“Try The Lakehouse Cocktail,” suggested the enthusiastic server. I did – and it was good advice. Crisp Ketel One vodka enlivened with savoury thyme syrup and strawberry-rhubarb juice provided a nuanced sipper in keeping with the view. Isabelle restaurant, in the Pearle Hotel & Spa, is set above the shores of Lake Ontario and on a clear day the water seems to merge with the sky for an endless vista of blues.
If you can steal away between 4pm and 6pm on a weekday, come for the Happy Hour, an edit of inspired pours (including the bestselling Lakehouse) and amped-up apps. Pedestrian pickies have been banished in favour of original and delightful dishes like halloumi with roasted grapes, truffle honey and lavash cracker or beef tartare with truffle, parmesan, egg and potato chips. Even simple olives are perked up with fresh citrus and earthy za’atar (Isabelle excels at melding Middle Eastern flavours with Mediterranean fare).
Should you be here on a Monday, you could stay beyond nibbles for the half-price pasta offering. Spinach malfatti with chicken and breadcrumbs is finished with a zing of lemon; sweet and tender lobster linguini gets even more indulgent with dollops of farm pesto and crispy kale; and the classic spaghetti pomodoro with basil reassures with simple comfort. And by the way, the basil, the kale and pretty much all the vegetables and herbs are grown organically at Isabelle’s Earth to Table Farm, a 97-acre property in nearby Flamborough, Ontario.
You may not be able to squeeze in a lake getaway this summer, but a sunny day on the Isabelle patio, replete with exemplary service and satiating dishes and drinks, will lower the shoulders and feel like a mini vacation. You can even extend the Zen by booking a room at The Pearle and staying overnight – just make sure you ask for a room with one of those dreamy lake views.