Chef David Fillier mixes a batter for fried oysters with a whisk that’s too big for their bowl. Photo: Jimmy Thomson / Capital Daily
For weeks I’d seen the ambiguous art on the marquee at 1802 Government Street; the hybrid-human frog face peering over traffic jams, the words “end dive” scrawled beside it. It looked intriguing—like it could either be an art gallery or a dive bar—and it happens to be a little bit of both.
End dive, an ambitious, local-focused seafood restaurant and bar with a DIY ethos and a punk rock attitude, is the first foray into business for co-owners Tod Newton, Mat Clarke, Joe Cunliffe and Kara Martyn.
It’s a bright room—six-foot-high windows surround the space and the interior is a mix of red brick and bright-green painted walls, the same hue as the mad human frog face logo on the marquee. The walls are hung with paintings, following the theme artists Kai Choufour and Leah McInnis set with the restaurant’s logo: striking hybrid human/animal characters in bright shades of green and pink.
The mahogany bar top stretches the length of the entire restaurant—over 24 feet from one end to the other. Behind, the bar is fully-stocked with local wines and locally distilled spirits. House-made orgeat syrups, berry dust, and bitters sprinkle the rubber bar mat.
From the fish to the produce (most of which comes from their friend’s farm in Metchosin, Sweet Beans) to the art, everything is intentionally local. Fillier rattles off the origins of everything on a plate sitting on the (locally sourced) bar top: the cabbage, tomatoes, and onion are from Metchosin, as are the purple flower petals garnishing the dish; the nuts and dairy are from up-Island. The plate itself comes from Galiano Island.
“We’re building relationships with foragers, and soon, the fisheries—we’re getting into that market now,” Clarke said. “If you can, source everything locally and make your own stuff, I think it’s how you should do it.”
If no one can supply what they need locally, they make it.
“We’re trying out soy sauce,” Chef David Fillier says, with a hop in his step. They just need some time to ferment the koji. “We make our own pepper, even.”
The food is globally inspired too. Clarke says his travels throughout parts of South, Central, and North America, Oceania and Asia, expanded his palate of flavours, and he was surprised by how much could be replicated on Vancouver Island. “You can make an unbelievable menu, purely local,” he says.
That afternoon, at lunch, Newton served up a Well Acquainted cocktail—a tangy, spirit-forward amaro, vermouth, and absinthe cocktail with cucumber accents.
For lunch, I got the sugarloaf, an unexpected mountain of fresh tomatoes and plums slathered in miso basil dressing on top of half a head of sweet, crispy cabbage.
For my main, I got the Eggs on Eggs—a decadent egg salad sandwich with walnut spread on crusty country bread and smoked pickles bursting through a soft-poached egg.
My editor, Jimmy Thomson, got the Halibut Burger, a herby fish cake inside a soft milk bun, with pickled peach relish and lemon mayo.
A menu featuring pumpkin seed ranch or carmen wasabi is impressive as it is, but seeing the chef making every ingredient by hand is even more so.
Newton, Clarke, and Martyn met while working at Be Love catering to a certain crowd: vegetarians and vegans. Clarke was head chef there for seven years and Martyn was his sous chef. Newton was the bar manager. In early 2020, one of Be Love’s owners, Joe Cunliffe, started making plans to move the trio into a new space with a different idea in mind. The pandemic put those plans on hold until late 2021, when the four began working on the space at Herald street, each helping with the construction and interior design of what’s in the space now.
The owners even helped excavate the place, spending days in a hole with pick axes to carve out the grease trap. Chef Fillier says that kind of hands-on work is the reason they became a chef. “I have a say here,” they said.
Like the name suggests, end dive strives to go one step further. But don’t expect to be pampered—expect to be impressed.