Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Victoria’s End Dive has emerged as a mainstay of the city’s cocktail and culinary scene

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Natural wines, a playful cocktail program and an ever-changing menu make this Victoria eatery one of the most original and genuine places to wine and dine in the city.

Whether it’s for a date night, a business dinner, a catchup with friend or you just want to treat yourself, there is a place for you at End Dive, Victoria’s premiere frog-themed dive bar which focuses on local, quality ingredients and not taking themselves too seriously. 

In less than a year of being open, the bar has become one of the most unique cocktail bars in the city.

Located on the corner of Herald and Government Streets, End Dive has found a home in what once was a furniture store, but is now an open kitchen eatery where customers can watch their well crafted dishes be assembled before their very eyes by some of Victoria’s best and brightest chefs. 

End Dive is the brainchild of a group of friends who cut their teeth together working in kitchens and all found their role and parts to play in the overarching goal of the restaurant, to have fun with good ingredients. 

The food menu has three categories of dishes that are all meant for sharing, tapas style — vegetables, pastas and seafood. Servers recommend having one dish from each category for two diners to allow for a little bit of room for a humble and delightful dessert.

Head Chef Mat Clarke is the glue holding the group together and he keeps the menu playful and experimental with fermentation, seasonal ingredients and not pigeonholing himself to any one style of cuisine.

“I’m not a control freak,” Chef Clarke said. “I’d rather we all kind of do our own thing and highlight each other.”

His vision for highlighting one another is brought through to fruition by one of his partners in crime, Chef Kara Martyn, who is responsible for the fresh pasta and baking among other things. The pasta has been fine tuned and Martyn’s craft has been honed to allow customers to experience some of the finest fresh pasta in Victoria. 

“Kara was my sous chef at another restaurant and now she makes all the fresh pasta,” Clarke told Victoria Buzz. “That’s where her passion lies.”

 

Cold smoked black cod, manilla clams, romesco, preserved lemons, steamed leeks, semolina dumplings (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)
Rhubarb Gelato with sponge cake and praline (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)

End Dive’s Front of House Manager, Nate Cunnings is a unique asset for the bar. Not only is he the friendly face that will greet most guests, but he is also the one responsible for most of the kitchen’s fresh produce. 

He has a farm called Sweet Beans out near Metchosin which provides distinctive ingredients like the minutina, which is an Italian bitter green that is a surprising and complementary addition to End Dive’s poutine inspired gnocchi dish.

Gnocci, farmhouse cheese curds, green onion, minutina, morel and glack garlic gravy, crispy oyster mushrooms (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)

Todd Newton is responsible for the bar’s now prestigious cocktail program and his taste in wine is impeccable. Newton chose to ground End Dive’s libation identity in natural wines which are sourced largely from BC wineries to showcase what the province has to offer. 

The natural wines pair incredibly well with the veggie-forward menu Chef Clarke puts together, but Newton has not left the cocktail enthusiasts behind. 

A key component of a well laid out cocktail program is making sure that there is something for everyone and Newton is no one-trick pony. His menu changes on a whim but there are always options for those who like sweet, refreshing, complex and simple concoctions. 

The ‘Bad Advice’ and the ‘Cardboard Pile’ (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)
The ‘Skelliconnection’ and the ‘Seaforth’ (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)

The vibe that End Dive has garnered itself is one that is welcoming and spirited. The art created by friends of theirs, Kai Choufour and Leah McInnis is scattered about the room and represents the heart and soul of the eatery impeccably.

Even the logo emblazoned on the hanging sign outside the restaurant was created by Choufour.

Clarke hopes to see the restaurant continue to grow and prosper after its first year with the potential to be able to provide a lunch service down the line. 

With more developments coming to the area, Clarke is glad to be where he is at with his friends and business partners, and he is glad to be part of a food community that supports one another rather than stepping on each other’s toes.  

“Our whole thing is we’re big on community and supporting our fellow restaurateurs,” Clarke said. 

For now he is proud of his tight-knit team and the things that they are able to accomplish together.

The bar (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)
Open kitchen behind the bar (Curtis Blandy/Victoria Buzz)

End Dive is open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday and reservations can be made online

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Curtis Blandy
curtis@victoriabuzz.com

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