Tucked away at the East end of Niagara-on-the-Lake lies one of this quaint town’s finest hotels, the Shaw Club Hotel. This 4-diamond getaway boasts a 4-diamond restaurant called Zee’s Grill and one of Ontario’s Finest Spas, The Shaw Club Spa.
This great Niagara-on-the-Lake landmark is named after Bernard Shaw of the world-renown Shaw Festival Theatre which is located directly across the street from the hotel.
Contrary to many friends and family who escape to the tropics during February, I quite like vacationing to destinations closer to home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a snow-boarder or skier and you certainly will not find me winter camping – instead, I like to take advantage of reading by the fire, watching a romantic movie, cuddling over a book and enjoying unique cuisine. The Shaw Club hotel certainly fit the bill.
I arrived mid-afternoon, mid-week in February just a few short days before Valentines Day. Having never been inside the hotel before arriving I found myself incredibly pleased with the simple but modern and luxurious lobby. When you walk into the lobby through the front door, to your left you will find a beautiful and cozy and fairly private guest lounge. It has a few couches, a business center, small television, warm fireplace, daily newspapers, a shelf of DVD’s that guests can borrow for a movie night and a Keurig machine with coffee, tea and hot chocolate. This space would end up being quite a quaint and relaxing mid-afternoon, retreat.
The front reception is more of a desk, very accessible and non-pretentious yet the staff are incredibly professional, friendly and customer-service oriented. A young woman named Vera greeted us and checked us in. She offered to make any reservations we required at the restaurant and spa and then escorted us up the elevator and into our room.
We stayed in a one of the hotel’s King Deluxe Rooms and elected for a fireplace over a one-person soaker tub. The room is large with a sitting area, bay windows that face the Shaw Festival Theatre, a king-size mattress with a pillow-top that I could have lived on. The bathroom is a mixture of modern glass and tile with a large-glassed in shower the size of the elevator in my condo with a both a rainforest and removable shower-head; lots of space for one and great for sharing no doubt. The television is mounted in a big entertainment unit that doubles as a closet with hangers and shelves. Unpacking was simple, I liked the shelves for storage and found more than enough space to hide my suitcase out of the way.
It wasn’t long before I was cozy on the chaise with a cozy blanket and my book – at the time I was reading Chris Hadfield‘s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (great book by the way). I was snacking on my welcome brownie and had poured a glass of local red wine from the complimentary bottle waiting for us upon arrival. With the Olympics playing in the background and book in hand I hadn’t been at the Shaw Club Hotel for more than an hour or so and already I felt I’d been there for days.
That night my sleep was divine – there is something fantastic about sleeping in a king-sized bed. At home we have a queen and find that it has enough room for the two of us but a king feels like an endless sea of space. After this trip hubby and I are seriously considering investing in a king with the exact pillow-top used by the Shaw Club Hotel.
Our second day proved even more heavenly than the first. The package that we booked (through Wag-Jag I might add) included breakfast on both mornings in Zees Grill – the restaurant attached to the hotel. I’ve wanted to visit Zees Grill to experience of culinary creations from Chef Jason Dobbie since the day it opened and was more than happy to finally visit.
The dining room at Zees is unique – a large space with vaulted ceilings and wood beams. Beautiful metal sculptures that double as lights keep guard over dining patrons. Whether you’re looking for a table, bench or large-circular banquette for a group, Zees has an array of different seating options. I especially like the fireplace which set the mood both morning and evening for the delicious, relaxing and romantic culinary experience that was to come.
Here’s what we had for the two breakfasts we enjoyed during our stay at The Shaw Club Hotel, my favourites are marked with a ✪:
ZEES Traditional Breakfast
2 Free Run Eggs Any Style, Rosti Potato and Multigrain Toast with Local Country Bacon
Cold Smoked Salmon and Avocado Benedict ✪
2 Poached Free Run Eggs, Avocado Puree and Cold Smoked Salmon, English Muffin, Rosti Potato and Hollandaise Sauce
Truffled Mushroom, Bacon & Goat Cheese Frittata
2 Free Run Eggs, Local Country Bacon & Celebrity Goat Cheese, Sauteed Mushrooms and Baby Arugula Salad, Truffle Oil & Multigrain Toast
Brioche French Toast ✪
Fresh Vanilla & Cinnamon Grilled Brioche, 100km Market Poached Fruit, Canadian Maple Syrup & Candied Pecans
After my delicious breakfast on our first morning I had booked an 85 minute Grape and Wine Pedicure at The Shaw Club Spa. Having been to the spa before for a massage on a few occasions I was eagerly anticipating a pedicure in their massage chairs. And, let me tell you, they did not disappoint. A very nice woman named Gail checked me in and took my jacket and offered me a beverage. Once in their divine pedicure chair I was more than happy to relax there for the next hour and a half in the great company of the spa manager Carol who gave me a wonderful treatment. Along with all the divine basics of a pedicure I was also treated to a grape scrub, heated booties, and a foot and leg massage all while sipping on a cup of cappuccino. What colour did I choose? Well, from the pretty Zoya line, I went with a neutral called Rue which is perfect for the end of winter and beginning of spring. Needless to say, I left the Shaw Spa with baby-soft, wonderful smelling and happy feet – not to mention that I had wonderful conversation with some fabulous ladies (have fun on your trip Catherine!).
After a mid-afternoon walk into town and some rest and relaxation (let’s not forget the Olympics), we headed back to Zee’s Grill for a pre-Valentines dinner. In the light of the moon the dining room is romantic and intimate and I greatly enjoyed the smooth jazz and the quiet buzz of conversation. We were welcomed by our enthusiastic server – Kevin – and settled into our table with some wine, bread and butter. From where we sat I enjoyed the simple glow of winter lights at the windows that complimented the tea lights on the tables.
Being a Thursday night it was also Indian Curry night at Zees where patrons can merge the regular menu with a wonderful selection of South Indian samosas, curries and karmas. All vegetarians and vegans take note, this restaurant has a wide variety of inventive dishes for you to choose from instead of the usual felafel spin-offs. From the road, do not be fooled by the simple name and modest white front porch. Zees Grill has an innovative menu, plenty of flavour and leaves all pretense behind and rivals the best of Niagara-on-the-Lake for any meal. Whether looking for the perfect date night , girls night out or pre-theatre nosh – Zee’s will not disappoint.
To say that our dinner was fantastic would be an understatement. As you can imagine, we thoroughly enjoyed this epic meal. Chef Jason Dobbie’s menu is one that I wish I could enjoy day after day from morning until night. Along with a half liter of Kacaba’s 2011 Merlot, here are all the dinner dishes that we thoroughly enjoyed:
House Smoked Salmon Tartar with Onions and Crispy Rice Noodles ✪
Warm Mushroom, Butternut Squash & Smoked Bacon Salad ✪
Roasted Butternut Squash, Sauteed Mushrooms, Double Smoked Bacon Whipped Goat Cheese, Baby Arugula, Apple Cider Vinaigrette & Parsnip Chips
House Green Salad
Sweet & Bitter Greens, Heirloom Carrots, Cucumber & Cherry Tomato House Pickled Beets, Crumbled Best Baa Feta, Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
Nori Wrapped Rare B.C. Albacore ✪
Warm Soba Noodle Salad, Bok Choy, Daikon & Pickled Ginger, House Made Miso & Sweet Chili Sauce, Toasted Cashews
Vegetarian Potato Karma
A Flavourful Vegetarian Curry Originating from the South of India with Fresh Ground Spices, Grated Coconut, Toasted Cashews & Fresh Curry Leaves
Lemon Smifreddo ✪
Blackberry Compote & Walnut Crumble
Dark Chocolate Torte
Cranberry Sorbet & Milk Chocolate Rice Crispy
My time at The Shaw Club Hotel was over much too fast. The good news is that it is a mere hour drive from the GTA and hubby and I already have plans to return. Between their exceptional customer service, luxurious accommodations, keen attention to detail, world-class spa, award-winning restaurant and their vicinity to the Shaw Festival Theatre this Niagara’s Finest destination is not to be missed.