The team behind Whistler's newest cocktail bar, The Raven Room, took a decidedly hands-on approach while renovating the elegant space located in the Pan Pacific Whistler Village.
"We're in here sanding, doing drywall, painting, doing physical renos on the room, and then it's like, 'All right, let's get a wine program going, a cocktail program going, let's do some hiring, do some PR,'" said co-owner Jason Redmond. "It's been a lot of fun. It's just really neat to have our own space and take a sense of pride in the room."
The Raven Room is the brainchild of Luke Woodnutt, formerly of 21 Steps, and Redmond, previously of Araxi and fellow TopTable restaurant Bar Oso, where he oversaw the cocktail program and created the much-loved, award-winning Oso Sour.
The ownership team includes Redmond's wife Steph and Woodnutt's wife Brandi. Erin Stone, formerly of Stonesedge, has been brought on as head chef. Redmond said the team is looking to raise the bar for Whistler's cocktail scene.
"As great as Whistler is as a world-class ski resort and host to people from all around the world, we found, as it's become busier over the years, there's been a level of complacency that we'd like to elevate," he said.
"We'd rather be a bit more focused on putting quality in the glass. If it takes a few more seconds or costs a dollar or two more, I think it's worth it."
Redmond said the cocktail menu will be "fun, fresh and approachable" with a particular emphasis on sourcing fresh, quality ingredients.
"You're not going to find any margarita mix here. It's going to be fresh-squeezed lime juice, which we did right before service. House infusions. A lot of fun things behind the scenes that will allow us to put a great product in the glass," Redmond noted. "It's a lot of what I have been doing, what Luke has been doing in the past, but to do it for ourselves, and to really bring that to the next crowd of locals and tourists."
That focus on quality extends to the kitchen as well. The Raven Room won't be home to the average après fare—"no burgers, no nachos, no wings," Redmond explained—and, similar to its cocktail program, the menu will feature a bevy of locally sourced, ethically produced ingredients.
"From seafood to the farms of Pemberton, there's a lot of good stuff around the Sea to Sky. So we'll utilize what's in season and change the menu accordingly, rather than bringing in stuff out of a bag, pumping it out and mass producing," said Redmond. "We can find the right price point to give people a really quality product that's local and sustainable."
Along with catering to the Pan Pacific's in-house guests, Redmond envisions The Raven Room, which will serve food until midnight, with a particular focus on small plates, being the go-to late-night spot for Whistler's service industry.
"We're definitely picturing the industry crowd coming by after work to have a nice cocktail, see what's new on the menu, or try a local craft beer that we will have on tap," he said, adding that the bar will feature eight local craft beers on tap, a rotating cocktail on tap, as well as an extensive list of "low-intervention" wines—meaning minimal chemical or technological intervention was used in their production.
In terms of the décor, the owners' commitment to DIY has evidently paid off, with the space adorned with rich wood tones, high ceilings and tall windows, creating a sophisticated yet approachable environment.
"It's certainly on par with the best cocktail bars in the world, and quite a few of them happen to be in hotels," Redmond said. After its soft opening earlier this month, Redmond said the team is gearing up for its official grand opening in the coming weeks. Once fully staffed and up and running, The Raven Room will open from 3 p.m. to midnight daily.
Locally owned and operated, Redmond said it's been "a bit surreal" to finally see The Raven Room go from a long-held dream to a reality. "It's been a lot of fun seeing the smiling faces in the room. A lot of congratulations, a lot of hugs, a lot of great energy in the room to start," he said.
"We really just want to keep people happy."
For more information, visit theravenroom.ca.