Warren Barr & Lily Verney-Downey
Owners, Pluvio, Ucluelet, B.C.
Imagine living in a small town on Vancouver Island, with a wild, dramatic setting facing the Pacific, where neighbours know each other by name and there’s seemingly endless bounty for anyone who loves food. “Oh, I love Tofino,” people say. That’s what it means to be from Ucluelet, that less-heralded but just as stunning spot on the other side of Long Beach.
But being the underdog has its advantages. Take Warren Barr and Lily Verney-Downey, for example. The two met while working at Tofino’s legendary Wickaninnish Inn, where he cooked, and she cooked before moving to the hotel side. In Tofino, a Shangri-La of sky-high rents and zero vacancy, an attempt to go out on their own would have been... tricky. But head 40 kilometres down Highway 4, and the arrival of a young, talented duo like this sets the stage for a serious coup.
The result is Pluvio, the restaurant (Barr’s domain) and small inn (Verney-Downey’s stomping ground) that has helped put Ukee on the foodie map. Pluvio is that rare spot these days: a restaurant not devised and polished by consultants and market researchers, but instead an honest-to-goodness labour of love by two people passionate about hospitality. It’s that small-town spot we all dream about—locals and tourists dining unpretentiously on high-end fare—but rarely find in the sea of Boston Pizzas that seems to hold sway in most small centres. But not here: on the west coast of the Island, it may not be long before it’s the Tofitians who have to explain that their town is the one located on the other side of Long Beach.
Q&A with Warren and Lily of Pluvio
What are your desert island kitchen gadgets?
A good knife (Warren has had his main knife for 19 years), a cake tester (to check the cooking temperature of meat, et cetera) and the perfect spoon (there is such a thing, ask any chef!).
What’s always in your fridge?
Mayonnaise and too many condiments from around the world that we have smuggled back in our suitcase.
What’s your favourite unusual food and drink pairing?
Tequila with dessert: a really good-quality aged tequila (such as Herradura Ultra or Clase Azul) with a sweet, caramelized dessert.