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Dish at Agrius restaurant


Victoria, BC

Agrius • Victoria, BC

732 Yates St. 778-265-6312

Go ahead. Fill up on bread at Agrius. When your server arrives with a large wicker basket full of crusty baguette, airy ciabatta and densely crumbed rye, take him up on his offer to begin with one slice of each. The basket makes the rounds, so don’t worry; it’ll be back.

The slick downtown dining room, clad in distressed wood, red subway tile and picture windows, is owned by self-taught baker Clif Leir, who opened Victoria’s touchstone organic bakery Fol Epi in 2009. With this lunch and dinner spot, Leir’s Slow Food commitment to organic suppliers graduates from Saskatchewan wheat to the all-season bounty of the Lower Mainland. Addictive salad greens, studded with rounds of purple carrot and black radish, are from Kildara Farms in Saanich. Rice for that perfectly tender shrimp risotto – bakers have a thing for texture – is grown in Abbotsford, and the sea asparagus and sea plantain garnish is from Sombrio Beach, an isolated surf spot on Vancouver Island’s west coast.

The kitchen, where I spot two long-haired dudes in aprons calmly prepping asparagus, filters French technique through a Pacific Northwest lens. For the tartare, in-house butcher Paul van Trigt cubes meat from Metchosin-raised lamb, while chef Sam Harris applies sweet and sour tang with a dressing of preserved Meyer lemon, adding grilled broccolini for bitterness and warmth. There’s bread involved, of course, in the form of Pullman sourdough croutons, edges crisped up in hot lamb fat.

As we bop along to Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder and Outkast, Adam Bonneau shakes up a Sweep Me Under the Rug cocktail of Aperol, rooibos tea syrup and Ampersand gin distilled up the road in Duncan. The breadbasket circles back at key moments: Choose ciabatta to load up on smoked sablefish brandade, baguette for the heartier job of sopping up the rich clove- and nutmeg-infused boudin sauce that accompanies the rosé duck breast. I wipe the plate so clean, I might put the dishwashers out of a job. On my way out, I’m gifted one of the last baguettes of the day to reward my diligence: a midnight snack.

Breadbasket of the year
Clif Leir

Clif Leir, Agrius On Bread

When I was 18, I built a brick oven in my driveway and started baking bread and selling it at Victoria’s Moss Street Market. Seven years ago, I built my own mill for Fol Epi bakery: People sometimes forget that flour comes from a plant, and growing conditions change how it will perform. We work directly with farmers in Saskatchewan to get wheat and rye, and we have two silos for storage. I work with a team at 3 a.m., starting the mill, shaping the doughs, checking the wood oven, feeding the wild yeast culture I started almost 20 years ago. For dinner service we encourage guests to pair the different breads with different dishes.

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732 Yates St. 778-265-6312


    November 12, 2016 at 6:53 am

    Clif – I have a picture somewhere of that brick oven – from when you lived in the same house as my daughter – Jody

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