March Break Dining Destination Serves Canadiana Cuisine at its Finest
Chopped Canada Champion Chef Arron Carley Creates Local and Seasonal Masterpieces at The Bruce
I’ve been skeptical of the “boutique” characterization of a few self-proclaimed hotels during some recent visits. When I was invited to visit The Bruce at 89 Parkview Dr. in beautiful downtown Stratford, it was described as such and I was initially suspicious. My faith was quickly restored however as I toured this gorgeous little gem. This is boutique-ry at its most elegant with a hefty dose of serenity (read: privacy) thrown in for good measure.
When a hotel has only 21 rooms and 4 “petit-suites,” the operators are free to exercise their creative energy through discerning design and details. Each of the rooms is over 600 square feet. The generous space is expertly assigned where it will be most appreciated and then decorated with refined elegance. The 4 “petit-suites” at 750 square feet each present a decidedly majestic disposition and offer a relaxed, unhurried feel. The welcome of the rooms is so complete that they tempt you to abandon evening plans, settle in, pour a glass of wine and submit to their comfort.
The finishes found in each area of this graceful, young hotel convey an aura reminiscent of the great, stately homes of years gone by — without all the creaks and groans of old age. The games room and library are designed specifically for indulgent relaxation. For the more active-minded, the gym and indoor pool provide a perfect, private oasis. Stunning works by local artists adorn the spacious and well-thought-out dining rooms, while the mood in the lounge area encourages enjoyment of its menu, clearly meant to be experienced at a leisurely pace.
Looking out past the patio and over the 6 acres of gardens, I noticed something interesting … beehives. I asked if that’s what they were. “They are! But I’ll let Chef Arron tell you about that,” responded my host. And thus began a most memorable culinary adventure.
Executive Chef Arron Carley is passionate about seasonal, modern, Canadiana cuisine. His enthusiasm is made tangible through his stunning creations. Chef Arron, a 2016 Chopped Canada champion, IS Canadiana incarnate. His generosity that was shown with aplomb during his winning episode was amply evident when we met. He spoke of his desire to provide truly local and seasonal cuisine, shunning non-local, common ingredients and replacing them with native components. Chef Arron works with forager Phil Phillips to create his abstract and thoroughly original masterpieces.
Chef Arron provides a glimpse into our own history through his contemporary and delightfully unexpected dishes. Each daring plate is surprising and tantalizing, unconventional and unusual with beguiling use of garnish and serving pieces. I for one am dubious when I hear the word “seasonal” at this time of year in our beloved, yet frosty country, but Chef Arron’s inventiveness proved limitless. Each beet, carrot and squash was treated with individuality and raised to levels of seasonal superiority, with each course proving more enticing than the last. Anyone who can delectably combine sea buckthorn, dulse and gin is a master by any standards.
From the house-made staples of rolls, butter and honey, to the charcuterie program now underway, Chef Arron is providing a dedication to his art more honestly expressed than I have previously experienced. A visit to The Bruce is an absolute must for any self-respecting supporter of our local talent — during the season or off of it.