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Aug 30, 2009 01:05 PM

Vancouver Island especially Sooke and Ucluelet

My wife and I will be going in a couple weeks or so for about 9 nights and I have many questions and some requests. We will spend alot of time in Sooke and Ucluelet, less in Victoria. We will eat anything from a hole-in-the-wall to fine dining. In Sooke and Ucluelet we will do some, maybe many, of own dinners, so we will need fresh ingredients, especially seafood and wine shops. I like to grill and cook when I don't have to do so at the end of a day of work. I LOVE seafood, my wife is more whitefish, crab, shrimp, steak and potatoes while I am more adventurous. We consider well done humble food, such as hot dogs, pizza, fish and chips, pub grub to be as good, maybe better than high end white linen restaurant food. We want local kinds of food (don't need Vanc-Mex for example).

Is the Sooke Harbor House restaurant "all that?" I am OK paying for it but I cannot get any idea of the cost of food or wine from their website. I also saw something about their former head chef opening The EdGe in Sooke.

Anything along the way between Sooke and Ucluelet, Ucluelet back to Victoria worth looking for? Seafood and ingredients in/near Ucluelet? Any restaurants in Ucluelet ot Tofino to try?

This should get me started and I will ask and query as I receive answers. Thanks.

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  1. It's been about 4 years since I've eaten at Sooke Harbour House, but it was an amazing experience. Their approach to cuisine is intensely local and seasonal with much of the produce grown on their grounds (or seaweed collected from nearby beaches) and the fish caught in the adjoining strait. Tasting menus are $120 per person (from their website) but when I went we ordered off the menu. Entrees if I remember right were around $40, but I could be mistaken.

    1. I ate at The Schooner in Tofino 4 years ago, and it was really great. My wife and I decided to do a bunch of appetizers while sitting at the bar - the restaurant was full mid-week.

      There is a famed fish taco place that operates out of a trailer near a shopping centre somewhere in the Tofino area. I only found out about it after my trip, so cannot report on it.

      6 Replies
      1. re: souschef

        The Rod and Gun in Parksville does a decent cornmeal crust pizza for lunch.

        Avoid the stupid tourist trap in Coombs.

        1. re: souschef


          Lisa and Arty Ahiers SoBo has done a couple of moves since they had the old catering truck in the back of the parking lot behind the surf shops, Tofitian and the good little grocery that caters to the surfers and folks along Chesterman Beach.

          They first moved to the Botanical Gardens where Cafe Pamplona had been and now are right downtown across from the liquor store and Gary's Chinese in the spot that formerly was occupied by the pastry chef from the Wickaninnish Inn, Pasticceria Conradi or something similar.

          She still features her "killer fish tacos" and other hearty fare. Excellent desserts. My wife is not a big fan but I like it particuarly on a rainy day. Casual and comfortable.

          Also in town in what used to be the Crab House is Shelter which is a Cactus Club off-shoot. Beautiful physical surroundings but the food was just ok when we tried it last year and the service....well it was on "Tofino Time".

          Long time favourite Rain Coast Cafe closed down this year and has been replaced by the Spotted Bear Bistro on Fourth just off Campbell. The reviews I have read have been good.

          if you do have some money to splurge. The view from the Wick during the day [we go for lunch as we can walk down the beach] is stunning. Not sure about the food as Chef Springett left to open the Black Rock resort in Ucluelet.

          We have had mixed results the next beach over at Cox Bay at the Long Beach Lodge Resort but it affords a different look of the waves rolling onto the beach...good sand dollar hunting as well.

          Tough City Sushi is still operating. Say hello to "Crazy Ron' for us.

          We usually get into Ucluelet once or twice during our 10 day stay to check out the souvenir shops and their "funky" stationery store down near the harbour. As indicated about the Black Rock has opened and looks promising. Ukee-Dog and I think it is called the Starfish have been mentioned by others but we have not eated there ourselves.

          Enjoy your stay. I look forward to reading your reviews.

          We will be out there over the Thanksgiving week-end.

          1. re: Bob Mac

            As a Victoria residents who spends time in both Tofino and Sooke, I would recommend the following:

            Sooke: Vienna Bakery and Cafe. Really good soup and sandwich sort of place, plus excellent, delicate multilayered cakes.

            EdGe: New place from the longtime chef from the Sooke Harbour House (Edward Tuscon). Much more downscale and casual than the Harbour House, but the food is still supposed to be killer (I have not had the pleasure of eating there yet).

            Victoria: Lots of recommendations for Victoria, but my favourites at the moment are Red Fish Blue Fish (run out of a shipping container in the inner harbour). Killer grilled scallop sandwich.

            Also good lunches on weekdays available at Hernandez. There is a new location open only Tuesday-Friday evenings on Bay St. The huaraches and burritos are great, and the prices are completely reasonable.

            For dinner in Victoria, the best options remain Brasserie L'Ecole (reservations essential) for a west coast spin on French food; Stage in Fernwood for excellent small plates (ideal for sharing), and Zambri for simple Italian food made with fresh local ingredients.

            I'm not familiar with dining options in Ucluelet, but in Tofino the Wildside Grill is good for fish and chips, the Wickanninish Inn is best for lunch (as dinner is prohibitively expensive), and SoBo is a good casual option for things like fish tacos and pizzas (although not cheap by any stretch of the imagination).

            Must say that for stocking up on fresh seafood and produce, you are best doing so in Victoria rather than in Sooke or Ucluelet. Best option for fresh produce is the Moss Street Market in Fairfield (right off of Moss St near Fairfield Road), but you need to get there on a Saturday at 10 AM, which might not fit with your schedule.

            An alternative is to shop at the fresh farm stands out on Oldfield Road on the Saanich Peninsula. A good place is Dan's Country Market as they grow a lot of their own produce (and much of it is organic). Michell's just off the Pat Bay Highway is another fine option for local produce (although it is not organic produce).

            For seafood, the best bet is Finest at Sea in James Bay. They sell some excellent frozen seafood, like tuna flash frozen at sea, and good frozen prawns as well. So you could stock up on frozen seafood before heading out to the West Coast.

            1. re: anewton

              Matterson's in Ukee was a gem back in the day but I haven't been for a while.

            2. re: Bob Mac

              There is a tapas bar in Trounce Alley in downtown Victoria that is really good.

              We tried the seafood buffet at the Empress - meh ! But do go there for the spa/massage experience - pool/sauna/mineral baths all included with a massage. Pricey, though. Should be experience once.

            3. re: souschef

              I've been to Schooners a couple years ago and really enjoyed it. In Ucleulet, there's a cafe/diner called Starfish that does a really good burger.

            4. Great tips so far; almost overwhelming and I can barely wait. I still need a little help on the wine and beer shop end. I am absolutely OK drinking local wine and beer but I know nothing about the BC choices and am happy to try those (a long with any and all other wine and beer that I like) but I would prefer to buy from someone who knows what they have and can try to match my wife's and my palate. Thanks.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Tom Hall

                Everything Wine, in a Langford strip mall, is a vast emporium of wines both from BC and from around the world. They have knowledgeable staff, too.

                In Victoria, the Fort and Foul Bay "Signature" BC Liquor Store has an excellent selection of wines and very knowledgeable product consultants (ask for Bruce or Brenda; they are the designated product consultants in that store).

                For beers both local and international, the best selection (IMHO) is the Spinnaker's Liquor Store in Vic West in a shopping plaza off Tyee between Bay and Esquimalt Roads. Just over the Johnson Street or Bay Street Bridges.

                I must say that in terms of knowledgeable product consultants who can help find matches with you and your wife's palates, the Fort and Foul Bay store is tops. If Bruce is there on the day you pop in, make sure to ask for him...he is extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable and is working on his "master's in wine" through W-Set, I believe.

                1. re: Tom Hall


                  I am not from Victoria so others may have to chime in with recommendations on the beer and wine store front.

                  The "Wine Guys" feature Canadian wines and they have stores in Oak Bay I think as well as in the Cook Street Village.

                  Spinnakers sells its own beer from their brew pub adjacent to the inner harbour and have a good wine store in a strip mall just a few blocks away that I frequent when visiting as we usually stay in the Delta.

                  BC wines have improved significantly over the years and when we visit BC we almost exclusively "drink BC" since many of the better bottles are impossible to find here in Alberta and despite our so called "free enterprise" privatized stores, the prices are extortionary.

                  Some suggestions. Sandhill especially its small lots program. On the Island itself I really enjoy the pinot gris and pinot noir from Alderlea. Further up the island a little bit Venturi-Schulze produce interesting whites and pinot noir as well as their own balsamic vinegar. Poplar Grove from the Okanagan produces some nice wines as well including a Cab Franc that does not suffer from being too "green" and "unripe".

                  There are a lot of labels I could recommend but If you do go to the Sooke Harbour House I am told [as we have never been] they have an oustanding wine list with a focus on BC.

                  In Victoria, Cafe Brio has a very good list and owner Greg Hayes knows his wines. On one of our last visits we met the family of the winemaker from Orofino there and enjoyed his pinot noir.

                  Spinnakers which I mentioned above had a better than average wine list especially since I had expected its focus to be beer.

                  Although the government liquor store in Tofino has improved over the years, it can still be pretty grim so I would recommend that you stock up in Victoria en route especially when it comes to reds.

                  If you like apple cider there is a cidery in Mill Bay and another in Saanich. We visted the latter, the Sea Cidery I think it is called last trip and really enjoyed several of their bottlings along wtih some cheese and meats.

                  Enjoy your trip ... we are counting the days until we head that way ourselves.