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A jaunt to Prince Edward County is never a tough sell, but last week’s opening of The Royal Hotel in Picton, Ontario, has made the trip east more irresistible than ever. Dating back to the late 1800s, the historic property has been lovingly restored, reimagined and renovated into a sleek, exquisitely-appointed spot peppered with subtle nods to the region. Now open for stays and, for the time being, in-room dining and takeout, the must-visit property, is the current pride of Prince Edward County.
Derelict and abandoned for years, the original Royal Hotel on Picton’s Main Street was destined to be demolished before the Sorbara family purchased it in 2013. “My family has been fortunate to be a part of Prince Edward County for many years,” said Greg Sorbara in a recent press release. “We are thrilled to bring back this iconic piece of Prince Edward County’s history. We see it as an important investment in our community and our province.”
Toronto-based architecture firm Giannone Petricone Associates -- the team behind a host of eye-catching downtown spaces, including all Terroni, Sud Forno and Cumbrae’s locations -- was tasked with preserving as much of the original property as possible. Through every fixture, finishing and piece of furniture, the company also infused the new design with details deeply connected to the site’s location and background. The renovation included a painstaking brick-by-brick restoration of the façade coupled with windows that were custom matched to replicate the original design. Named after Ontario heritage apple varieties, including Cortland and Russet, each room type also hints at the region’s history.
In all, the project involved the construction and design of 28 guest rooms in the main building, with five more located in The Royal Annex, adjacent to the main building. There are several dining spaces, a spa, sauna, gym, retail shop and a meeting room. Throughout, the look is modern and stylish. Each area exudes luxury in a refined, understated way that seamlessly blends old and new. The hotel also boasts an outdoor pool and garden, both set to open this spring.
Heading the hotel’s seasonally-driven food program is executive chef Albert Ponzo. After spending 11 years as chef at King West’s Le Sélect Bistro, Ponzo made the move to the County in 2017. Now, he’s devising menus that rely on the County’s finest ingredients, including many from Edwin County Farms, the Sorbara family’s organic vegetable farm. Menus have an Italian flair and showcase Ponzo’s devotion to regional, from-scratch cooking and nose-to-tail butchery. Paccheri with oxtail and beef shank ragu sits alongside squash farinata with roasted mushrooms and cauliflower, a selection of pizzas and more on the main restaurant’s menu.
In addition to The Dining Room -- a stunning, 120-seat space featuring a breathtaking, custom wooden fin ceiling -- the hotel houses The Counter Bar, The Parlour and a custom RV named The Trailer Bar. Casual and bright, offering all-day options, The Counter Bar serves a selection of house-baked breads, pastries, sandwiches, and more. Cozy and welcoming, The Parlour is a lobby lounge built for relaxation. Providing summertime sips, The Trailer Bar is poised to become the hotel's hottest spot once warmer temps arrive.
“The hotel has been designed to be a welcome place for both locals and visitors alike,” said project lead and general manager Sol Korngold in a press release. “So much energy, thought and consideration has gone into every inch of this space. I can’t wait for people to walk through our doors and step into the full, immersive experience that is The Royal.”
Though the hotel is celebrating its grand opening in May 2022, you'll want to visit now. Surrounded by winter's gentle calm, you can take in every detail, unrushed. Settle in to the gorgeous space and sample chef Ponzo's incredible cuisine. A place created, according to Korngold, as "the perfect jumping-off point to explore our beloved County -- our home," The Royal Hotel is set to become a destination in its own right. Enjoy it now before word gets out and reservations become impossible to grab.