Langdon Hall Country Home Hotel and Spa, a luxurious Relais & Chateaux property located in the sleepy village of Blair, Ontario (about an hour from Toronto), boasts new swagger, thanks to the arrival of a star chef, a visit from a star rapper (Drake), and a sparkling new spa.
Situated on 30 acres, the drive up to the front door for check-in is a humbling experience. The large country manor, once home to American businessman Eugene Langdon Wilks, has a grand presence. Built in Federal Revival-style in the 1890s, it has soaring white columns, a towering roof line and a very long driveway that gives you plenty of time to admire it as you approach. Curb appeal? Oh yes. In spades.
And, if you happen to be a fan of Drake, you’ll recognize Langdon Hall right away from the photo used for his VIEWS album released in April 2016. It depicts a snowy winter scene with the superstar wearing a shearling coat, posed next to a black Rolls Royce, looking fierce and in charge. Many people assumed the stunning home in the background was his crib. Not so.
The publicity surrounding Drake’s stay put the property, open since 1989, in the media spotlight. So much so, that his followers still come just to take selfies out front. Do yourself a favor, book a getaway to the country so you too can get the full Langdon Hall star treatment.
As you drive up to the front door, the staff come quickly to help guests with their luggage and to valet park their cars (a complimentary perk). A small reception area welcomes guests with over-stuffed sofas and armchairs next to a wood-burning fireplace. Just down the hall, Wilks Bar is a cozy spot for sampling a world of fine whiskey or to sip artisan cocktails that change with the seasons. Then hang out in the light-filled conservatory, a cozy spot for conversation, afternoon tea, or a game of chess.
From the front desk, head straight ahead and you will find yourself in the dining room where culinary magic happens, courtesy of executive chef Jason Bangerter. He’s a somewhat recent addition, having come to back to Canada after setting up many a kitchen at fine restaurants all over Europe. He’s classically trained in French cuisine, yet he’s an inventive man who likes to play with food and flavors. With ample gardens onsite, a greenhouse and surrounding forests from which to forage and source ingredients like mushrooms, flower blossoms and wild garlic, he has plenty on hand to fuel his creativity.
The property offers guests plenty to occupy their time. Amenities include: tennis courts, outdoor swimming pool, croquet, billiards on an antique table no less, wine tasting, mountain bikes on loan, garden tours and more than seven miles of wooded walking trails to explore. With so much available on-site, there’s no need to get into your car until the end of your visit to find fun. It’s all right there.
The Spa is a fresh addition to Langdon Hall. The old spa felt cramped, but this shiny new one, built from the ground up, has plenty of space with 12 treatment rooms, men’s and ladies’ change rooms, whirlpool and sauna. Its roster of services ran the gamut, from the classics (manicures and pedicures) to more exotic fare, like Thai massage, reiki and acupuncture. No matter what you choose you’ll be in good hands – literally.
But Langdon Hall’s enduring reputation, since the beginning, has been built on food. The strength of its farm-to-table offerings are such that guests come not only to stay, but to eat and to eat very well. Its five-diamond rated restaurant is a mainstay on many best of Canada lists. Bangerter is responsible to a large degree for that.
He’s the chef of dreams – one that takes time to mingle with guests while ensuring the kitchen runs with Swiss-like precision. He’s a stickler for details, from the type of plates used to making his own chocolate, honey and butter. He is also planning on raising his own heritage breed hens for fresh eggs next. His thinking is this: If the ingredients aren’t the very best, there’s no room for them in his kitchen. And that’s why his dining room stays full.
Langdon Hall’s 60 guest suites strike a nice balance between modern elegance and down-home country charm, dressed in calming shades of cream and taupe with plaid accents. Some have real (a rarity) wood-burning fireplaces (firewood and matches provided), perfect for warming up after snowshoeing through the woods come winter. It also incorporates little touches – flip down ironing boards tucked into a wall cupboard, well-lit bathrooms with make-up mirrors, a pile of current magazines, and turn-down service, complete with bottled water, chocolates and a card with tomorrow’s weather.
The only sour note was the bed. My king was two singles pushed together (common in European hotels) which meant my bedmate and I had to struggle to stay out of the lumpy crack in the middle. And the pillows were a bit sad. Though down-filled, they looked like over-sized, deflated marshmallows. Even after piling up a couple, I couldn’t prop up my head to a degree of comfort.
Those details aren’t significant enough to mar any stay. Langdon Halls delivers on consistently on all fronts, from attentive service to inviting sitting rooms and a full slate of activities. And, of course, there’s that incredible kitchen – one that continues to set the bar high for Canadian cuisine and all hotel-based restaurants.
Michele’s stay was hosted by Langdon Hall, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.