Two short blocks away from downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake and a stones-throw from Lake Ontario is the historic Oban Inn. The Oban Inn has 26 peaceful rooms, a four-diamond restaurant and a tranquil full-service spa – not to mention modern-day flare and old-world charm.
Built in 1824 the Oban Inn used to be the private home of Oban, Scotland native and steamboat captain, Captain Duncan Milloy. Captain Milloy was known to be a hospitable man, welcoming worldly travelers from near and far into his home. Despite some adversity in the early 1990’s, the tradition of hospitality still lives on. On Christmas night in 1992, the Oban Inn was destroyed when it burned down to the foundation. Thankfully, in November 1993 the Inn reopened to the public and is a mirror image of what it looked like before the fire. In 2006, the Oban Inn went through what is referred to as a “transformation” – rooms upgraded, the full-service OSpa was added and other fine touches were made to make this Inn the luxurious getaway it is today.
The Oban Inn is also one of Ontario’s Finest Inns of which members pledge to provide exemplary hospitality in Ontario and for which there are a strict set of membership criteria.
In preparation for our trip I had been corresponding with General Manager of the Oban Inn – Celia Liu. It was a pleasure working with her and it was no surprise that her care and professionalism extended past the planning right through our stay. We arrived to a warm welcome from one of the staff, Donna, at the front desk and check-in was seamless. Our dinner reservations for 6:30pm that night and our couple’s massage at the OSpa for the next morning were already arranged and so we headed upstairs.
Our premium room was decorated perfectly to my style – as if Celia had consulted with me beforehand to know my favourite colour combinations. We were on the second floor in room 2 – a corner unit with a view of Lake Ontario right at the mouth of the Niagara River. We looked over the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club and could see Fort Niagara in the USA from our window. The king bed was inviting and the fireplace, warm. The bathroom was fresh and updated with high-end finishes and the robes hanging on the door were nothing short of enticing. The room was quiet and comfortable – we would learn afterwards that we were over top of the OSpa – the relaxation below must have risen right into our room. Finally, on the bed was a personal welcome note from Celia inviting us to enjoy our stay; quite a nice personal touch.
Avid hikers and walkers that we are, my husband and I decided to explore downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake before dinner. Being a Sunday night it was very quiet downtown. The holiday lights twinkled against the dark sky as we made our way down Queen street. We stopped in at a few of my favourite shops that were open – including the popular hat boutique Beau Chapeau where I tried on some ‘Fascinators’. They are the feathered and decorated headbands and hair clips made popular by the royal family over the years. The horse and carriage tours around town were still going strong and the “clip-clop” or horses added to the charm of our evening walk.
When we got back to our room it was time to get gussied up for dinner. The four-diamond Oban Restaurant is home to Chef Jill St-Amour whose team is top notch. Seated in the atrium with a view of the outdoor fountain, we were served by the restaurant manager Kim Kinnear. Kim was friendly, attentive, responsive and knowledgeable; any questions we had about the menu were swiftly answered and always with a sincere smile.
Konzelmann Estates Cab Sauv Reserve 2010
Niagara College First Draft Ale
Dungeness Crab Cakes – Micro Greens, Horseradish Espresso Remoulade, Grilled Pineapple Salso
Organic Chicken & Pistachio Pate – Double Smoked Bacon, Balsamic Glazed Cipollini & Preserve Stone Fruit Chutney
Pan Seared Tiger Shrimp & Nova Scotia Scallops – Nine Vegetable Ribbons, Double Smoked Bacon, Citrus Glaze
Ontario Lamb Sirloin – Cereleriac Horseradish Puree, Bordelaise Sauce
Mint Chocolate Mousse Torte – Flourless Chocolate Cake, Fresh Mint Ice Cream
Chai Cream Brulee Napoleon – Poach Pear & Cranberry Chutney
To say that each bite was better than the one before would not be accurate. Each bite was equally as fantastic as the last. Chef Jill is welcome in my kitchen absolutely anytime she would like to visit. I must say, however, that my favourite was the dessert.
Many of you know I am a big fan of tea. What you might not have known is that Chai is my favourite; this dessert was so authentically and perfectly flavoured that it has me giggling and giddy. Anyone who did not know any better would think I had more than a few glasses of Cab Sauv.
When we arrived back in our room, the bed had been turned down and the lights dimmed. There was a small postcard reporting the next day’s weather and a single, large, yellow rose in full bloom on the bed. Falling asleep to a fire and the sweet smell of a rose – what a perfect combination.
Sleep was divine as it usually is on a king sized bed. And, it was fantastic to wake up to the morning light and not to the sound of an alarm clock.
For me, a sound sleep is one of the best measures of a successful stay – and the Oban Inn passed with flying colours.
We started Monday morning (as anyone should) with breakfast. The Oban Restaurant’s breakfast includes a 3-tiered plate of pastries, meats, cheeses, eggs and fruits. Our server offered us coffee, tea and fruit juices and let us know that we could help ourselves to a spread with granola, yogurt, bagels and toast. Our breakfast server, Amy, was cheerful and a pleasure to chat with. Being one of the only people in the dining room at the time we were able to chat with Amy. She explained that in her 20+ years of working in restaurants she has never worked with a Chef or team that she has enjoyed and respected more. What a wonderful thing to know about the Oban Inn Restaurant!
My husband and I had reserved a couple’s massage for after breakfast but unfortunately the 2nd massage therapist was not able to make it to the Inn so we had to cancel (although we were given the option to go one after the other but we did not feel like doing so). I did, however, plan to return a few days later for a pedicure (but now I’m jumping ahead).
With our massage cancelled, it gave me some time to explore the library on the second floor. Called the Frank McDowell Hawley Library – the room is impressive. A long board-room table is the centerpiece of the room. It is surrounded by one side with floor to ceiling bookshelves and on the other by a sitting table and impressive artwork. Behind the head of the table is a statue of who I can only conclude is Frank McDowell Hawley – one of the originators of the restoration movement that happened on behalf of the old estates in Niagara-on-the-Lake in the 1950’s. There is also a regal portrait over the fireplace – Captain Duncan Malloy maybe? In any case I probably should have asked but if you are really curious I suggest that you book a stay and find out. After exploring we, regretfully, packed our bags and checked out.
I wish that our stay had been longer than one night – I did not want to leave the room, the food or the staff and despite having other plans tried to convince myself to skip them and stay for lunch. Thankfully I had made arrangements to extend my staycation and returned to the Oban Inn a week later for a pedicure.
The OSpa – one of Ontario’s Finest Spas – offers manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, reflexology and other body treatments, not to mention all guests also have access to the steam room and pool before or after your treatment. The spa atmosphere is calming and tranquil – each treatment room is uniquely named: Water, Sun, Earth, Moon. Once settled in you are encouraged to make yourself one of their premium specialty teas – there are lots to choose from and the two that I tried were delicious. I made myself at home on one of the comfortable chairs and closed my eyes to enjoy the spa music and water feature. It was the perfect combination to lull me into the perfect state for daydreams and a pedicure.
The pedicure room is cozy with windows facing the lake. The chairs are massage chairs and it feels quite nice – be careful for the top “percussion” setting though – it feels fabulous but the motion might mess up your mani/pedi! The pedicure was very nice – my favourite part being the massage. My tootsies look fantastic – I know that sandals are out of season but I still like feeling girlie knowing that my toes are done up should they come out and play. And, even though I did not get a manicure I would return for one. Built into the chair are little manicure trays so that you can enjoy a manicure in the pedicure chairs with a massage.
If you are looking for a getaway in Niagara-on-the-Lake I would encourage you to see if there is availability at the Oban Inn. The staff are friendly, the food is divine, and the rooms are modern and spacious. The OSpa, pool and fitness center are all on-site, the NOTL Golf Course is across the road and you are mere steps from the lake. A 5 minute walk will land you downtown in Niagara-on-the-Lake shopping and at the Shaw Theatre. What more could anyone ask for? No wonder the Oban Inn is one of Ontario’s Finest!
In my opinion, the Oban Inn is the full package when looking for a place to stay in Niagara-on-the-Lake and I look forward to returning time and time again.