“Character, calm, charm, courtesy and cuisines”. These are the “5 C’s” of the Relais & Château Quality Charter, on which each of their luxury properties is evaluated. And even on my brief visit to Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa in Cambridge Ontario, I could see why this resort is one of only 14 such properties in Canada.
Langdon Hall has an aristocratic history dating back to 1898 when it was built as the 25,000 square foot summer residence for the wealthy Eugene Langdon Wilks and his wife Pauline, the great granddaughter of the founder of the town of Galt (now Cambridge, Ontario).
Built in the American Federal Revival style that no doubt reflected the ongoing business and social connections that Wilks had with the States, Langdon Hall’s columned facade delivers a first impression that is both graceful and refined. Designed to be a contrast to the owner’s other urban residences in New York and London, the expansive lawn in front of the home was designed by the Olmsted family of New York, the landscape architects of Central and Prospect Parks in NYC, and Montreal’s Mount Royal.
The original home had 32 rooms and took 4 years to complete, and stayed in the Wilks family until 1987 when the last descendant of Eugene sold the property to William and Mary Beaton. After almost two years renovating and restoring the property, including the extensive gardens and grounds, the Beatons opened Langdon as a hotel in 1989.
Nestled in its 75-acre estate, Langdon Hall is surrounded by a green oasis. Even the drive into the property gives the impression of being far removed – both in space and time – from the busy 401 highway and nearby town of Cambridge. Tranquility is a requirement for a property like this that promises an indulgent escape from today’s world of constant scheduling and always-on technology.
This is no high-energy boot camp. I mean, where else can you play croquet on the lawn and sip cocktails while listening to jazz, or take archery lessons from nationally certified coaches? These kinds of things usually only exist on the pages of a 19th century romance novel!
But that’s exactly what you want and expect from a country house hotel that strives to deliver ‘calm’ as one of its “5 C’s”, and Langdon is nothing if not tranquil.
Of course charm is reflected in each of the 52 unique and tasteful rooms at Langdon, some of which are located in the main house, some in the ‘Cloisters’ building opposite the house, and some in the ‘Stables’ behind the house where there is even a vaulted suite with wood beams and a wood-burning fireplace. Antiques and gorgeous views differ from room to room, but all are beautifully appointed with luxurious linens, decadent duvets and featherbeds and all the amenities you’ll need.
But for those who want to venture outside of their rooms or off the property itself (although why would you!), the Tri-Cities area of Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo where Langdon is located has charms of its own.
Twenty minutes north you’ll find one of the most popular destinations for locals and day-trippers alike: the town of St. Jacobs. Shopping on St. Jacob’s quaint main street is a fun way to spend an afternoon, and there’s no place more deserving of the adjective ‘charming’. Here you’re likely to encounter horses and buggies driven by members of the local Mennonite community, and a visit to the nearby Farmers’ Market to sample local goodies is a must. (You can read more about a visit to St. Jacob’s on this blog post.)
Fourteen kilometres northeast from Langdon Hall there’s an interesting Fashion History Museum in the village of Hespeler, housing a collection of over 13,000 garments and rarities from Celtic jewellery to contemporary couture. Stroll through their galleries and admire some of the curated items on display that may make you shake your head (everything from impossibly small corsetted waists to impossibly overdone 80’s style.) Opened in 2015 in the old post office building in the village, this little museum has its own kind of charm.
This is perhaps one of the most important of the 5 Relais & Château criteria, since the dining experience at Langdon reflects more than just talent in the kitchen – although Executive Chef Jason Bangerter’s resume is stellar: before coming to Langdon in 2013, Jason trained and worked at luxury properties and restaurants in Toronto, Paris, London and Switzerland, held an 8-year stint at Toronto’s Restaurant of the Year, Auberge de Pommier, and opened the two restaurants in the TIFF Bell Lightbox in downtown Toronto.
The menus prepared by Chef Bangerter at Langdon are also a product of his passionate commitment to using the freshest and highest quality ingredients possible – which means sourcing local suppliers and and in-season produce, foraging for honey and wild edibles on the property, and maintaining his own chef’s kitchen garden. It also means Jason is constantly innovating, which is reflected in the numerous awards he has received since coming to Langdon Hall.
On my July visit, Jason demonstrated his artistic and culinary creativity by offering a taste of the most delicious piece of tuna I’ve ever eaten, prepared and served alfresco under the trees. Plated on these gorgeous Bernardeau plates, the presentation was as artistic and carefully designed as the tuna was perfectly prepared.
If this is any indication of what to expect from a full meal at Langdon, you are in for a gastronomic experience you’ll remember for a very long time.
I left this one for last, because it was courtesy of Langdon Hall that I was invited to tour their property and sample Chef Bangerter’s 5-star cuisine. And despite the stringent and rigid standards required to be included in the Relais & Château roster of hotels, my experience here was unpretentious, welcoming and personal – something the staff clearly pride themselves on. It is thanks to them that Langdon Hall is now on my list of places where I can spoil myself in southern Ontario – whether it’s for a special occasion, a weekend getaway, or just a delicious excuse to treat myself to afternoon tea. (I do love a good afternoon tea!)
In fact, when it comes to delivering on its Relais & Château “5C-promise”, I would have to give Langdon Hall five A’s!
TIP: Langdon Hall is only an hour outside of Toronto, and the only Relais & Château property in Ontario.The Langdon Hall Website also includes a list of 13 other R&C properties in Canada.
Chef Jason Bangerter’s Citrus Herb-Marinated Tuna
with Garden Garnishes
1 ALBACORE Tuna Loin (fresh)
400g Kosher Salt
3 each Lemon, Lime and Orange zest
6 Lemongrass stalks (thinly sliced)
15g Coriander seeds (crushed)
1 bunch Coriander (fresh, washed, chopped) You can also add dill, chervil or tarragon
6 Star Anise (crushed)
INSTRUCTIONS: Mix all ingredients together and cover the Tuna for 8-12 hours in the fridge. Remove the cure and rinse the fish. Pat dry, slice the fish and serve with citrus segments and fresh herbs.
TO MAKE A MEAL: Add shaved radish and fennel with some lightly dressed greens.