Skip to content

Bar Talk: A Q&A with L’Abattoir’s Andrew Forsyth

Where to dine and drink in Vancouver, according to one of the country’s top sommeliers

By: Kate DingwallDate: 2023-08-31

Harry Rosen talks to the country’s top drink experts about how to drink, what to drink, and where to do it.

 Vancouver’s Gastown has no shortage of restaurants nestled within its cobblestone streets. But one that continues to shine brightly is L'Abattoir, a French-ish restaurant in a revived brick-and-beam warehouse space that formerly housed Vancouver’s first jail. On order: baked Pacific oysters brushed in garlic butter and truffle, duck foie gras terrines with rhubarb, and precise plates of steak Diane paired with broccoli and bone marrow.  These hyper-precise dishes—combined with careful wines curated by Head Sommelier Andrew Forsyth—have planted the restaurant firmly on the country’s top restaurants list.

On his off days, Forsyth is exploring the city’s food scene—digging into Peruvian ceviche, rowdy izakayas, or lauded Chinese-Italian dishes. Oh, and he’s drinking Champagne. Very good Champagne.

Here’s Forsyth’s guide to drinking and dining on the west coast.

What's your approach to wine?

L'Abattoir was my first position at a chef-owned restaurant and working there has given me a very different perspective on the relationship between wine and food. Curating options for the wine list, pairings, and by-the-glass pours means having an in-depth understanding of our chef, Lee Cooper, and how he sees ingredients coming together. Essentially, the wine has to go with the food which means that there are some grapes, styles and regions that have a much bigger footprint on the list than others.

I'm also very passionate about supporting responsible farming—not necessarily all of the paperwork (and expenses) that comes with organic certifications, but I love to support the growers and winemakers who are making environmentally-friendly decisions. I see a lot of this in the Okanagan Valley and it’s one of the reasons that I love the local wineries that I have been lucky enough to work with over the last few years.

Photo courtesy L’Abattoir

What's your favorite bottle you have at work right now?

Probably André Clouet Un Jour de 1911. Working at L'Abattoir has expanded my horizons in Champagne and this is simultaneously one of the tastiest bottles I’ve tried in a while and one of the greatest creation stories that I've read since I started my wine studies. The winemaker found six bottles buried in his cellar that his great grandparents bottled and tried to recreate the experience by aging the wine two decades on lees. It’s just incredible—beautifully aged, stunningly complex, and very food friendly.

What's your go-to after-work drink?

We have an absolutely fantastic cocktail bar in Gastown called Pourhouse and I love going there after work for a Hanky Panky! It’s a fantastic pre-prohibition cocktail made with gin, sweet vermouth and a dash of Fernet Branca then finished with a lemon peel.  It's well balanced, complex, and has a great backstory (look up Ada "Coley" Coleman).

What's your desert island bottle?

To this day, one of the most memorable bottles I've enjoyed was a 2007 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett from the Mosel Valley in Germany. It redefined riesling for me. Beautifully aged but still incredibly fresh, with notes of stone fruit, citrus, honeysuckle, uncompromising minerality, revelatory vibrancy and a finish that you feel emotional about. That would be a great desert island thirst quencher!

Are there any styles of wine you're excited to serve more of?

Following a recent trip to Chianti Classico in Tuscany, I am very excited to pour more wines from specific UGAs (appellations within the region). I can think of a lot of different ways to enjoy Sangiovese at L'Abattoir this Fall but I'm particularly excited to match some wines from Greve, Panzano and Castelnuovo Berardenga with our cuisine, especially smoked duck breast and quail dishes.

Where are you eating on your day off in Vancouver?

It's so hard to pick just one of the amazing spots in Vancouver.  I'm a huge fan of Suika on Broadway for izakaya, Kissa Tanto in Chinatown, Chambar near the stadiums, and Oddfish in Kitsilano.  One spot that I am hoping to try soon is Soyu Modern Peruvian. They've made a big splash as one of the top new restaurants in the city and their menu and drink program look fantastic!

What's your favorite thing about the city?

Vancouver has all of the natural beauty you could ask for and there are lots of ways to enjoy it. Take in a baseball game at Nat Bailey Stadium with Queen Elizabeth Park as the backdrop, go for a swim at White Pine, or check out the views from the top of Saint Mark's Summit — I never get bored exploring Vancouver.

Kate Dingwall is a writer and editor covering the intersection between spirits, business, culture and travel. By night, she’s a working sommelier at one of the top restaurants in Canada. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Rolling Stones, Eater, Toronto Life, Toronto Star, and Porter Magazine. She frequently appears on both CTV and NPR, has co-authored a book on gin, and judges Tales of the Cocktail.

TAGS:#Living,#Food & Drink,