Prince Edward County is not new to me, and it's probably not new to you either. About once a year, like many other Ontarians, I make the pilgrimage to rustic wine country to swill and sip low-intervention wines, sparkling expressions and light reds from the area's Instagrammable barns and tasting rooms.
Until this year, I had never made the two-hour drive in the chillier months, eschewing thoughts of being cloistered inside for ideals of frolicking between the vines in the sunshine. However, after making the trip this winter, my only regret is not visiting the County — and the Royal Hotel in Picton — sooner.
The Royal Hotel, Picton: What's the deal
In 2022, after nearly a decade of restorations, The Royal Hotel on Picton's Main Street finally opened its doors. Formerly The Main Hotel, the 142-year-old building reclaimed its earlier glory as a centrepiece in the quaint community along the banks of Lake Ontario. Following a serious undertaking by the Sorbara family, which saw them rebuild some of the structure, the 28-room accommodation rolled open the red carpet — only to fall prey to a series of long and drawn-out lockdowns that dulled the shine of this glorious unveiling.
One year later, The Royal Hotel is thriving and it's hard to remember a time when it wasn't the beating heart of Picton. From local artists showcased in the hotel to local events that bring together the area's winemakers and makers, plus provisions from the County's small businesses featured in its rooms and restaurants, the Royal has established itself as a leader in the community.
The rooms — all of which are named after a local variety of apple or pear — are immaculately designed, with pops of colour to offset all of those sexy neutrals. Many suites have an in-room bathtub and fireplace, and we highly recommend splurging (your credit card statement will fade in time, but you'll never lose the memories of drinking local vino while you're up to your armpits in bubbles). Perhaps my favourite part, though, beyond the crisp linens, the extra touches, like the locally made Telford Basics toiletries, is the staff. Attentive, kind and gregarious, my every need was met from the moment I arrived to the moment I bid a teary goodbye.
The Royal Hotel, Picton: Why it's worth the trip
The Royal Hotel didn't want a restaurant that only hotel guests would visit — they wanted to create a hub that would bring together locals, and create a reason for out-of-towners (like myself) to visit all-year long. That all started by selecting a chef who would bring their experience and passion for locally sourced produce to the dining room.
Enter: Albert Ponzo. With a background at some of Toronto's most beloved establishments, like Le Sélect Bistro and Canoe, the award-winning chef brings ideals of nose-to-tail butchery and sustainable farming to the table, along with a commitment to highlighting the best of the region on his plates.
I visited the hotel for a Charlie's Burgers' (Toronto's iconic wine program) event which partnered chef Ponzo with Cheese Boutique's Afrim Pristine for an evening of excess. Following the Alsatian choucroute tradition, the kitchen prepared a giant dish of sauerkraut cooked with wine and a variety of meats (including a pig's head), served with boiled potatoes — showcasing the restaurant's creativity and just how collaborative the hotel hopes to be in the future.
Working closely with the Royal’s Edwin County Farms, Ponzo creates a menu of seasonally inspired stunners — don't miss their reasonably priced two-course meals, featuring everything from homemade pasta to duck confit. Plus, The Royal is also well-known for its fantastic cocktails (the Royal Lobby opens up into a bar), wood-fired pizza (stop by for Monday $12 specials), boozy weekend brunches, and freshly baked loafs and pastries at the all-day Counter Bar on the ground floor.
The Royal Hotel, Picton: What else
The pool will be reopening in May 2023, giving you extra space to enjoy local wine and tasty snacks at The Royal Hotel, Picton. This is just one of the ways the hotel is committed to wellness: The Royal Hotel just partnered with The Main Character to offer in-room IV wellness therapy. Give yourself a boost by hydrating from the inside out, and give your wine hangover the boot, by booking a treatment in advance.
You can also enjoy a Peloton cycle session from The Royal's retro workout room, which is kitted out with wooden floors and punching bags to look like a much chicer version of your high school gym. Downstairs, the Spa offers you the chance to lean into self-care with a Finnish sauna, a selection of facial and therapeutic massages available, and a comforting line of Italian skincare to soothe and renew.
Rooms from $369 a night
The Royal Hotel, Picton, 247 Picton Main St., theroyalhotel.ca