Just over an hour’s drive from Toronto, Cambridge Mill feels like a world away. Indeed, the carefully restored, biscuit-coloured beauty is more than just a visual elixir after the traffic-packed highway 401. (An anglophile aside: when I toured the Cotswolds, my guide lyrically described the local limestone as “biscuit-coloured,” so from England’s Cotswolds to Canada’s Cambridge…)
“First-time guests don’t know what to expect when they arrive,” says Bryar Hind, Marketing Manager for Pearle Hospitality, (Pearle Hospitality is the owner of Cambridge Mill, along with a few other spectacular properties in Ontario, such as the Ancaster Mill), “then they see this gorgeous 19th-century limestone mill with a stunning view of the Grand River.”
The restaurant resides in a portion of the beautifully restored, five-storey structure, which was originally the city’s Dickson Mill. It is one of the oldest surviving industrial buildings in Cambridge and a testament to its history in manufacturing and progress. The seating in the restaurant’s main dining area is framed with retractable glass panels that, in the warmer months, are opened so diners feel like they’re part of the panoramic river view.
The farm-to-table menu is a contemporary crowd-pleaser anchored with comfort food. Executive Chef Austin Radcliffe (a B.C. native who looks young enough to be ID’d when buying wine) devised the menu with his Chef de Cuisine Mike Fry. “The dishes are all about seasonality,” says Radcliffe. “We make food that all of us in the kitchen would love to eat.”
Radcliffe sources many ingredients from Pearle Hospitality’s 100-acre organic farm (named – appropriately – The Farm) in Flamborough, Ontario. “The Farm liaises with our chefs to understand what they want to serve,” explained Hind. “It’s a fascinating symbiotic relationship. The properties work together to ensure the produce is used, and the farm grows ingredients based on the chefs’ annual requests.”
The Farm’s bounty is exhaustive: tomatoes, beets, scallions, lettuce, arugula, chilies, garlic, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, ground cherries, mint, basil, sumac, oregano, tomatillo, mustard greens, swiss chard, edible flowers – even honey.
Chef Radcliffe’s passion for provenance is evident in all of his dishes. My pan-seared halibut was served with The Farm’s organic carrots prepared in three ways: roasted, puréed and as a salad. Radcliffe says, “The best part about this dish – the fresh garnish – is not listed in the description. It’s made with herbs and flowers from the farm, including shiso, purslane, mint and other botanicals that change the flavour with every bite.”
Desserts tempt – think comforting carrot cake made with more of that organic carrot purée, as well as decadent chocolate tahini torte amped up with sesame brittle, vanilla-bean coconut gelato and maple-tahini sauce. The takeaway? Save room for dessert.
100 Water St North, ON., CambridgeMill.ca