By Allan Reid
There is no point at Point-No-Point, so it is said, at least not one large enough to matter much to early sailors, which is the point of the name. There is, however, a small jutting out of forest-covered granite upon which sits the Point-No-Point resort and restaurant, which is point enough to justify a mid-winter’s journey.
This remote rustic-cabin resort is West of Victoria by about an hour’s drive if one does not spend time stopping along the way at any of the many diversions: the 17 Mile Pub, the Sooke Potholes, the town of Sooke, the Sooke Harbour House, Shirley Delicious (in teensy Shirley), Stoked Pizza and French Beach. Each is a worthy destination, but there is good reason to bypass them all.
By December, traffic on the West Coast Road has become sparse, and November’s rains have greened-up the forests and filled the streams and rivers, which are at their most majestic. The road winds through a mixed coniferous and deciduous forest that is punctured now and then with views over the never too distant Juan de Fuca Strait, and punctuated here and there with rural homesteads, small businesses, and beach accesses.
On a sunny day, the drive is magnificent. On a blustery day, push past Sooke, as enticing as it may be, for Point-No-Point is just another 15 minutes away, though the remoteness of the road may make it seem longer. Do not fear that the restaurant will turn you away, for reservations are not required, at least not during the off-season. My group of six showed up unannounced and we were promptly seated. The Olympic Mountains provide a backdrop to the scene. Before them small fishing vessels and large container ships slip slowly past, and the near water is often dotted with ducks and geese and floating tangles of bull kelp, while small birds flit about the bushes just beyond the glass. We searched without luck for whales, seals and otters using binoculars set upon each table. Though the temperature outside was a nippy nine degrees, we were quite comfortable in our warm and sunny outlook.
We made the journey, in part, to escape the ordinariness of civilization, selecting Point-No-Point as our destination because, first, one needs a destination for a drive in the country, even if only to mark the point of return, and second, because the lunch menu at Point-No-Point is worth the trip. The menu echoes the drive: simultaneously comforting, adventurous, and revitalizing. The Creamy Seafood Chowder offers quick comfort, as did the Lentil and Beet Soup of the Day and the Burrowing Owl Shiraz (certainly one of B.C.’s finest wineries). The menu is not extensive, but it does offer diverse fare, and we did our best to try out most of it. For the sandwich lover, there is the Croque Monsieur, which is a Parisian speciality that Point-No-Point has mastered. It is a grilled sandwich of Emmental cheese, ham, and caramelized onions served on molasses bread with a touch of dijon mustard. If wraps are more your thing, then the Yam, Black Bean and Feta croquettes are substantial and, for meat lovers, chicken or bacon can be added. Alternately, the cured pork loin with apple compote is served over a hash of potato, creamy sauerkraut and roasted squash and may be the ultimate expression of warm comfort food. I opted for the Grilled Marinated Wild Salmon, which is served over a bed of mixed greens with a beautiful parsnip strudel. The salad is drizzled with a golden gastrique made of local Tugwell honey, which also sweetens a generous dollop of surprisingly mild horseradish mousse. This sweetness complemented perfectly the savoury salmon and strudel. The staff at Point-No-Point are very friendly and helpful, but meals are not speedily served, for each is made to order. But then one does not arrive at Point-No-Point looking to leave. This is a place for lingering. There is no cell service and the WiFi is spotty and generally available only within the lobby: disconnection is near complete, a novel concept these days, and one more way that Point-No-Point provides a great escape.