Pluvio Restaurant offers one of the Best Ever Dining Experiences in Ucluelet. Thanks to its focus on bringing fresh, complex, and local flavours to British Columbia, it’s quickly becoming a go-to spot for fine-dining enthusiasts on Vancouver Island.
Since opening its doors in 2019, this place has been named the 4th Best New Restaurant in Canada by enRoute Magazine. In addition to this impressive accolade, the two owners were listed among Western Living’s ‘Foodies of the Year’ list in 2020!
Ucluelet isn’t exactly known for its upscale dining spots, but this place is proof that two underdogs can create a truly impressive restaurant that appeals to locals and visitors alike. Combining a fervent passion for food with a hefty dose of hospitality, Pluvio is that classic small-town restaurant that we previously only dreamed of finding.
Welcome to Pluvio Restaurant + Rooms
One of the Best Dining Experiences in Ucluelet
The Atmosphere at Pluvio Restaurant
Despite being one of the fanciest restaurants in Ucluelet, the atmosphere at Pluvio Restaurant is distinctly relaxed and intimate. When we visited recently, we couldn’t help thinking that it felt like having dinner at a close friend’s house!
Service was incredibly attentive, small details were carefully considered (like the servers wearing tiny badges that showcased the company’s logo!), and no request we made ever felt like too much trouble.
As Steve and I got our start at Earls Kitchen + Bar, we instantly knew that this was hospitality done right.
The kitchen is entirely open, so you can watch Chef Warren Barr and his team preparing exceptional dishes as you sip on a selection of expertly curated wines. Although you never feel too close to the action, it’s exciting to watch sautéing, frying, and fervent kitchen communication happening up close!
The restaurant’s décor is in keeping with the entire building’s design, and you can expect smooth coastal greys, greens, and browns that speak to Ucluelet’s natural colour palette. This creates a grounded and earthy vibe that puts you at ease as soon as you step through the door. If you look closely, you’ll even spot wine bottles lining the walls that you can peruse between courses!
As we were served, we noticed that even the crockery was carefully considered. The serving plates come in different tones of blue, which beautifully represent the glimmering waters of the Pacific. When you pair these with the immaculate presentation of the food (think edible flowers, perfectly sliced lemons, and condiments that are served in delicate dishes), you can easily see why Pluvio Restaurant has risen through the ranks to become one of Ukee’s best-loved dining spots.
The Owners of Pluvio Restaurant
The geniuses behind this dining concept are Chef Warren Barr and Lily Verney Downey. These individuals may come from different corners of the world, but they’ve joined forces to create a truly unique experience right here in Ucluelet.
Both owners are incredible in their own right, but they’ve stated that their ultimate goal is to “charm and delight guests, and each other, through kindness, generosity, creativity, and fun”. With this shared vision, they’ve cultivated a wonderful team of dedicated and passionate staff that make this place run seamlessly.
Oh – and we also loved finding out that the owners offer long-term employment to Ucluelet’s residents. This ensures that you’re dealing with experienced staff who know the place inside-out, which is always a benefit when you’re looking for the perfect wine pairing or dessert recommendations!
Chef Warren Barr
Chef Warren Barr is responsible for the incredible menu at Pluvio, and he was born and raised in BC. After completing an apprenticeship at Le Crocodile Restaurant in Vancouver, he moved on to The Inn at Bay Fortune.
During his career, he became known for his laser-sharp focus on local cuisine and Canadian delights, always believing that fresh and seasonal produce is the way to go. After 6 years of working his way across PEI and Montreal, Warren landed on the West Coast where he became the Executive Chef at the Wickaninnish Inn (where he met Lily, by the way!).
This talented chef is incredibly humble, and he’s constantly working with local farmers and fishermen to obtain the finest ingredients for his next masterful dish.
(Image courtesy of Pluvio)
Lily Verney Downey
Lily is a one-woman powerhouse who’s responsible for managing the hotel and restaurant. In addition to keeping Pluvio’s social media accounts working overtime, she cleans rooms, spends her evenings greeting guests, and pulls pints behind the bar. She’s responsible for the excellent service that you find at Pluvio and is a total expert when it comes to hospitality and customer care.
Although she started her career studying Culinary Arts Management at the University College Birmingham, she fell in love with Vancouver Island after completing a culinary internship at the Wickaninnish Inn.
Entranced by the area’s laidback vibe, surf culture, and the rainy weather that reminded her of home, she joined forces with Chef Warren after working in Tofino as a cook.
And the rest, as they say, is history!
The Food at Pluvio Restaurant
We obviously couldn’t do a deep dive into Pluvio without taking time to discuss the incredible food! Now, we’re not joking when we say that the dishes here are literally art.
They are always gorgeously presented and utilise seasonal and wild ingredients foraged from Ucluelet’s forests and coastline. However, don’t be surprised if you spot international flavours sneaking in here and there. For example, spruce and wild rose may make an appearance in your starter, but you’ll also find high-end ingredients like truffle and caviar taking centre stage on occasion!
There are two menus that you can choose from at Pluvio – the $85 three-course tasting menu and the $105 five-course tasting menu (that rises to $160 with wine pairings).
As you open the leather-bound menus, keep an eye out for the kitsch artwork that’s proudly displayed on the internal pages. They’re actually created by Lily’s father, who’s a puppet maker and artist. We felt that these small illustrations reflected the fun and personal atmosphere that the restaurant strives to create.
Keep in mind that their menu is constantly changing to reflect the availability of local ingredients.
The three-course tasting menu
The three-course tasting menu is Pluvio’s most popular option, and it gives you a decent glimpse into the incredible flavours on offer at the restaurant. If you’re travelling as a couple or with a group, we recommend ordering a selection of dishes to share between you.
Guests are treated with amuse bouche to prime their palette and set the tone for the events ahead.
The artistic presentation of all dishes absolutely elevated our dining experience. Every little detail is considered and crafted to offer a full, beautiful sensory experience.
Each snacking dish is breathtaking, but the Pluvio ‘Humdog’ was just divine. We’d heard that it was a guest favourite, and it didn’t take us long to see why. This dish features Humboldt squid that’s marinated in tomato oil before being cooked on the grill. Then, it’s artfully placed inside a buttered and grilled hotdog bun and served with fermented turnip and chilli aioli.
Although many dishes change, Pluvio always has locally sourced Albacore Tuna Crudo on the menu. Again, it was so beautiful I didn’t want to eat it, but was so grateful I did. What a delectable starter choice!
Steve chose the Mole Duck Thigh: Crispy Squash + Potato Cake, Pepitas, Pickled Squash, Fresh Shallot
The mains are equally delicious, and you can select from four different proteins that Chef Barr uses to form the crux of the dish.
You can choose between the Grilled ‘Lois Lake’ Steelhead, the Smokey Slow Cooked Pork Belly, the Butter Poached Local Halibut, or the Grilled ‘Prairy Ranchers Grass Fed’ Boneless Beef Short Rib. (You can also request a vegetarian menu if you prefer.)
As you might expect, each dish is cooked to perfection. Seriously – when we got down to business, the short rib melted in our mouth. The combination of charred onion, local mushrooms, fermented cranberries, and a savoury kvass jus creates a flavour sensation that’s unlike anything we’ve experienced before. In fact, it was so good, that we felt giddy at the mere prospect of the final course coming our way!
Chocoholics visiting Pluvio Restaurant will appreciate The Chocolate Fix, which is made from Chocolate Cremieux, Espresso Chantilly, Dehydrated Chocolate Mousse, and Sea Buckthorn Caramel. Wow, it was delicious.
If you’re a toffee fan, the Koji Sticky Toffee Pudding was amazing. Topped with my favourite raspberries, this dish was an absolute delight.
If you’re not a fan of traditional desserts, feel free to check out the Cheeseboard! Featuring a fine selection of Canadian cheeses, it’s a wonderful way to round off your meal with a glass of local wine.
As an aside, we couldn’t help but notice the gorgeous handmade bowls during our meal. We discovered that they were created by Helena Jenkinson, a local Okanagan artist who crafted the dishes specifically for Pluvio. They were a pleasant light grey, and we felt that they highlighted the vibrant colours of our food perfectly.
The Beverages at Pluvio Restaurant
Every aspect of the Pluvio dining experience feels elevated, and the wine pairings and speciality cocktails are no exception!
The wine list is curated by professional Sommelier Chloe Gravel, who draws inspiration from Chef Barr’s expert use of local ingredients. There’s a heavy concentration of BC wines on the list, but you’ll also spot biodynamic French and Italian wines appearing throughout the year. If you opt to add wine pairings to your experience, you should get to sample a few different options during your visit.
Our favourite was a white blend created just for Pluvio by the Vancouver Island-based Averill Creek Vineyard with the label designed by a local tattoo artist (which many of their staff have chosen for their own lovely tattoos).
Those who don’t enjoy wine should turn their attention to the incredible cocktail menu. The Midas Touch is a fascinating blend of Cazadores Anejo Teqyuka and Spiced Pear Infused B&B Benedictine, while the Smokey Sharif is a complex and warming Brown-Butter Bourbon delight. To avoid upsetting the delicate balance of flavours in Pluvio’s dishes, we recommend reserving cocktail hour for the period before your food arrives!
We wrapped up our incredible evening foraging for mignardise in a lovely little box filled with shells and pebbles. What a beautiful, symbolic end to our experience.
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The final verdict
This restaurant is truly a love letter to Ucluelet, and the owners remain committed to showcasing the very best of the island’s flavours. It is absolutely worth the trip if you are staying in Tofino and checking out all the amazing Tofino Restaurants.
Whether you’re looking for an upscale restaurant that retains its small-town charm or simply want to experience the best of BC’s local flavours, Pluvio is a dining spot that you’ll never forget.