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‘Rudi’ Opens Doors in Victoria

If you’re reading this in Victoria, you will likely have already noticed that doors to the newest project from the team behind Wind Cries Mary crew, ‘Rudi‘, swung open late last week. If you’re in Vancouver and unaware that the project was even underway, then consider this news another reason to jump on a ferry to visit our capital city.

Originally home to Sherwood (which closed in late September of this year), the 2400-square-foot restaurant at 710 Pandora Avenue – across from Victoria City Hall on Douglas Street, and next to the recently opened ‘Marilena’ – features seating for 95: 65 inside, plus another 30 split over two different patios. Although it was still hidden under swaths of plastic drop sheets when I visited the location earlier this month, from what I could see it was clear that something cool was taking shape.

With the help of designer Kyla Bidgood (Bidgood & Co), the room displays rich wood panelling, brass and marble accents, and hand-painted detailing on overhead lighting intended to impart an old-school railway car vibe – the kind of setting where you could imagine exchanging jovial stories of recent adventures with other travellers over good wine, tasty food and laughter. As explained to me, Rudi’s menu uses products from local Vancouver Island farms, fishers, brewers and winemakers, and imbues them with a touch of European style. My takeaway was that Rudi intends to blend elements from distant locations (and eras) with a sense of familiarity that is uniquely Victoria.

To get an even better sense of what Rudi is all about – from its look to its personal inspirations and libations – I reached out to owner Jesse Dame with some questions:

Tell us about the name: where did `Rudi` come from?  Rudi is short for Rudolph, a traditional German name that has nothing to do with the reindeer. Rudi is a character inspired by my grandfather, with whom I was incredibly close growing up. My grandfather spent his early adult years travelling the world. When he settled in Canada and started a family, he had to put his love of travel on hold. He kept that love alive through the dishes he’d create, inspired by all the places he’d been. I loved being in the kitchen, watching him work and listening to his stories. As soon as I could, I started travelling myself; trying new foods has always been the most exciting part for me.

Can you tell us a little about the overall vision for this project? Like WCM, we want Rudi to be a place to come together and share food, drinks and stories. Expect a menu inspired by traditional European cuisine and beloved family recipes passed down through generations – with tweaks and new ideas added over time. We want it to feel comfortable and familiar while giving you a new experience each time you come through the door.

What do you want people to experience at Rudi?  We want Rudi to feel like an old friend, the one whose stories come alive at the dinner table over a bottle of wine. A place where people want to stay for a drink after dinner because they just don’t want the night to end.

Images courtesy of Drea Conforti (@dreaconforticreative)

From an aesthetic perspective, what are the `big picture` plans for the space? The overall design of the space is intended to feature elements of a vintage rail car. Bold colours, rich fabrics, antique and modern finishes. We love all of the light in the space, but will be adding in design elements to make it warm and cozy at night. The room is something totally unique for Victoria.

If there was a style of music that would make up the Rudi soundtrack, what would it be? It would probably remind you of a Wes Anderson movie. It’s an eclectic mix that spans decades and genres. Don’t be surprised to find folk, 1960s Italian pop, and even a little metal sprinkled in there.

What about this neighbourhood/space caught your attention and motivated you to open another restaurant/bar, when many might be wary? I was always a big fan of Sherwood and loved the space. I think just like the rest of Victoria I am always looking for somewhere new and exciting to eat and drink. I have felt so supported by the people of Victoria, and wanted somewhere to continue to showcase all the amazing ingredients, talented hospitality staff and culture of the city.

If Wind Cries Mary is cocktail-forward, with a great food menu. Will Rudi be food-forward with a great cocktail menu, or can we expect the spotlight to be on drinks? I will always say that Wind Cries Mary is a restaurant first. I use the term `three headed dragon` to describe it because we put so much time, energy and focus into food, cocktails and wine. We will be doing the same thing with Rudi. Chef, West and our somm, Jasmin, are all equally talented and passionate about what they do, and not one area of the restaurant is more important to me than the next.

So what sets Rudi apart from Wind Cries Mary? With Wind Cries Mary, the inspiration was my Vancouver Island roots, and love for music. Rudi tells a different story: the one of my love for travel and my connection to my European lineage. The menu, wine list, cocktails, and design are all brand new. You will, however, experience the same level of hospitality and the quality of the food and beverage program will be the same. If you love one, you’ll love the other.

So talk to us about the food, what does the menu read like? Our menu focuses on a fresh pasta and charcuterie, taking inspiration across many countries in Europe. We’ll have both small and large plates that are great for sharing or for a solo dinner at the bar. Rudi will also offer a daily family style tasting menu, and the format and dishes involved in this will always be changing. We will be offering a coffee/takeout program for those on the go, and lunch/brunch in the spring!

Who is behind your bar program? We have enlisted the help of West Bourget (Stage, Olo) as our Bar Manager to really lead the creative direction and vision of the program, but you’ll also see some familiar and talented bartenders at Wind Cries Mary collaborating with West and his team!

Open everyday from 4pm-1am for dinner service. Will be opening for daytime service Monday-Friday starting January 2nd. 

Opening Team:
Jesse Dame (Owner/Director)
Executive Chef and Managing Partner David Healey (Wind Cries Mary)
GM – Clayton Thornber (Wind Cries Mary)
Bar Manager – West Bourget (Stage, Olo)
Somm – Jasmin Dosanj  (Wind Cries Mary)

Region: Victoria
710 Pandora Ave.

There is 1 comment

  1. This very near my home in Victoria. I am very glad about this new space but wonder if it may be too expensive ?
    The year ahead could be quite tough. Will there be daily specials? Will tip options start at 18% ?
    Just honest ,real queries.

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