Sometimes it’s not possible to take weeks off at a time to travel. Luckily, there are many destinations that we can visit which are only within a few hours drive away from Ottawa. Recently, we decided to go to the near by Montebello for a weekend getaway. It was a pleasant 1-hour drive away, so it’s far enough for a change of scenery but not too far to cause too much of a hassle.
Luxury for Everyone
The main attraction of Montebello is the luxurious Fairmont Montebello Resort itself. It’s really for everyone: whether you want to relax by the fireplace or in the spa, indulge in some fine dining or be active by participating in some winter or summer outdoor sports.
One of the unique features of this resort is its architecture. It is basically one humungous log cabin. The central lobby is one spacious yet homey living room with a large wood-burning fireplace, many couches and chairs to lounge around on, and a grand piano beside a bar area. The resort is currently undergoing major (15 million dollars worth of) renovations and plans to update its look. Hopefully, its rustic, cozy features will remain. The renovations are projected to finish in summer of 2019. We noticed two of the four wings of the building were closed off due to renovations during our visit but we were not disturbed by any construction noises.
The check-in process was simple. The service was good and we were given information about the resort amenities and activities; however, we noticed our friends, Breton and Casey, were given a parking pass and a free hour of curling, while we did not. The reason for this was unclear because we booked using the same rates. Luckily, we parked at the EV parking spot and this did not require a ticket. We were also able to make reservations for meals at the main restaurant, Aux Chantignoles.
Pro tip: We recently found out that if you have Silver Status with the Aeroplan rewards program and make your reservations from the Aeroplan website, you can get a free room upgrade on arrival (if available) and complimentary daily breakfast at Fairmont Hotels. Unfortunately, we did not know this prior to making the reservation so we were not able to take advantage of this benefit. (If you were wondering how Aaron was able to get Silver Status – check post on flying Premium Economy.)
A-La-Carte or Buffet?
We dropped off our bags in our rooms, then it was time to enjoy our first meal at their main restaurant, Aux Chantignoles. Breton and Casey decided to go for their buffet option while Aaron and I opted for the a-la-carte menu, since we did not want to overeat prior to our spa appointment. I tried their vegetarian flatbread and Aaron had their catch of the day which was mahi mahi. My flatbread tasted like a healthy version of pizza loaded with various veggies, cheese and tomato sauce. The toppings were very tomato-heavy, so it was a bit soggy and to be honest, not my favourite flatbread. Aaron’s mahi mahi was nicely grilled and beautifully present with nice splashes of colours with the orange and and yellow carrots, green from the asparagus and purple cauliflower. We particularly enjoyed the super buttery, smooth whipped cauliflower. Our friends seem to really enjoy their buffet lunch, especially their roast pork and sugar pie.
After lunch, we headed over to the spa on site for some TLC after a long week. We had already made a reservation earlier in the week. The prices here were definitely at a premium compared to the spas in Ottawa, but it was reasonable given they had a really lovely resting area with various loungers, tea, coffee and cookies. We were given a robe and slippers to change into in a changing area that was shared with the pool guests. (Their indoor pool is located in the lower level of the spa.) The area was very clean and the locker provided was very spacious. We then rested on a sofa in front of the fireplace while we waited for our massage therapists. All therapists here are Registered Message Therapists so you should have no problems claiming your treatments here for insurance purposes. We had booked our treatment to be in the couples’ suite, which was one of the nicest couples’ suites I’ve been in. It was very spacious, with a sitting area, tub, shower and 2 massage tables. We only had a massage session today but there are other packages which include champagne, rose petal baths, body exfoliation and/or facial clay masks. We had chosen the hot stone massage. Heated stones are applied to the skin to provide a full body massage. It was quite soothing but we both agreed we prefer the regular Swedish massage more, as the stones were not able to work the tissues as well as bare hands. After the massage, we relaxed a little more in the resting area, but this time, sitting one of their huge loungers in front of the large windows. It was a sunny day, so it was nice to enjoy the warmth of the sun on our well-moisturized legs from the massage oil, while enjoying some chamomile tea and raisin coconut cookies.
After our relaxation session, we decided to take a walk over to the Montebello Village. It was a lovely walk given the weather was very pleasant that day. The road were still icy so we just had to watch our step. We stopped by the Chocomotive to try some artisan chocolate. I especially liked the Belgian fresh cream and the hazelnut. We walked by various beautiful architecture and the waterfront (which was frozen right now). I had originally wanted to visit their fromagerie to try some local cheeses but unfortunately, they were closed by the time we arrived. On our way back to the hotel, we took the walking path back versus the main roads that we took earlier. It was all snow covered but the main parts of the trail were nicely compacted. Don’t steer off to the sides of the trail though or else you’ll find yourself knee-deep in snow.
We still had a couple of hours before our dinner reservation so we took this time to sit and chat in front of the fireplace, while enjoying some cocktails/tea.
Buffet by Day, Steakhouse by Night
Then it was time for us to head to dinner again at the Aux Chantignoles. In the evening, this restaurant transforms itself into a steakhouse. They have an extensive wine list and our server was very kind to give us his recommendation. Of course, Aaron and I both got ourselves a red in preparation for our meaty main courses.
For starters, we selected the caesar salad. I’m a fan of artisan salads with a whole wedge of romaine lettuce. The pancetta and croutons were perfect but what really pulled the dish together was the creamy poached egg. The dressing was also very lovely.
For mains, I had the surf and turf with an 8 oz filet mignon and a lobster tail, paired with potatoes and green beans. It came with two types of sauces — one which is more gravy-like and another green pepper sauce. I preferred the gravy. The lobster was quite sweet and tender, but I felt the texture was too mushy. The chef was very generous to serve a second tail with my meal because he felt that the tail that I was served was too small! For those who want to mix and match, you can also choose your own steak or protein and pair it with the topping or sides of your choice (including a lobster tail). Aaron had the braised short ribs with a side of poutine. I was a huge fan of the short ribs. The ribs were so fall off the bone tender. I preferred the texture and taste over my steak. The poutine portion size was definitely more generous than we had expected. It was a full-sized poutine, rather than a “side”, with local Montebello cheese. It was pretty good poutine and I sneaked my fair share of it from Aaron plate.
For dessert, we shared their vanilla creme brûlée which was probably one of the most tasty, creamy creme brûlées I’ve ever had.
Chillin’ by the Fireplace
We ended the night borrowing some cards from the front desk and playing by the fireplace. They also had other different board games that you can borrow as well.
It was a lovely first day at the Chateau Montebello.