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Forkhill House Irish Bistro-11

Let’s face it: when we think about Irish food, one particular type comes to mine: pub grub. Ireland is synonymous with bar culture and while the food is hearty and complements a good pint of beer, it’s not often that the words upscale cuisine and Ireland are uttered in the same sentence.

Forkhill House Irish Bistro-3

Helping to dispel that myth is Forkhill House Irish Bistro, a recently-opened dining spot in the former Fat Badger space on Alberni near Cardero streets.

Owners Jeffrey and Jaime Lenz have created a very welcoming space in this 100-year-old heritage house with hefty wood-topped tables, large naval/industrial lighting and a bar off to the side that pours English and Irish beers on tap.

Forkhill House Irish Bistro-4

Forkhill House takes up two levels: downstairs seats 33, perfect for overflow and private events while the main dining room upstairs can accommodate 63 guests. A seat near the window offers Coal Harbour and partial North Shore mountain views. In sunnier weather, a small patio will take in that same lovely view.

Forkhill House Irish Bistro-1

The restaurant sees a lot of lunch-hour action with workers seeking everything from a porter burger to an Ulster fry-up complete with double-smoked bacon and rum-baked beans. Irish recipes passed down from Jaime’s family are given a new twist by Executive Chef Tannis Smith.

Forkhill House Irish Bistro-2

Forkhill House is named after Forkhill in County Armagh, Northern Ireland (a village located near the east coast between Belfast and Dublin), where Jaime’s family comes from. Keeping in that spirit, family photos line the walls inside the room opposite the bar. Meanwhile, Jeffrey’s worked at Joe Fortes, Aqua Riva, Al Porto and The Cannery, bringing years of experience to the table.

Both Irish folk and modern tunes are piped out of the stereo system, adding to the unpretentious atmosphere. Waitstaff are friendly and helpful in offering suggestions for food and wine/cocktail pairings. In addition to beer, the drink menu also contains a good range of Irish whiskeys, single malt scotch, international wines and craft cocktails.

Forkhill House Polenta Frites with Habanero Marmalade
[Polenta Frites with Habanero Marmalade]

We begin with a gin-based Rosemary Fizzlet containing prosecco, rosemary syrup, rose cordial, lime and a rosemary sprig. My husband imbibes as I’m on a round of antibiotics the week of our visit. The drink is refreshing and not too sweet, well suited for a portion of chef Smith’s polenta fries with a zesty sweet habanero marmalade.

Our favourite starter needs to be shared as well. Irish seafood chowder is creamy, not too rich and contains a good helping of wild salmon, cod, steelhead, mussels, clams and prawns together with potatoes, white wine, bacon and fennel.

Forkhill House Irish Seafood Chowder
[Irish Seafood Chowder]

Grilled salmon is served in a whiskey honey glaze topped with salmon roe giving it a west coast feel.

Forkhill House Grilled Steelhead Forkhill House Grilled Steelhead
[Grilled Salmon with Seasonal Vegetables]

My husband’s beef tenderloin is artfully plated with a ring of onion gastrique, Enoki mushrooms, roasted potatoes and seasonal veggies (in this case, colourful beets).

Forkhill House Beef Tenderloin
[Beef Tenderloin]

Aside from the steelhead being slightly overdone, both dishes are flavourful and well-portioned.

Forkhill House Coconut Curry Veggies
[Coconut Curry Veggies]

Vegetarians can enjoy a spicy coconut curry veggie dish with sweet potato, braised carrot, chickpeas and spinach atop golden saffron/curry rice (and by all means, don’t miss the polenta fries!).

Forkhill House Guinness Chocolate Ganache Cake
[Guinness Chocolate Ganache Cake]

Desserts range from sticky toffee pudding to a chocolate truffles, cheese and fruit plate. We opt for a Guinness chocolate ganache cake and two forks. This one’s a winner—not overly sweet nor rich.

Daily happy hour’s from 3 to 6 pm and on Sundays at 5 pm, head in for their ‘rotating roast’ dinners (think prime rib, turkey, porchetta, etc.). Forkhill House Irish Bistro is located at 1616 Alberni Street in Vancouver.

We were invited to dine at Forkhill House Irish Bistro for experiencing the menu, enjoying the new space and featuring it here for our readers. Opinions, as always, remain our own.

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