Should you live in the Greater Toronto Area, and find yourself wanting to luxuriate in an environment away from an over abundance of concrete, a brief trip to The Briars Resort in Jackson’s Point on Lake Simcoe just might be perfect for you.
The Briars has something for everybody: golf; the spa; leisure activities like croquet and swimming in the indoor and outdoor pools (or even Lake Simcoe as there is a private beach entrance); walking in and around the beautiful grounds; cycling on rented bikes or just relaxing. If you visit on a Saturday night, you also get to enjoy the Saturday night dance in the dining hall – an activity reminiscent of older times and a nice change from other resort offerings.
Approximately 70 km north of Toronto, The Briars is an Ontario heritage resort – meaning it has a long history in terms of leisure activities for people of this region. It was originally a working farm that evolved into a resort. We owe the beauty of The Briars to two men: British Navy Captain William Bourchier who built the original Regency-style manor house, and to Dr. Frank Sibbald, second owner who updated the grounds with interesting buildings such as the Peacock Room (originally housing peacocks of course). It was officially opened as a resort in 1942.
The Briars is currently owned by the Sibbald family. John Sibbald, – a lovely, older gentleman with silvery hair and piercing eyes – still greets his guests and stops to speak with them for a few minutes.
It’s this warm hospitality that is evident in everybody who works here, from Mr. Sibbald, to the servers in the dining room.
There are many options for accommodation at The Briars, depending on your budget and needs. The main guest rooms are in a number of spots in and around the main buildings, including specifically named rooms in the original manor house. Other options include the Woodland Cottages, and two bedroom cottages or suites.
If dining at The Briars, you get a taste of locally grown foods – Chef Trevor Ledlie uses ingredients sourced from local farmers and from the gardens on the grounds.
The dining halls at The Briars are elegant – no jeans permitted. Dining here requires a nice, classy outfit. Black tie is going too far though.
The dinner menu options are numerous – from chicken, pickerel, lamb and steak. While not focusing on trendy meats and fish, the menu is solid, offering everybody something to enjoy.
For starters we tried the Organic Sweet and Bitter Greens ($6) with a light Dijon and honey dressing with parsnip chips, and the Prosciutto and Baked Brie ($8) served with an olive focaccia salad and a zesty oregano vinaigrette. Both appetizers are enough to get you ready for the main entrees.
Frank had the Crisp Half Chicken ($25) with potatoes made creamy by buttermilk, and paired with fresh vegetables and a ragout of mushrooms. Hearty and filling, this dish is a simple chicken prepared well.
My dish of Grilled Lamb Shoulder ($27), served medium rare (just the way I like it) came with a flavourful tomato risotto – with the rice just perfect (not too soft, nor too hard). Crisp green beans and a sage jus complemented the meat and risotto.
If you wish to enjoy a nightcap or a drink before dinner, head over to the Drinkwaters Lounge where you can grab a table or sidle up to the bar.
There’s much to do and explore at The Briars. For a relaxing moment, you can walk up the Tower for a view of Lake Simcoe and the surrounding area. This six-story addition was opened in the 1990s.
If you’ve been to the Briars, I’d love to hear your thoughts on other activities you experienced there.
The directions can be found on The Briars website.