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Langdon Hall – It's NOT Worth the Drive to Cambridge (review + pics)

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.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

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.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

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.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

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.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

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.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

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.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

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.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

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.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Meringue: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

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
Cambridge Ontario
N3H 4R8
Telephone: 519-740-2100

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  1. Thanks for the review. I have never been to Langdon Hall but heard good things about it. However, I have to admit from the picture, the arctic char looks pretty bad and the souffle is a joke. Does not looks like a good meal...

    1 Reply
    1. re: skylineR33

      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!

      Cheers

    2. 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!

      1. 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

        1. 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?

          1. I stayed out of the recent thread asking about Langdon Hall, as I haven’t been for a few years, so my experiences may not have reflected current reality.
            HOWEVER – one of the reasons I haven’t been is that I haven’t been over-impressed with the chef (who was Jonathan Gushue – still identified as the chef on the website – so don’t know where the ‘french Michelin chef’ rumour originated).
            Gushue was formerly at Truffles (Four Seasons) and, although I was impressed at first, (when he was producing the menu he inherited from the former chef) once he designed his own menu it seemed to fall flat for me.
            Prior to that, the food at Langdon was competent – sometimes excellent, although rarely exciting.

            Relais & Chateaux (as a group) certainly operate as a luxury destination. As with most similar groups they have standards that must be met – and the individual properties do, indeed, pay to be a member – but MUST still meet the standards (and inspections do occur). For full disclosure, I have a relative who works at a Relais & Chateaux property who has ‘endured’ such an inspection (they passed!).
            There is also a ‘gourmet restaurant’ sub-category, and I recall reading that Langdon Hall aspired to reaching that ‘Award’. From their website:

            Relais & Châteaux
            "Hôtel et restaurant à la campagne"
            Langdon Hall has been a member since 1991.

            Certainly they haven’t had a restaurant award since 1991 – so not sure whether (or not) they do now have the restaurant award.
            Given that there are less than 20 Relais & Chateaux awards in Canada, it doesn’t seem as if you can simply ‘buy your way in’.
            And I have to admit I find the Relais & Chateaux website very useful for obtaining reservations at some top Michelin 3* restaurants (who are members) – I (almost) always get a response when requesting reservations via the site.
            But my motto is ‘Sleep Cheap; Dine Fine’ so rarely do I stay at one.

            3 Replies
            1. re: estufarian

              Thanks for posting your thoughts, estufarian, Charles Yu, miranda, and jillybean38.

              Yes, esufarian, I agree with your assessment on the Relais & Chateaux being more than just a club with an exorbitant entrance fee of $38,000 and that you have to first qualify. Since the review process is described to be 18 months long, I doubt a 'newly brought on chef' could make an impact on their rating. Estufarian's research on Jonathan Cushue appears to be solid, and is consistent with my understanding of the evaluation process. I would be interested to hear how this 'Michelin starred' chef was introduced into the mix.

              They were recently given the restaurant award on top of their hotel designation, per an article that a fellow CHer pointed me to.

              I have been a fan of Truffles for quite a while now, as they consistently deliver solid food. Chefs seem to "fall from grace" once they depart though (Sen5es, LH, among others that have decided to go the celebrity route - but who knows, maybe she is still an excellent chef?). They are not very 'exciting', but they are consistent and deliver exactly what you desire. Something that cannot be said of LH.

              The comments on Libretto concern me though, as it was going to be on my list of places to try.

              The motto of yours, estufarian, rings quite true for me as well, but my significant other always fails to see it my way.

              Cheers!

              1. re: BokChoi

                BokChoi:

                The Executive Chef @ Langdon is Jonathan GUSHUE, not "Cushue" as you write...

                I'm sorry you didn't enjoy your lunch there. Clearly, I had better meals... :)

                1. re: danthediner

                  Apologies for the typo. I was in no way trying to correct estufarian. I value estufarian's opinion and was merely trying to assert that I agreed with him.

            2. SkylineR33 told me this week that his sister, who is also a foodie, ate there recently and find the food very good. Now, I am totally confused! Furthermore, Richmond Hill to Cambridge is a LONG drive!! Don't mind driving if the food is good but...?!

              3 Replies
              1. re: Charles Yu

                Yes, I am confused too ! My sister were there like 2 months ago and they really enjoy it ! The form of the souffle in the picture is totally opposite to the one at Splendido, the one at Splendido is so beautiful and is one of the best I had in my experience !
                Maybe it is a different chef ...

                When did you have your meal at Langdon Hall, BokChoi É

                1. re: skylineR33

                  I was there 2 weeks ago. I enjoyed the food, service & ambience. We had the lobster & beef for main course, both are marvellous.

                  1. re: skylineR33

                    Hi SkylineR33 and Charles Yu, I did put a disclaimer in my post saying I had gone in the spring of this year, but that I still felt it was relevant because many people still claimed it was as bad as my experience was. But I am sure many people have had great experiences, like danthediner, skylineR33's sister, and ace123. Just thought I would post my thoughts and get the discussion going. As well, I wanted people to know my thoughts on the restaurant, as that is a very, VERY long drive. And IMO, it was not worth it. I will try out the tea eventually, and make another post about that experience.
                    From the discussion from everyone thus far on the board, the restaurant's performance does not appear to be consistent. This is important for a restaurant that claims to be a 'destination' restaurant, as anyone would be bothered by a long drive for mediocre food.

                    Cheers!

                2. Hello all,
                  Went to Langdon Hall on 11 October 2008 for dinner. We had an 8:30 sitting.
                  I had read the posts before we went, and I wish now I had paid more attention.
                  Wont bore you with all of the details, but overall experience was lackluster at best. The venue itself was outstanding. The anteroom, for a pre dinner martini accompanied by a well played piano, was excellent. Went downhill from there.
                  The dining room was nice, not outstanding, but nice. I found the service to be on the “uninspired" side. It wasn’t “do you want fries with that?" uninspired, but with the hype generated by this establishment, I expected to be knocked off my feet. That did not happen. I know other posts have complimented the service, but I didn’t feel it on our visit. After perusing the menu and the 40+ page wine list (why so expansive? just a bit pretentious in my opinion), we opted for the tasting menus. At $95 each, expectations were high. The accompanying wine pairing was $75 Again expectations were high. Unfortunately neither delivered. My wife was a bit apprehensive ordering the tasting, as she has indulged me before with tastings and has not been able to finish, Not the case here, no worries on that part !!!. Extremely small portions, which allowed us to devour three bread baskets. Don’t want to sound like gluttons, but at $95 per, there are some serious profit margins happening that could have been lessened to make the diners experience more enjoyable. The wines chosen by the sommelier were, in my opinion, odd "companions" to the courses. Don’t ask me to repeat the selections, as she rattled them off so fast before exiting our table that I had no chance to discuss the selections. Oddly enough though, they had her clearing plates like a busser throughout the evening. Again, this struck me as slightly off for an establishment of this caliber.

                  For the overall experience (at approx $400 with gratuity), Langdon Hall did not meet expectations.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: grimace3393

                    Many thanks for the heads up. You've just save my foodie buddy and I a trip!!

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      "The wines chosen by the sommelier were, in my opinion, odd "companions" to the courses. Don’t ask me to repeat the selections, as she rattled them off so fast before exiting our table that I had no chance to discuss the selections."

                      I would be interested to have some idea of the selections as I was thinking of going out there with my GF.

                      I was under the impression that the Sommelier there was quite accomplished and that she was most adept at the food pairings?

                      1. re: Non Doctor

                        Hello Non Doctor,
                        I was, for $75 per, looking for a wow factor in the selections. For example, visiitng Beckta in Ottawa I was wowed with the selections. It wasnt based soley on the wines ( which of course is the primary factor), but also on the feeling that I was in good hands and would be well looked after. I just didnt get that feeling of connection here. At some points of the evening I almost felt a bit intrusive, like I was getting in the way. Its not a persons CV i'm interested in, but how I'm made to feel. Am I being selfish, maybe, but my experience is my experience, no one elses. The wines may have been textbook matches for the food courses, my overall experience though made the pairings to me seem odd. Hype and expectations can certainly affect judgement, and I firmly believe in this case my judgement was influenced by this.

                        1. re: grimace3393

                          Non Doctor, sorry I didn’t answer your question re some idea of the parings. As I mentioned earlier, there wasn’t much" review" of each selection. What I can tell you though is that all of the wines came from half bottles. If you go to the LH website, they have a short list (much shorter than the full bottles list) of the half bottles, so you will get an idea of what potential wines you may be looking at. Here's something I have been thinking about. Our reservation was for 8:30. We were seated closer to 8:45, and ordered around 9 pm. Coincidentally, the dining room “closes" at 9 pm. I hope not, but I have to wonder if our overall experience was tarnished as we were at the tail end of the evening. Did the wine selection from half bottles happen as a result of not wanting to open full bottles for one guest? Was the staff distracted as it was the end of shift of a holiday (thanksgiving) weekend and perhaps they were short staffed? Don’t know the answers, but I'm trying to give some benefit of the doubt to this establishment

                          1. re: grimace3393

                            Hi Grimace3393, you're being very kind to LH in trying to find reasons for the less than spectacular service you received. We went for lunch this summer and witnessed many service issues. The amuse was a gazpacho served with a fork - yes it was chunky but it really needed a spoon. When another table mentioned it the server just walked away. Another table was served a room temp bottle of water. They requested a colder bottle and it seemed to be a problem. Another couple arrived for lunch at 2pm - lunch is only served until 2 - but they were obviously guests there and they were seated. However the daytime manager/sommelier was NOT happy about seating them and was very short with them. We had been to Scaramouche the night before and the contrast in service between the 2 was night and day.

                            1. re: jillybean38

                              Hi Jillybean38, One thing I failed to mention. I rarely, if ever, make my displeasure known to an establishment’s management. In this case however, I did feel a quick note to the executives at LH was warranted. This was done Tuesday am, it’s now Wednesday pm, and nary a response. I'm most disappointed by that overall. In my industry, if a client makes a concern known, we strive to, at a minimum, acknowledge the concern. I’m not asking LH to offer anything, but a note acknowledging my concerns would, in my opinion, be appropriate.

                    2. re: grimace3393

                      grimace3393,

                      Sorry to hear that you had such a poor experience. Luckily, we did not go with the taster, but it was almost the same price in the end a la carte.
                      Thanks for the review - seems like they have not made many improvements since my last visit. Pity, it was such a pretty location.

                      Cheers!

                    3. I've only been for Afternoon Tea and that was because we were already in the area. It was pretty good if I recall (last Summer but don't quote me since we went for a few glasses of champagne too!) and the ambience very nice. It's too bad that Dinner wasn't on par with the setting because it is quite a nice place. I don't think it is somewhere I would go out of my way to eat. If I was staying there, then probably, yes.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: always_eating

                        Afternoon Tea I would be willing to try, but it is a bit far and out of the way just for some biscuits, so I would agree with you always_eating. It seems like the atmosphere would make up for the mostly average food. Maybe next time I am planning to head to Stratford. But never again for dinner.

                        Cheers!

                      2. Has anyone been there recently for Afternoon Tea?
                        Based on old reviews it seems like an "avoid"...