I tagged along with Joyce and her BF in the aforementioned post on Irish Heather. Within another fortnights, I eagerly went back with some fellow food bloggers. Joyce was also there at the second dinner. At her proposal, we will both write something about it. Here is mine, along with a brief review of the first LTS (Long Table Series) dinner.
Communal dinning is not a new idea by any measure, but when I first read online that Irish Heather will be hosting an event called “the Long Table Series”, I was excited. It’s a brilliant idea from the restaurant’s perspective. It streamlines service, preparation, cooking, and billing. Well, pretty much everything. Prior to hearing about the LTS, I have been to Irish Heather a couple of times and was not impressed by this self-proclaimed “gastropub”. A gastropub is supposed to offer quality food. Irish Heather’s menu showed some promise with its collection of British classic pub fares. Bangers and Mash, Fish and Chips, and Pot Pie, just to name a few. On both of my previous visits, I thought the food concept was good but the execution wasn’t quite there. I had always called Irish Heather one of my favourite bars in Vancouver due to its inexpensive and large collection of whiskey, beer, and wine.
Moving on to the LTS… I think it has really changed my previous view of Irish Heather. The communal dinning table is in the Salty Tongue Cafe section of the restaurant, where 45 diners rub elbows with each other at a 40-ft table. It’s a great way to chat with your neighbours and make some new friends. I don’t remember hearing any music, the room was filled with conversation, laughter, and the sound of eating (cutlery knocking plates).
The dinners were opened with Sean’s welcome and introduction, which were followed by the suppliers of the chosen alcohol. Then, there was Chef Lee Humphries explaining the nightly feature. I felt welcomed and appreciated as a patron dining there. Also, service was attentive when called upon. Otherwise, the waitresses and Sean wouldn’t come and constantly disrupt your diner and conversation.
Moving on to the main event – FOOD. The LTS menu can be found on its blog. On September 30th (my first visit to LTS), the menu featured Roast Suckling Pig With Apple-Rosemary Sauce, Braised Cabbage & Mashed Potatoes, as well as a pint of Orchard Hill Cider, for a scant $15. The menu just simply made sense. Pork and apple, classic. Sweat apples and slightly bitter cabbage, nice touch. Mash and cabbage… that’s just British (jk). The pork skin, I have to say, was very crispy – true crackling. Though the pork fat has been mostly rendered through the long and slow roasting process, the meat was very moist and tender. I would have liked to see a bit more apple flavour on the plate. The dessert was much less interesting. I had the Plum Mousse with Streusel Topping. A small mason jar was used as the serving vessel. The mousse part tasted more like a custard with a thin layer of plum puree on top. I thought it couldn’t have been made much better.
Less than two weeks later, I was at the restaurant again, this time, dining with my fellow food bloggers. On the menu was ½ Roast Lemon/Rosemary Cornish Game Hen With House Cut Chips & Gravy, paired with a bottle of Steam Whistle Pilsner. That really sounds like and was a proper pub fare, a delicious one too. The flavours of lemon and rosemary were very notable. Normally I am a dark-meat eater, but the breast on this Cornish hen was moist and actually flavourful. There were plenty of chips on the plate, which were fried the proper way – once at a lower temperature to cook through and again at a higher temperature to achieve the crispiness. The coleslaw on the side was a little pedestrian… nothing special there. The dessert was again somewhat of a let-down. I shared the Okanagan Apple Pie with Cinnamon Creme Anglaise with Joyce. We both agreed that the crust was too thick and not flaky at all. It was perhaps one of the worse pies that I have had. Jokingly I actually told Joyce I would rather have a Safeway pie over this. The creme anglaise, on the other hand, tasted alright.
As a side note, I always like to see new businesses in the downtown east side. They bring more life to the area. Some of the recent additions to Gastown have been in fact excellent. For Irish Heather’s LTS, if you stick to the main course and the drink, you will probably go away very happy. At a cost of $12-15 and its large portion, there is no way you can beat that. I think I will learn to shun away from the desserts. The other focal point is definitely the communal dinning, which one cannot easily find anywhere else. It’s fun, inexpensive, and satisfying. I surely hope the LTS will become a lasting tradition at Irish Heather.