Forage brings sustainability—and a little bit of Main Street—to Robson

The savoury clams at Forage Restaurant. Photo credit: Robyn Hanson

The savoury clams at Forage Restaurant. Photo credit: Robyn Hanson

A new restaurant on Robson is making efforts to be one of the most sustainable in the city. That, along with a cozy and intimate atmosphere and creative menu items, make Forage more like a place you might find on Main Street in Vancouver than on the busiest shopping district in the city.

Forage, which opens Tuesday Nov 20, is located in the Listel Hotel. The privately-owned hotel, one of two Listels in B.C.—the other is in Whistler—has been christened Vancouver’s “most artful hotel,” owing to sculptures, paintings and other objets d’art in the lobby, halls and rooms. The Listel is also notable for its association with the Vancouver International Jazz Festival; since the fest’s beginning in 1986, the hotel’s former restaurant O’Doul’s had been a hub for musicians and fans.

However, the hotel closed O’Doul’s earlier this year. The atrium space formerly occupied by the restaurant will soon be inhabited by a private gallery not associated with the hotel. And Forage will take over as hotel dining experience and, perhaps, neighbourhood hangout.

It certainly has that potential. The open-space rectangular bar is inviting. The dining area seats about 75, making a cozy space even more intimate. Tan wood and soft lighting give Forage a port-in-a-storm ambience.

Forage Restaurant interior

Inside Forage Restaurant at the Listel Hotel. Photo credit: Robyn Hanson

The Listel itself has a zero-waste policy, and Forage is meant to be one of the most sustainable restaurants in the city. Along those lines the owners have taken pains to ensure that lighting and appliances are as energy-efficient as retrofitting allows. The menu  emphasizes locally sourced items like hazelnuts from Agassiz, two hours east of Vancouver, and bull kelp from Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. Beer, cider and spirits also come from local makers.

The menu features both exotic items as well as familiar foods given a different spin by Chef Chris Whittaker. Appetizers include kelp chips with dried apple slices and popcorn with pork crackling. Mains are categorized by serving method, i.e. “irons”, “boards” and “bowls.” The mushrooms (seven varieties, locally foraged) with Okanagan goat cheese, arugula pesto arrive in an iron skillet, the charcuterie on a board and the perogies (with a birch syrup vinegar reduction) on a plate.

One of the more unusual bowls is the bison tongue ravioli with grilled matsutake mushrooms. The pulled tongue is tender and juicy while the chewier matsutake has a woodsy taste.

Desserts include the cake-like pain purdue with a candy-hard caramel roof speckled with those Agassiz hazelnuts, apple pie with a black-pepper crust, ice cream and a house-made quince jelly (also served at breakfast/brunch), and carrot cake with candied walnut and cranberry sorbet.

Pain Perdu dessert

The pain perdu at Forage. Photo credit: Robyn Hanson

For drinks, the bar offers specialty concoctions according to the labels “sweet”, “sour” and “savoury”, like the Victoria, B.C.-distilled gin mixed with aquavitas and muddled dill. Beer drinkers can enjoy a selection of local craft beer on tap, and grape lovers will appreciate the extensive wine list (including, of course, a number of prime B.C. vintners).   A pleasant surprise is the addition of a cider, Pippins, from Vancouver Island’s Sea Cider.

Savoury cocktail at Forage

Savoury cocktail at Forage. Photo credit: Robyn Hanson

And how will all this go over with Robson Street shoppers, Listel Hotel guests and condo-dwelling locals? Time will tell, but Forage might be just the place to bring all these groups together.

Forage Restaurant at the Listel Hotel, 1300 Robson Street



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