While his colleague Jim dines in style in the south of France, Nigel experiences an exemplary dinner in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The occasion was the twin birthdays of my two favourite Aries ladies: my beloved and my eldest daughter. To celebrate we took ourselves to Treadwell in the Old Town. Sailing across Lake Ontario in my much-missed little sloop back in the late 2000s, we became aware of father and son team of Stephen and James Treadwell, who first opened their farm-to-table restaurant in Port Dalhousie. When they moved to the 124 on Queen Hotel and Spa in 2013, we quickly followed. As I wrote in Moving On, we seldom visited NOTL without stopping there for lunch. Now it was time to reacquaint ourselves with their dinner offerings.
We were warmly welcomed by the attentive staff and shown to a table on the patio, still enclosed for the potentially chilly spring evening. As it turned out, the heaters were on and we were quite comfortable. James Treadwell, who has led me to a new appreciation of Niagara wines, popped out to greet us personally and offer us a delicious 13th Street Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine.
We all settled on a first course of ash rolled smoked salmon with bright green pressed leek, crème fraiche and trout caviar. It was nicely presented and a wonderful blending of complementary flavours.
Our sparkling wine glasses empty, James then suggested a bottle of Five Rows 2021 Sauvignon Blanc, which paired brilliantly with the next two courses. My beloved chose a white onion soup, with brown butter breadcrumbs and cheddar crumble. My daughter and I settled for sesame crusted saku tuna, with crispy rice, green onion and citrus ponzu. After two fish courses, my daughter and I were ready to move onto something meatier for our mains, but my beloved chose to stay with the swimmers. She had an absolutely delicious pan seared Lake Huron whitefish, with peas and bacon, East Coast lobster and sweet onion beurre blanc. My eldest and I chose honey and pink peppercorn glazed Muscovy duck, with roasted baby beets, blackberries and hibiscus jus. Not a green thing in sight to jar the pink and purple presentation.
Almost replete, we all decided on vanilla crème brûlée, served as a tart with a white chocolate and pistachio biscotti. My ladies’ portions were presented by James himself, adorned with candles and he further endeared himself to us by not singing the birthday song. He also brought glasses of an outstanding ice wine by Cave Spring. All together a simply splendid evening.
I’ve been planning to write further about 124 on Q Hotel and Spa, in which Treadwell is a partner, after I’d experienced some killer martinis at their new Q Lounge and Bar. My companion and I also tasted some of their new hot small plate nibbles: tasty arancini and crispy cauliflower bites, both delicious. I was able to sit down for a chat with owner David Jones. He explained how several properties along the main street had been assembled. One was an ugly building with no redeeming features, which he quickly got permission to replace with a faux heritage building. That now houses Treadwell and one of NOTL’s many fudge shops. Starbucks had abandoned the property during the pandemic, but came back onboard when a beautiful new space was offered in a genuine heritage building, which now also houses the hotel’s reception. In the last few weeks, a gallery featuring curated local art has been added joining the front of house to the bar. This, we are told, will feature a new rota of artists every few months.
With the extra spaces opened in 2019, the hotel now has over 70 rooms. In addition, there’s meeting areas for corporate events or weddings. Upstairs in both buildings are the guest accommodations. Guest services manager Larissa kindly gives me a tour.
Having stayed in my share of hotels rooms during a long career on the road, I can say without doubt these are very special rooms. The beds and linens are so comfortable that guests have been known to buy them for themselves. Rooms feature glass sided walk in showers, dark blue bath robes, local art, and nice touches to make each room more like home—a little plant here, a book casually left beside the bed there. All rooms have a fridge, some have a kitchenette and a few are suites with a decent kitchen. The larger rooms have lounge and dining areas.
Behind the complex, several other buildings have further guest accommodation, including rental suites and apartments. Underneath, there’s parking. During my visit, the concrete slab above was being converted into a lush garden space to open this summer. Ground floor suites will have their own private outdoor space, with fires. For toasting marshmallows, perhaps? The rest will be manicured green spaces with a pavilion for wedding ceremonies, yoga or outdoor massages.
A restored (and relocated) historic building, which once held the town’s blacksmith, is a centrepiece of the garden and will eventually hold two more suites.
The extensive spa is below the main building. It has everything you’d ever want in a wellness centre, with the addition of a room made of salt blocks for couples’ massages and North America’s only snow room. Navigate the warm and cold plunge pools, then after heating up in the eucalyptus scented steam room, you can cool off in a room decorated with images of snow laden pine trees. Press a button and it will snow. Build your own snowman. Dare I say—very cool.
Just down the street, The Gate House is a separate building with a summer bistro, wedding or corporate facilities and more accommodation.
My original hope was to be invited to the official opening of the Q Lounge and Bar. Alas, it quietly opened last week without fanfare. As well as the extensive cocktail menu, a limited selection of salads and mains will be offered. A charming outdoor patio is included where we conclude our tour. But a little bird tells me the name may change when it does open officially. I look forward for another excuse to visit.
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Bon appetite, mon ami!