There are many places to eat that stimulate your gastronomic palate, wow you with taste and flavors, tantalize your eyes with presentation but not a lot to remind you of your childhood. I am a bit of sentimental bloke and I like looking back at all the good meal time experiences I’ve had as a child. In this case, The Irish Heather GastroPub covers all the bases. 4 times a week (Sunday to Wednesday), this GastroPub offers dinner called “the Long Table Series”. This is a dining experience unique in itself because a maximum of 40 people share this one long table. There are no seat assignments, you sit wherever you please. Everybody gets the same meal and the same beer for one price ($CDN16). You need reservations to get on board. Dinner starts promptly at 7 PM so be there early and perhaps meet your upcoming “dinner mates”. If you are a bit shy to chat up strangers, perhaps a shot or two from “Heathers” very large collection of whiskeys will loosen you up :). They too own Shebeen Whiskey House which is behind the Heather. For you whiskey aficionado, I think you will enjoy this place.
Now for a quick detour why the Irish Heather appealed to me. Growing up, I spent many summers living with my maternal grandfather. My grandfather had this long table (not as long as Heathers’ 40 ft.) with a long bench. My brother and I with our cousins would sit there all lined up and ready to finish any meal. Meal times were special because everything was discussed during mealtimes. I love our mealtimes because we were all together as a family. I’ve always wondered how my grandparents managed to whip up these big meals all the time. At the table, our family discussed everything, be it sad or happy and topics ranged from politics, religion, family, business and anything. We kids always listened in but do not really remember much because we were more focused on what to do after meals or maybe we were anxious to be assigned to dish washing duty. Can you imagine the number of dishes? To a child, that pile was a mountain 🙂 Ah sweet memories.
The mind wanders again 🙂 Anyway, off we go the Irish Heather…….
At the door, we were met by a nice young lady who had a clip board and was waiting for people to check-in for the dinner. I saw my name on that clipboard and we were checked in and the adventure began. Our evening started not at the bar but directly at the long table because our underage children were with us. As we were directed to the dining area, we moved along this cozy, dim, long, small pub area and through a short corridor we emerged in another part of the pub and lay before us was the “long table”. The dining area was on one side a brick wall and the other side the kitchen pantry and restaurant counter. I seated facing the pantry whose one part of the wall was see through glass, I could see some ham hanging as well as other fresh ingredients. I was excited :), our server was very friendly and was a matter of fact Irish (or so I think) with the matching accent. With that, in honor of beautiful Erin (Ireland) I started with nothing else but with a pint of Guinness. This made the experience much more enjoyable too.
Promptly at 7PM, the rest of the diners (I think I counted a little bit over 30) were walked in and it was interesting to see where the rest of the diners would position themselves. Some were with friends and some were by themselves. Two groups of friends sat on our left and right with very interesting stories. On my right were 3 young ladies who were talking about a wedding. One of them was the bride. I enjoyed listening to them as it was all filled with both excitement and anxious feelings. I wanted to exchange stories but it was much better listening to all the plans being made. Seated beside them was a young man who made an impression on the ladies. One lady was clearly flirting with him and he likewise. From the corner of my eye, I thought they hit it off quite nicely. The energy around the table was vibrant and lively. People were smiling and making friendly glances around the table and I knew we were off to a good start. Introductions of the wait staff was done, a description of the beer we were drinking (Blood Alley Bitter) and meeting the chef who described the meal and where the ingredients were obtained. In this case, the salmon we were to enjoy was directly sourced from the fisherman. No middlemen involved. Basically a sea to table or farm to table relationship.
The Blood Alley Bitter arrived with a deep rich amber color, nice froth and sweet scent of beer. I took a sip and it was good. I am no beer expert and all I know is if it tastes good, then it is good. All that matters is that I am enjoying it. I would have ordered another pint but my Guinness was begging to be gulped down as well. It was amusing to see the servers bring out the food as they moved very quickly holding plates in their hands and forearms. Tonight’s dinner was Pan Fried Salmon with roasted cauliflower and spinach with a vinaigrette and capers. The salmon had a nice crisp skin that I really like. The salmon was tasty and flaky. The salmon was seasoned just right that I had no need for extra salt or pepper. I felt the chef took the time to carefully prepare the dish so that I can enjoy eating it instead of thinking of “adding a dash of this or a dash of that”. After finishing my meal, I looked around to see if everyone finished theirs. I am happy to report that the chef should be proud. My wife and I were not only smiling because of the dinner but because we were together with our children enjoying such a nice meal. My children finished theirs and told me it was good. My daughter loved the roasted cauliflower, so I now would need to add that to my menu repertoire at home. My family ordered a dessert that i do not remember and it too was good from the one teaspoon I was obligated by my kids to taste. It could have been a custard or pudding. I am not a dessert person so that flew by me. I am including a picture of it so in case you know what it is, tell me 🙂 Dessert does not come with the dinner so it will set you back a few dollars.
Overall, it was a delightful meal matched with an experience of communal dining. Food somehow connects us all to be together in the company of family, friends or strangers. When you happen to be in Vancouver, visit this place. Perhaps, you may meet someone who may become your new friend or just experience dinner in the company of friendly people. It does not matter if you are alone or with someone, because that one long table connects us all.
The Irish Heather Gastropub 212 Carrall Street Vancouver, BC, Canada