Rus­tic El­e­gance on Na­ture’s Edge

DINE and Destinations - - BRITISH COLUMBIA - By Sara Wax­man

Look­ing through the win­dow of the Orca Air­ways plane leaves us in awe of the grandeur of na­ture. One mil­lion vis­i­tors make their way to the tran­quil com­mu­nity of Tofino ev­ery year. It is part of the Clay­oquot Sound UNESCO Bio­sphere Re­serve. Your cam­era is your best friend in this dra­matic and pris­tine land­scape. Our des­ti­na­tion is the Wick­anin­nish Inn on Osprey Lane at Chesterman Beach.

This magnificent prop­erty blends into the land­scape as if Mother Na­ture gen­tly placed it there. “Rus­tic el­e­gance on na­ture’s edge” is an apt phrase that is much in use here. Es­cap­ing the weather and burst­ing into the mas­sive lobby with its blaz­ing fire­place is a dream come true. In my room, I leave my easy chair in front of the fire to step out onto the bal­cony and just breathe. Be­low me, waves crash against the craggy rocks. To the right stands a for­est of ev­er­greens, and to the left, the vast ex­panse of Chesterman Beach stretches as far as the eye can see.

Mas­ter of the house Charles Mcdiarmid is in the build­ing, and with his af­fa­ble per­son­al­ity and knowl­edge of is­land lore, he is def­i­nitely the man to spend some time with. He will tell you that artists, in­clud­ing the cel­e­brated wood carver Henry Nolla, de­signed el­e­ments of the two build­ings, with the aim of blend­ing art, na­ture and cul­ture. You can even meet lo­cal artists at the on­site carv­ing shed. He might sug­gest sea-kayak­ing or hik­ing trails. We have cho­sen whale watch­ing of­fered by West Coast Aquatic Sa­faris. So here we are in a boat with a dozen other hardy souls, dressed in rain gear, speed­ing along on choppy wa­ters with eyes peeled look­ing for whales. And there they are, schools of whales, ca­vort­ing and div­ing in and out of the sea, their tails flash­ing. Once back at our won­der­ful ho­tel, this day calls for a visit to An­cient Cedars Spa, where their ther­a­peu­tic trea­sures en­com­pass the best of earth and sea.

In the Pointe Restau­rant, a magnificent room with win­dows look­ing out to the sea and sky, a tri­umvi­rate of chefs—ni­cholas Nut­ting, chef de cui­sine; War­ren Barr, ex­ec­u­tive chef; and Matt Wil­son, pas­try chef—have con­spired to turn na­ture’s bounty into a pa­rade of spec­tac­u­lars for our en­joy­ment. Fresh shucked ‘out­landish’ oys­ters come ac­ces­sorized with horse­rad­ish gran­ite, vodka and fresh lemon; spot prawn tartare is en­livened with corned veal and mus­tard. I loath hav­ing to leave the ap­pe­tizer menu, but I am tempted by Peace Coun­try lamb sir­loin and spot prawns that share the plate with potato gnoc­chi, kale and a flavour ex­plo­sion of smoked al­mond and net­tle pesto. Salmon that was swim­ming just hours ago comes with lus­cious lit­tle sour cream per­o­gies and beet­root mostardo. I am over­whelmed. I take a short stroll to an­other win­dow for a dif­fer­ent vista. Why is it that we can stare at the sea for hours? I think to my­self. To­tally re­fresh­ing rhubarb re­minds me of my coun­try child­hood, and is of­fered here with sour cream ice cream and wal­nuts, and a plat­ter of house-made petit fours and choco­lates, which keep us nib­bling hap­pily dur­ing our cof­fee and con­ver­sa­tion.

That is what the Wick­an­nin­nish is all about. It brings us back to the tran­quil­ity of na­ture at its best, and re­stores our emo­tional strength and phys­i­cal well-be­ing.


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