cummings (“He was wearing a jean jacket with the sleeves cut off”). Ten years have passed, but Morrison shows no signs of tiring––though he and Brennan have floated around a few ideas for additional future ventures. “I never wake up and dread going to work. I love it here.”


EAT Q&A with co-owner Marc Morrison


EAT: What’s more important, good food or good service?

MM: Service. Sean (the Chef) would disagree of course, but he’s so good at what he does, I never have to worry about the food. I always say, no matter how good the food is, people will always remember the service.


EAT: What are your best sellers?

MM: Steak Frites. We could stay in business just with our Endive Salad, Trout, Onion Soup, Steak Frites, and Crème Brulée.


EAT: What’s your favourite wine on your list at the moment, and what would you pair it with?

MM: I really like Rhone wines. If your dinner is about the wine, keep the food simple [and vice versa]. My choice would be a 2009 Chateauneuf-du-Pape with Steak Frites.


EAT: What’s the most expensive bottle you’ve sold?

MM: Probably a bottle of champagne around $200. We try to keep everything on our list around or under $100.


EAT: How do you feel about well-done steaks?

MM: I’m okay with it. I’m a medium-steak eater myself.



Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 5:30pm-11pm. First come, first serve (no reservations).


Brasserie L’École

1715 Government Street

(250) 475.6260




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