Langdon Hall – It's NOT Worth the Drive to Cambridge (review + pics)
- BokChoi Sep 30, 2008 07:01 PM
I am hoping that my review can be of some assistance to would-be diners of Langdon Hall. I am sure that there will be much disagreement, as this place has won many accolades from renowned jurors and pillars of the food review community. Forgive me as this review is a touch dated as it was before the days I established an account on CH - I went during the spring of this current year. But judging from other recent posts, the review is still relevant.
I will start with some of the positives of my experience. The service is impeccable and amongst the finest in Ontario. They truly treat you like royalty and the staff members are very professional, yet personable. The ambiance is unparalleled as well. The mansion sits atop a hill at the end of a long, winding road. The lawns are well manicured and the grounds landscaped. The building has been well kept and the décor is refreshing and well maintained.
Our experience started in the dining room, and since we arrived a touch late (we got lost on the way up), we were advised ahead of time that we would be completing our meal in the drawing room, which was very courteous of them and a great suggestion. The change was a welcome change in scenery and did not impede the experience of the next guest.
The maitre d’ was exceptional. He really set the tone for the evening and made it much more memorable than if he was not a part of the experience.
Unfortunately, the food did not live up to this initial impression of Langdon Hall. The food was indeed a treat for the eyes, but did not appeal to the taste buds.
The amuse was refreshing and started the meal off well. It was a nice terrine with a side of fruit chutney - a nice contrast of flavours (sweet and savoury), as well as textures came together in that dish. Was it a great dish? I would have to resoundingly say no, as I have had much better terrine elsewhere, but amuses always tend to improve my mood in general.
The soup was another strong dish, and like many other fine-dining establishments, the soup itself is poured into its serving vessel after being delivered to the diner. The soup was velvety and sweet. It was strongly flavoured of lobster as well. This was the highlight of the meal. When compared to other soups I have had at similarly rated restaurants, I would say that it was in the middle of the pack.
The ravioli was just a mediocre experience for me. It was ‘flavoured with saffron’ and filled with crab. Alongside were nestled some roasted garlic cloves. However, the garlic was not roasted long enough to remove the pungent and signature flavour of the garlic itself. It was too strong to eat with the delicate ravioli. The ravioli’s texture was also a bit lacking – the wrapper was a bit thick in contrast to the filling. I felt as if I were eating dough, with a touch of stuffing.
The carpaccio was quite refreshing. It was also beautifully presented. The marinade permeated the fish quite well, as well as the colouring. The fish was firm and very fresh. This dish was also quite strong (not in flavour, but in execution). The taro chips were a nice addition and introduced a nice contrast in texture. They were light and quite crisp.
The halibut was the strongest of the mains. It was quite firm and well prepared. It was not over-cooked and retained its moistness. Its accompaniment was also quite pleasant, if my memory serves me correctly, but since I did not note down what it was, the name escapes me. Was it a great dish? No it was not – but it was satisfying and delivered what I expected.
The arctic char was the first completely failed dish. The fish was overcooked and a bit too flaky for such a rich and oily fish. The plating elements overpowered the delicate fish as well. I am not sure if you were supposed to eat the fish alone, or with the artistic smears, but without the sauce, the fish was not flavoured well enough, but with it, the fish was over-powered and did not compliment the fish itself. It tasted like arctic char, with sauce, instead of the mingling of two elements to create synergy.
The lamb was a very small portion. You received two medallions and a touch of crisp lamb belly. The lamb belly was nice and well fried. The medallions were just ‘OK’ for me, a bit tougher than I would have preferred and not well seasoned. It felt a bit ‘naked’ for me. The reduction did nothing to save it.
And now onto the desserts. These were absolutely atrocious and they should be ashamed to have even served them. They were tasteless and ill-conceived. I have never had such a poor offering of sweets after a meal of this ‘calibre’ in my life. The meringues were tough and over-beaten. The soufflés were flat, and too full of flour. They were not tasty in the least and were a huge disappointment. It almost seemed as if I were eating a container of flour with a touch of chocolate. The sauce they served alongside it was flat and merely acted as a mask for the unpleasant taste of the soufflé itself. Since we had moved to the glamourous drawing room, we ordered a large assortment of desserts to better enjoy the atmosphere. Every single item was a disaster. As with every other item served during the meal, they ‘looked’ very pleasant, however, once you tasted them, you could immediately gauge the quality of the dish. We ordered a Taster (assortment), as well as a separate ‘Baked Alaska’. There was also another dessert we tried, but I cannot find the photo at this moment. I will post it as well once I find it.
Overall, the meal was a disappointment. Factors contributing to this were as follows:
a) This place was about a 2hr drive away – and for that, one has a bit higher an expectation for quality (i.e. was it worth the drive? I am sorry, all you can call it unfair, but this pro-con weighting thing with the drive is very important and cannot be ignored in my eyes
)b) The food did not attain the status of the prices charged
c) The portions were quite small
d) The mains and appetizers were overall just ‘average’ and nothing really set it apart from its competitors in Toronto
e) The desserts were disastrous and completely inedible.
Hope this review can be of some assistance to those considering the 2 hr trek out there. All of this was during the evaluation period of their Relais & Chateau designation. But to each their own, and I am sure that there are many that have had positive experiences there. For me, I would not consider making the journey out there again as the food was simply not worth it. It you prefer the entire ‘dining package’ including service and ambiance and place less emphasis on the food itself, then Langdon Hall is still a strong choice. Perhaps I would be willing to try their afternoon tea, as I appreciate the extraordinary locale for such an event, and expect a lower quality for the food items themselves. But for dinner, I believe I will pass.
Cheers and Happy Dining!
Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa
1 Langdon Drive
- The original comment has been removed
I had heard great things as well, and it has been very well reviewed in such publications as Toronto Life, etc. Glad the photos were of some assistance to gauge the 'quality' of the preparation of certain dishes. I have always felt that pictures are worth a thousand words.
I am open to the suggestion they had an 'off day' - but I can only judge the meal I ate. I am sure they are famous for a reason - based on my experience, I would not know why. I am sure there are others that will contradict me and I welcome those thoughts as well!
Many thanks for the detailed review, BokChoi.
Main thing is to see whether the chef responsible for creating your dinner is the same as the one whose food won them the 'Relais Gourmand' award! If not, then the food could be totally different these days. As I recalled in an Toronto life article a few months back, they did hire a new chef with extensive 'French Michelin' experience not long ago?!
Lastly, review is one thing, actual experience is another. My experience yesterday reaffirmed this remark, i went to Pizzeria Libretto to try out their pizzas based on rave reviews from this board and weekend's Toronto Star. The result was a big huge dissappointment!! Not just my own opinion but the rest of our party of four as well . We all agreed Terroni on Adelaide is MUCH better!!! Libretto's pizzas were on the whole very soggy and bland! Terroni's much more flavourful! Surprisingly the non-pizza appertizers fared much better especially the calamari! Guess my opposing view will bring the wrath of the CH board on me. Ha!
Hey Bok Choi...you took the words out of my mouth...my experience exactly...last Spring...too long a drive for mediocre food...we ate there on a weekend..service was good ...but Dining room was very noisy that evening....children running around the Room ...not the least bit Romantic...and.Charles Yu ....Pizza Libretto...I'll pass...I also love Terroni....Miranda
BokChoi I had a very similar experience this summer but I went for lunch not dinner. Luckily I only had to drive an hour - but it still wasn't worth it. I'm sure that I read that LH paid for their Relais & Chateau designation. Is that really how it works?