Buy BC: EAT DRINK LOCAL - The Wickaninnish Inn and The Pointe Restaurant
Article by Jason McRobbie for Buy BC
Built upon a family dream and above the craggy coastal shore of Chesterman Beach in Tofino, the Wickaninnish Inn — elegantly accompanied by The Pointe Restaurant — has garnered international acclaim for its sustainable vision and support of local food from the start in 1996. A place of serenity surrounded by wilderness and the rugged sea, the location is steps from the beach and offers unparalleled access to the true nature of Vancouver Island’s west coast. When you dine there, you feel like you are experiencing the majesty of the sea and the bounty of the land.
Twenty-five years in, it is one of Canada’s few Relais & Chateaux destinations, most recently applauded in as both a World’s Best Top 100 Resort by Travel+Leisure and a Top Resort in Canada by Condé Nast Traveler in 2021.
A Tofitian Family Dream
The dream was born nearly half a century earlier, when Charles McDiarmid’s father first moved to the Tofino area in the 1950s and fell in love with the rugged beauty of the peninsula jutting northward from the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Born and raised Tofitian, Charles connected with his father’s dream of starting a world-class luxury inn and it led him to exploring a career as a hotelier. Recruited by the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to work in various cities across North America, he spent 13 years of mastering his craft before he returned to the Pacific Northwest.
With a firm plan to turn the family dream into reality, his five word vision—“rustic elegance on nature’s edge”—took form, crafted into a 45 guestroom luxury resort in Tofino with an impeccable attention to sustainability—and a restaurant wed to the same principles. The popular inn, set on over 100 acres of oceanfront property, preserves the natural beauty of the site and incorporates natural elements in its design with local cedar, driftwood and stone in the design.
A Vibrant and Venerated Landscape
That philosophy is well fitted to Tofino and its surroundings. Situated within the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, the landscape is both ancient and alive, prized for the profound biodiversity that predominates. From the towering old growth rainforests dripping from above to the quiet inlets and tidal pools eddying along the coastal peninsula, the UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Region offers an experience to be found nowhere else in Canada.
At the Wickaninnish Inn and Pointe Restaurant, capturing that wild essence and making the experience edible, has been the purpose all along.
Of Farmers, Fishers and Foragers
Firmly fixed atop a rocky bluff, The Pointe Restaurant team is guided by Executive Chef Carmen Ingham and Restaurant Manager Annette Rawlinson. They are fortunate to have access to some of the world’s freshest ingredients selected from local growers and pickers who harvest sustainably and provide incredible products. The ethos backing those ingredients, shines through in every one of Chef’s dishes, with special attention taken by the kitchen to employ techniques that emphasize the caliber of their super-natural pantry.
From the sturgeon caviar of Northern Divine Aquaculture, bursting with ocean brine to the prime poultry and meats of Yarrow Meadow, Farmcrest Foods, Stillmeadow Farm and greens of the Cowichan Valley, Chef Carmen takes special pride in what their proximity to nature at its rawest has to offer. He also works closely with the Tofino-Ucluelet Culinary Guild—a non-profit organization that connects Vancouver Island farmers, fishermen, foragers and food producers to families, restaurants, groceries and businesses on the West Coast.
For Annette, the relationships that have emerged as a result are emblematic of the philosophy that the McDiarmid family adheres to—one that goes beyond conventional notions of environmental sustainability to include harmony, integration and celebration.
The Pointe of Loving Local
For guests, the inspiration of the kitchen is reflected on the plate. The restaurant has long been regarded the high mark of West Coast cuisine, as reflective to the changing seasons as it is buoyed by the stalwart network of local suppliers. So while the tasting menu changes every 10 days, the goal of the kitchen is unwavering. They proudly merge their skills and passions with the bounty and beauty of where they live to cultivate tastes you might never have known you craved.
Fully committed to farm-fresh, organic and local sources, the end result is an ever-changing mosaic of a menu that is handmade and creative. The sounds of the ocean surf piped in from feet away adds audible allure to the kitchen’s always intriguing offerings.
Howard’s World-Class Wine Cellar
Naturally, the class act pours forth in the glass as well, where the wine list, stemming from the deep vaults of Howard’s Wine Cellar at the Pointe, has been celebrated by wine scribes the world over for its 10,000+ bottle collection. Named for Charles’ father, Howard’s Wine Cellar also serves as the perfect haven for private events, featuring a stunning 20-foot-long yellow cedar table.
Curated by Sommelier and Director of Food and Beverage, Ike Seaman, the wine focus remains much the same as throughout the local-loving, luxury resort. Centered around impeccable wines from regional producers, it too is a celebration of small growers and local offerings, alongside internationally-renown wineries. On the 40+ page wine list, you’ll find B.C. bubbles to late harvest, from Naramata to Cobble Hill, and all points in between.
Proud to showcase local talent against a global tapestry, the menu proudly showcases local breweries and distilleries as well. They seek out producers who deliver a strong sense of sustainability and a focus on community to develop a list that is reflective of depth, diversity and West Coast character. The Blackberry Gimlet offers a unique taste of the Island with Gin, Cowichan Blackberry Wine, Basil and Lime. The Jellyfish Negroni speak to the Tofino experience. In this version on the Italian classic, you’ll find Tofino rose & hibiscus gin, Campari, Sweet Vermouth and Tofino Absinthe.
Favourite Fall Feature
Come the cooler climates when storm watching draws guests from around the province, heartier dishes abound. The favourite of the moment merges delicacy and warmth with the best bi-valves of the seasons. Shining as the first course on the current tasting menu, scallops from Quadra Island are cured with ginger leaves from Salt Spring Island, then served in a chilled dashi broth made with kelp and pine mushrooms from Tofino.
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