Exciting changes are happening in the heart of Powell River at the former Westview Hotel. John D. Walls, owner of House of Walls Culinary Magic and The Modern Peasant, and his partner Jessica Lefort have taken on their latest culinary venture, creating the brand new Forest Bistro and Lounge.
Chef John has an extensive background in the culinary world. He opened the popular Modern Peasant on Marine Avenue in 2018. When COVID happened, due to the size of the 20-seat restaurant, he couldn’t safely reopen with the new restrictions. The space was converted into a marketplace and artisan deli, focusing on takeaway of its meat pies.
The Modern Peasant dining room has now been moved to the new bistro and lounge location. John signed the purchase agreement for the property a week before the first lockdown.
“We decided to continue and go ahead because we thought we can’t control things if they get worse,” explains John. “We’re trying to do something positive and the last thing this community needs is another derelict condemned hotel or inn in the heart of town. This is the first building you see when you get off the ferry, it’s the first building when you drive into town from the south, too, so it’s important.”
John says cleaning the space up felt like a bit of a community project.
“The entire community is going to benefit from this being cleaned up,” he adds. “We’ve helped make positive transitions for tenants who used to live here.”
The name Forest Bistro and Lounge came from the community. Everyone can relate to the word forest, says John, whether they remember Powell River being a mill town, are part of the logging community, or spend their recreational time foraging and exploring.
The restaurant, which opened three months ago, “is a tapas format with a French bistro foundation,” adds John.
The French foundation means there is a focus on rustic foods and braised items including wild mushroom ragout, braised beef short ribs, risotto and ratatouille. Local foragers supply pine mushrooms that are incorporated into the popular forager cocktail. Local oysters are a featured item on the menu when available.
The price point makes it accessible to all, says John.
“Whether you want to enjoy a dish yourself or share with friends over a glass of wine, the most expensive item is $22,” he adds.
The restaurant will operate from 3 to 10 pm and, post-COVID, will transition into a nightclub from 11 pm to 2 am.
“The night spot needs to be safe, clean and positive for everybody,” says John. “People need a place where they can go to have some fun.”
Over nearly six months of renovations, every inch was painted, the bar and floors were redone, bathrooms gutted, wiring upgraded, along with new light fixtures. New signage has been put in place, and the exterior awning and siding is being redone to enhance curb appeal and street presence, along with the building’s accent lightning.
John says there are big plans for the future, too, which will all be COVID reliant.
“There are different phases,” he adds. “We plan on living upstairs and then possibly having dorms or staff accommodation downstairs.”
The retaining wall on the south side of the building will be landscaped in preparation for the food truck serving fish and chips, which will hopefully be operating on the property between May and September.
“It doesn’t matter what price point you’re at, we’re going to take care of people,” says John. “The new bistro and lounge is a welcoming, friendly space offering outstanding food at an exceptional price. Enjoy the stunning views and take advantage of the full bar, unique wine selection and variety of beers on tap.”