by Ivy Knight with photos by Kayla Rocca
One hour outside of the city you turn down a woodsy road and drive past a scattering of spring bulbs peeking behind rocks and nodding at the base of trees. Here is Langdon Hall, an elaborately restored summer getaway for English born, New York financier Eugene Langdon Wilks and his family. The hundred plus year old property was bought by William Bennett and Mary Beaton, they opened as the Langdon Hall Country House and Hotel in 1989. [See GFR’s profile of Beaton, Bennett and their hotel’s 20 year anniversary here. – Ed]
The grounds were restored to their Victorian roots with the help of former Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Dr. Leslie Laking. In 1991, Langdon Hall’s head gardener put in a large kitchen garden. Unlike many hotels, the magic isn’t just relegated to the bedrooms here, for in the kitchen there’s a wildly talented chef heading up a crew of young passionate cooks, all being schooled in classic French cuisine as translated through the local Ontario larder.
All served by a front of house team with military precision and timeless, balletic grace. If you are a bored, spoiled debutante you could find some minor amusement here in the form of the two Bernese Mountain dogs who follow the hotel’s grande dame, Mary Beaton, over the grounds and, sometimes, into the great old house.
Paupers and peasants can save their schekels for the most decadent afternoon tea service in the country. Each weekend tea is served in the conservatory, accompanied by quiche, gougeres, scones, pinwheel sandwiches, heavy cream and apple butter. Maple syrup and sweet butter are made in house.
With foie gras & lobster at his disposal, Grand Chef Jonathan Gushue can make magic with the menu, his most inspired dishes are those accented with herbs and delicate greens from the garden. Humble ingredients get their Oscar moment after time on his casting couch… Oh Christ. Enough already.. it’s really, really nice and the food is out of this world.
Photographer Kayla Rocca and I travelled down to Langdon Hall from Toronto recently as part of Chef Gushue’s warm-up for Terroir IV, Ontario’s hospitality symposium, where he will lead an all star team of chefs from across the culinary regions of the province from Prince Edward County to Niagara to Ottawa and Southwestern Ontario for the lunch service. There, he served both an extremely fancy (and delicious) foie gras starter, and then the best back-bacon sandwich ever conceived by man or woman – seriously he does pub food too. All were washed down with some of the best wines made in Ontario wines from Norman Hardie and Tawse. It was a tough assignment. Here are Kayla’s photographs…
Ivy Knight is a food writer and host of 86’d Mondays at the Drake Hotel. Join her this Tuesday when she will be hosting the Terroir afterparty in the Lounge at the Drake Hotel from 7pm on. Follow her on twitter for more details twitter.com/ivyknight Kayla Rocca is a recent graduate of Brock University – Marilyn I Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. Her fascination in beauty and culture, combined with her love of art and travel, has led her down the path of photography. Kayla creates visually stimulating photographs through her use of colour and editing techniques. She is currently traveling Africa and capturing the inspiring landscapes, wildlife, and people of Uganda.