Langdon Hall – A true culinary escape that’s worth the drive to Cambridge
|Location||1 Langdon Drive|
|Tasting menu for two with wine pairings||$500|
If you haven’t been to Langdon Hall, a country house, hotel and spa – you should stop what you’re doing and allez, vite. It’ll transport you to the French countryside, if only for a brief respite. Time will feel like you’re moving in slow motion as you cruise past the front gate and waterfall, and through the winding, wooded driveway with perfectly manicured gardens. When the majestic estate finally appears in your windshield, you’ll find yourself speechless.
Just over an hour’s drive from downtown Toronto (not including traffic), I decided to head out of Toronto’s concrete jungle for an evening filled with some much-needed rest, relaxation and hospitality.
To start our night of luxury, we had a pre-dinner cocktail at Wilks, the bar named after the original owner. The drink was delightful and after finishing it promptly, we ventured to the restaurant, which was recently ranked as the fourth restaurant in Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants. As we walked into the elegant dining room we were immediately transported to the Old World. The dining room was luxurious with its soaring ceilings, decorative moldings, white linen tablecloths and lush upholstered furniture. It was comfortable and not at all stuffy or pretentious. We treated ourselves to the nine-course winter terroir tasting menu ($165 per person) with the wine pairing ($125 per person). I was surprised that the winter menu was still being served well into May. There were also ample wine selections by the bottle or glass – many of whose vintages dated me.
Chef Jason Bangerter is the mastermind behind Langdon Hall, and has been since 2013. Classically trained in French cuisine, his style melds classical techniques with contemporary execution. It’s not uncommon to find cheese from a local artisan or foraged ingredients from the 75-acre property. Bangerter’s gift isn’t only skill in preparation, but presentation, aussi. There were many similarities in the plating to some of the world’s greatest restaurants – Noma and Eleven Madison Park, to name a couple.
A healthy glass of Cuvée Rosé by Laurent-Perrier was poured to accompany the first three courses. Its brightness encouraged us to settle into our comfortable seats over the next three hours and leave the pampering to Langdon Hall. Le premier cours était pomme de terre, but it resembled anything but. A fried potato nest arrived on an intricate display of burlap, stones and spruce. On top, three dollops of smoked parsnip were made to resemble eggs. Tasting the crispy potato nest – although elevated in its presentation – transported me to childhood with its smoky, Hickory Sticks-eque flavour. A very solid start, indeed.
The root vegetable theme continued with the beetroot. On a shiny slab of granite sat a soft chèvre macaron with glistening shapes of jelly and dill. From looking at the dish, you’d think that your palate would be flooded with sweetness. Oh, but on the contrary, it was savoury and tart in profile. Coupled with the earthy beetroot jelly, it was exquisite. The polished nature of the dish would have balanced nicely with a more rustic plate, but appearance aside, this macaron made quite the impression.
We continued sipping our Champagne as a deviled pee wee hen egg with white truffle was set before us. Much like an elevated hardboiled egg, the fragrant slices of truffle added the sense of refinement. As for flavour, it was not overwhelming, as one might experience with this delicacy. It was just enough to add visual interest and umami for the palate, and led me to understand why Langdon Hall is known as a restaurant with perfectly balanced truffle dishes.
For the fourth course, Chef Bangerter paired Canadian Sturgeon caviar with a zesty panna cotta. Hints of citronella and fresh blooms danced on top of the delicate caviar and balanced the umami-ness of the previous dish. It was light, and paired well with the Grüner Veltliner from Domäne Wachau in Austria. At this point, it was safe to say I had entered heaven.
Next, we were presented with cod in an “onion soubise.” Soubise can be a heavy, creamy sauce, but this one was light and frothy – I could even see the tiny bubbles congregating at the edge of the dish. It was the perfect complement to the braised cod, which was meaty and tender. My fork separated its flesh with zero effort. Licorice notes from the fennel and Pernod added a complexity that I wasn’t expecting. While the Malagouzia from Alpha Estate wasn’t anything noteworthy on its own, it further elevated the multidimensional layers of this seemingly simple dish.
A noticeable turning point came with the squash, which immediately transported me to frostier temperatures. An intricate display of ingredients – sweetbreads, chestnut, diced orchard apple and fresh herbs sat before us. Then, the server poured a winter squash purée from the hollowed gourd. I enjoyed the interactivity of this dish, and, although its flavour profile was too fall-focused, the taste was spot-on. I ended up leaving some of the 2017 Viognier, Aurélien Chatagnier dans ma verre as I found the pairing was too literal – the redundancy of apple and sweetness was overwhelming. The flavour endured dans ma bouche throughout the pigeon course.
Pigeon is a classic French dish that’s challenging to master, but mon Dieu, did Bangerter and his team showcase their skills. The just-pink breast was rare, and cut like a hot knife through a slab of butter. When smeared through the spiced chocolate jus and sunchokes, the gamey protein came to life. Again, I found the medium-bodied Frappato from Sicily a tragic miss. Its spicy finish drowned out the lingering notes from the chocolate jus, leaving a peculiar mouth feel.
Warmth and winter emulated from the next dish, aussi: an elegant plate of venison with casoncelli pasta, foraged mushrooms and juniper honey broth. There was nothing to complain about with the preparation, but the stuffed pasta was far too al dente and I much preferred the glass of oaky Aglianico by La Guardiense.
To end, decadent bliss: a black cocoa tart served on an ornate green marble plate. As it was first presented, the chocolate puck looked like it was rock hard, but the smooth interior went well with the accompanying sheep milk sorbet – a cold, refreshing finish to balance the richness of the chocolate. There was one more wine pairing, 2015 Recioto della Valpolicella, La Roggia which I appreciated instead of a typical port or dessert wine.
And finally, after everything was cleared and we thought that our delicious meal had finally come to an end, a citrusy kalamansi jelly was brought to the table. It provided the sweetness of an after-dinner mint without any lingering heaviness.
While the service didn’t leave a sour taste in my mouth per se, there was ample room for improvement (sommeliers aside). It was less high-touch than what I’d expect for a restaurant of this caliber and often times, we were waiting too long between courses in a half-full dining room. I’m not one to discriminate against tattoos and piercings, but the short-sleeved uniforms drew our gaze to a certain server’s unprofessional ink. Oh, and steaming linens and resetting cutlery for breakfast in front of other dining guests —that’s a no-no. This is inexcusable for at least $250 per person. L’équipe also missed the mark on weaving the Langdon Hall story into the overall experience – to briefly educate guests about its history, and know that most ingredients are local and foraged.
Langdon Hall is a worthwhile experience. If you fancy good food, you’ll be mesmerized as you indulge in Bangerter’s cuisine. He proved to be an expert at cooking simple things beautifully, and presented them in an appealing way. The next time you need to unplug, allow Langdon Hall to whisk you away on an incredible culinary journey in a picturesque setting that will be etched in your mind pour toujours.
Mme M. xoxo
La rubrique de Madame Marie
1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
2 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
3 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
4 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
5 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.