Haute Cuisine & Charm

I recently spent the night at Shaw’s Hotel in Brackley with my husband, two year old son, and 2 month old daughter in tow. Since I moved here almost 3 years ago, I have been told many times I needed to visit this iconic Island establishment so I jumped at the chance when I was invited as an Island Insider.

I wish I could have stayed forever but in just one night the delicious food, quiet and well maintained grounds, and cozy cottage had me going home refreshed.

When we arrived my son went straight for the playground, then hit the basketball net, and finished off with a little hockey. We took a family walk around the expansive grounds to the long-stretch of beach that was all to ourselves. As I watched the foxes roam freely around the property flirting with the owner’s dog, Sam, I couldn’t help but let go of my city-dwelling stresses.

Our spacious two-bedroom cottage had all of the modern comforts with a full kitchen, 4-piece bath, deck, and fireplace but we still felt like we had stepped back to a simpler time. Not surprisingly since Shaw’s is the oldest family-operated Inn in Canada dating back to 1860 and this legacy is all around. They have managed to blend classic and contemporary in a way that feels authentic.

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Dinner was one of the best meals I have had on the Island. Chef Peter Angus’ dedication to using quality ingredients and creating a unique dining experience was apparent in every dish. We started with the antipasto platter where everything but the prosciutto and Glasgow Glen Farms cheese was made by Peter’s hands. The coppa di testa (head cheese), duck liver pâté, and duck rillette would be pleasing to the palate of even the least adventurous diners.

My husband had the lamb confit as an entree and I had the bouillabaisse – both exquisite to the point that we were eating off each other’s plates and couldn’t choose which one we liked better. My son had spaghetti with a simple pomodoro sauce but this wasn’t your typical “kid’s” menu item (my husband and I were also stealing bites of his meal). You see I am raising a little foodie and he usually turns his nose up at pasta that isn’t made by his mommy or nonna but he actually ate all of it.  The lamb was tender and so flavourful that you need to chew slow and savour every bite to truly appreciate its decadence.  The bouillabaisse rivals my motherland’s cioppino, and is packed with seafood including what seemed like a whole lobster. It is served with crostini and rouille (a pepper garlic sauce) which my son decided he wanted to eat like ice cream. There is nothing more adorable than a 2 year-old with garlic breath.

To complete this flawless meal we had the chocolate bomb – silky and decadent but surprisingly light and almost palate cleansing after the intense savoury flavours. My husband and I are a self-proclaimed non-dessert-loving-people but we were sparring spoons to get the last bite.

Chocolate mousse bombe cake, raspberry espuma, van creme anglais, choco meringue

The breakfast was just as impressive with your choice of eggs any-style or French toast served with sausage made in-house. The extensive buffet of cereals, yogurt, fruit, and baked goods (best blueberry muffin around) is more than enough on its own.

What was most impressive about Shaw’s is that they really live up to being family-friendly. My son terrorized the dining room during peak hours with his outdoor voice, running laps, and making an epic mess like only two-year olds can while the staff remained unfazed and accommodating.

I spent some time with the owner Robbie Shaw and can see why this place has been a success for over 150 years – they aren’t selling a night’s sleep (although I must say they should as both my kids slept through the night for the first time!), but a feeling of general relaxation. I was instantly sold. If you are really looking for a vacation and not an “I need a vacation after my vacation” experience, come to Shaw’s. And stay as long as you can.