Dining with the Stars

The biggest news to hit B.C.’s restaurant scene recently was the launch of the Michelin Guide in Vancouver in late 2022, making it only the second city in Canada, after Toronto, to be included in the prestigious global rankings. However, Vancouver is hardly unique when it comes to standout eateries. Here are a few top dining destinations across B.C. that will put stars in your eyes.

By Joanne Peters

Okanagan-born executive chef Ned Bell, a longtime advocate for sustainable seafood, takes a hyperlocal focus to the menu in the dining room of the charmingly restored 1908 Inn. Think seasonal ingredients such as spruce tips, sumac, nettles and morels foraged around the Naramata Bench, plus sustainably sourced goods from nearby farmers, fishmongers, cheesemakers, coffee roasters, beekeepers and more. It’s all to give diners a taste of place–or, as Bell’s team calls it, a “Naramatian” experience. With the 12-room hotel’s location in the heart of the Okanagan’s wine country, the available B.C. bottles and pairings are unparalleled. naramatainn.com/eat

Photo by Wild Mountain.

With views of the Olympic Mountains beyond Sooke Harbour, Wild Mountain is a celebration, and ardent supporter, of the local food community and economy. The team belongs to the Slow Food Chef’s Alliance, and sustainable, old-school techniques like whole-animal butchery, preservation, fermentation and foraging are the norm. Metchosin-area grains are milled nearby for brick-oven pizza, while the house-made charcuterie selection is a draw in itself. Real food in all its simple glory is served along libations by local winemakers, brewers and distillers. There’s also an online store for everything from honey to salad dressing, to ship the memories home with you. wildmountaindinners.com

The small town of Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast has big names and even bigger flavours at Brassica, a “community to table” restaurant that brings people together through food. The eatery fronts Coho Commissary and supports its many local makers by featuring their artisanal products, and those from other B.C.-based eco-conscious culinary creatives, on a family-style sharing menu. As proof of concept, its walls are lined with glass jars of pickles and preserves. The eatery is led by the top team of pastry chef Hilary Prince and head chef Jack Chen (partners in work and life), whose impressive resumes include time at numerous acclaimed places at home and abroad, including Vancouver’s Michelin-Recommended L’Abattoir. Dishes change frequently, but we love the resto’s house-made Boursin-style cheese, seaweed beignets and Parisienne gnocchi. brassicagibsons.com

Photo by Unsworth Restaurant.

Situated in a restored early-1900s farmhouse amid the bucolic surroundings of Cowichan Valley’s wine country, the restaurant at Unsworth Vineyards overlooks picturesque vines, apple and walnut orchards, plus a vegetable and herb garden. Chef Maartyn Hoogeveen, whose experiences include roles at a New Zealand winery and a Michelin-rated restaurant in Sweden, puts the region’s abundance of seasonal produce and seafood at centre stage, with a suggested pairing from Unsworth’s award-winning portfolio for each menu item. There’s a forno oven for fresh-as-it-gets pizza; local foodies can get a membership for the Community Supported Restaurant program, offering uber-local dinners for members. unsworthvineyards.com/visit/restaurant

Photo by Pluvio Restaurant + Rooms.

The little Ucluelet restaurant (in the same blue building that offers lodging) has numerous prestigious nods to its name–which is derived from “pluviophile,” meaning someone who loves the rain. In 2022 alone, It was named Canada’s Best Destination Restaurant and earned a spot on Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants. It’s headed by acclaimed executive chef Warren Barr (formerly of Vancouver’s Le Crocodile and Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn) and his partner, hospitality pro Lily Verney-Downey. The pair aims to give people a true taste of the West Coast: think grilled local spot prawns, albacore tuna crudo and roasted local sablefish as a few examples from the ever-changing three-course of chef’s tasting menu. At the same time, they don’t shy away from exemplary ingredients from further afield (such as premium Alberta grass-fed beef and Ontario bison). This is one of those places where every dish is executed with fine technique and colourful creativity, creating an ideal dining experience–even in pouring rain. pluvio.ca