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Ucluelet restaurant named Canada’s best fine dining experience

Pluvio tops TripAdvisor’s Best of the Best Awards
Warren Barr and Lily Verney-Downey smile at the bar of their Pluvio Restaurant, which was recently named Canada’s best fine dining restaurantby TripAdvisor. (Andrew Bailey photo)

If it’s fine dining you request, it’s a Ucluelet restaurant TripAdvisor suggests.

TripAdvisor recently unveiled its Best of the Best Awards for 2022 and Pluvio Restaurant and Rooms tops the list of Best Fine Dining Restaurants in Canada.

Warren Barr and Lily Verney-Downey opened the intimate 24-seat culinary experience in 2019 and have been delighted to see their creation quickly become a TripAdvisor darling with a 5-star rating based on 553 reviews. The restaurant has also racked up a list of accolades as long as its reservation list, with the recent fine dining award joining an already crowded trophy cabinet that includes a spot on Air Canada’s enRoute magazine’s list of Canada’s Top 10 Best New Restaurants, Best New Destination Restaurant list, and a fourth place spot on TripAdvisor’s Best Date Night Restaurant in the World.

“Between Canada’s 100 best and TripAdvisor, we feel like we’ve had a really spectacular year and we’re just really grateful for all the awesome guests we have that come through and are so supportive of us, whether they’re visiting from afar or from the community that joins us so often,” Barr told the Westerly News. “It’s very rewarding. We get a lot of cards, letters and even presents from guests after they’ve left just thanking us for a wonderful evening. It’s pretty amazing to be able to impact people that much through a restaurant. It’s awesome.”

Verney-Downey said they had not heard about the Best Fine Dining award from TripAdvisor before her phone started buzzing with messages from excited patrons and supporters congratulating them.

“That really comes from our team making that connection with the guests. It makes it all worth it to have that relationship with the guests and have that personal connection and for our team to have that personal connection with people and to make that level of impact that people are choosing to go online and write reviews,” she said. “We don’t solicit reviews. We don’t do any rewards for reviews, so this really does come from people wanting to share their experience and that comes down to the work that our team does here.”

She added one of the first people to congratulate them was Richard Norwood, who operated Ucluelet’s former Norwood’s Restaurant in the same spot Pluvio is now.

Barr noted Norwood’s had also cooked up a long list of awards in its day.

“Obviously there’s a horseshoe somewhere in this building,” he laughed.

He added he and Verney-Downey are “very hands-on” and work hard to ensure the restaurant’s staff is as happy as its guests.

“When we first conceived Pluvio in our brains, the focus was always going to be on the team. If the team’s happy then the guests are going to be happy as well. A miserable server is not going to deliver a really happy, positive experience. So, we wanted to focus on a positive team environment,” he said.

Verney-Downey explained the 17-member crew is vital to the restaurant’s success.

“We wanted to create a restaurant that we would want to work at and that people want to be long-term,” she said. “Notoriously, hospitality has a really high turnover and ideally we would like to never have to hire again, we’d like every single member of our team to be here forever.”

Barr added the community’s welcoming and rustic charm provided a hearty foundation to build the restaurant’s menu around.

“We’re definitely trying to deliver a world class experience to the best of our ability here, but we also want to make sure you know you’re in Ucluelet and on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. So, we’re trying to marry those two things,” he said. “As thought out and meticulous as it is, we try to keep a bit of a rugged edge to it because that’s just what I think about the coastline here. It is a little rugged along the waterfront here and there’s that feeling when you’re walking along the Wild Pacific Trail; everything is beautiful and magnificent, but it’s pretty raw still and untamed, so we try to carry that feeling through the food program as much as we can.”

Verney-Downey added the community’s support has been palpably robust since day-one.

“That warm welcoming service and that connection that our team makes is a reflection of the community here,” she said. “From the moment we opened our doors, we felt so supported by the community. We had people that we’d never met showing up at the back door to drop flowers off for us that they’d grown in their garden, people reached out to us and said, ‘We’ve got an abundance of redcurrants. Do you want to come down and pick some for the restaurant’…There’s a lot of guests that we see quite regularly and then there’s guests that we see once or twice a year to celebrate those really big special occasions and that’s so wonderful to be able to have that here. We feel very supported.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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