Last week we reported on the closure of the West End’s cozy Fat Badger, an English-style pub known for its laid back vibe, well pulled pints and proper pub food. While it’s unfortunate that it has left us (I’m going to miss those miniature yorskshires!) there is a silver lining. The address – 1616 Alberni St. – has been picked up by industry lifer Jeff Lenz (ex-Joe Fortes, Cibo) and his wife Jamie. With the help of chef Tannis Smith (ex-Irish Heather) and assistant GM Alex Dewar (ex-Cibo), they aim to open Forkhill House Irish Bistro at the end of February following after a quick reno and staff up.
“Jaime and I have been looking to get into our own spot for over two years now and are very excited to be taking this space,” Jeff says. “We love what has been done with the Badger, our vision is to take it to the next level. There is a strong Irish connection in our family, with a lot of tradition surrounding food. We plan on elevating the service and menu, without being pretentious. Our idea is an Irish inspired restaurant, not pub.” I don’t think that means they won’t have Guinness, stews, soda breads and ploughman’s lunches. On the contrary, it’s my understanding that they’ll offer such standards as starting points. It’s early days yet so I don’t have all the details on the menu, but I know there’s more to Irish cuisine than the greatest hits that have so far crossed the Atlantic, and that’s exciting.
What’s with the name? “Forkhill is the name of the village where Jaime’s ancestral family was raised, with a strong connection to her father who passed away in 2014.” Jamie explained to me in an email exchange last week. “This historic house still exists on the border of northern and Southern Ireland. During the famine the family would help the community by feeding the townsfolk from a massIve cauldron, asking in return a fair day’s work.” (As you can see in the photo above, Jamie – at left – rocks her Irish bone fides pretty effortlessly.)
It’s all happening very quickly. They took possession of the space yesterday at noon and already they have their sleeves rolled up. The plan is for 102 seats split between upstairs and downstairs with a dozen on the patio. They’ll be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week with operating hours as follows: 11:30am to 3pm for lunch; 3pm to 5pm Happy Hour; 5pm to 10pm-ish for dinner.
The images below are from the Fat Badger days, but they’ll give an idea of the bones they’re working with.