Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Old Mill: An Historic Toronto Landmark

The Old Mill has a cherished motto, 'Vallis Humbria Angliae Pars Anglisa Procul' which means, 'In the Valley of the Humber, a bit of England far from England.' And indeed it is. Over the past century, The Old Mill has earned a reputation as being one of Toronto's more charismatic landmarks. With its beautiful setting, and charming atmosphere, The Old Mill has warmed the hearts of guests far and wide. A culinary and cultural destination where delicious food overlaps with an overwhelmingly authentic and beautiful historic setting nestled in the picturesque Humber Valley parklands along the banks of the Humber River, The Old Mill is an historic country retreat only minutes from downtown. 
Focusing on old world charm, this exquisitely restored and rebuilt mill has since become a luxurious boutique inn, enviable spa, elegant venue for weddings, banquets, gracious dining and traditional afternoon tea, complete with finger sandwiches, petit fours, scones and clotted cream

William Gambles Grist Mill ruin circa 1905, the site of which would become The Old Mill

The Old Mill site was originally a hunting and fishing area for Canada's First Nation people before European exploration and subsequent settlement of the area. By 1720, the French had established a small fortified settlement called Magasin Royale near the present site of the hotel, for trading with native bands. Less than 50 years later, the first English settlement in the area, built around King's Mill, became a cutting lumber centre for the first homes built in York, now known as Toronto. As it turns out, the William Gambles Grist Mill, built to the north of King's Mill, would become the site of the present-day Old Mill.

The Old Mill Tea Garden opened in 1914

The original sign still hangs

In 1914, on the first day of WWI, Toronto entrepreneur Robert Home Smith, opened The Old Mill Tea Garden, and it quickly became a popular spot among Toronto residents for entertainment and relaxation. The Old Mill underwent a series of renovations in the early 1970s, with great attention made to authentically restore the original Dining Room, Garret and Humber Rooms. New meeting and ballrooms were added, including the Royal Oak, Portage, Mill, Brulé and York Rooms. The old Print Room was restored and a new Tea Room added. Present-day proprietor Michael Kalmar took ownership of The Old Mill in 1991, and after significant restoration and reconstruction, The Old Mill reopened in 2001 with over 50 luxuriously appointed rooms and suites. 

The Terrace Room

These days, The Old Mill serves an impressive luncheon buffet, as well as à la carte dining and their well known traditional afternoon teas. On the occasion of my parents 54th Anniversary on October 31, we celebrated with a family lunch at The Old Mill — who on earth gets married on Halloween? Seated at a lovely corner table in the bright and sunny Terrace Room overlooking the pretty garden patio, we started our lunch with Bloody Mary's and then wandered into the dark historic interior of the original dining room to explore the buffet.

My celebratory Bloody Mary

The Old Mill Lunch Buffet

With a wide selection of appetizers, salads, hot dishes and desserts, the Old Mill's luncheon buffet has something for everyone, including hot and cold seafood, smoked fish, pasta and carving station featuring a roasted pork loin and handsome prime rib of beef. Being Halloween, the desserts took on a festive flair with spooky chocolate confections, spider web inspired frosting, pumpkin flavoured cheesecake plus a bowls of chocolate mousse, homemade cakes, fresh fruit, cheese and more. Offered during the week from noon to 2:30, guests can continue from the lunch buffet to the Print Lounge at 3:00pm, to savour the Old Mill's Cream Tea, for a decadent culinary marathon.

Chilled New Zealand Mussels with a sweet teriyaki sauce

Grain Salad with Dried Cherries and Cranberries

Chilled Poached Shrimp

Fruit Platter with papaya, berries, melon, grapefruit, grapes and more

Poached Salmon, Chilled Mussels, Sliced Tomatoes and Caesar Salad

Curried Chicken, Flank Steak, Poached Salmon, Smoked Mackerel, Seafood Salad, 
Sliced Tomatoes and Caesar Salad

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Halloween details

A selection of Petit Fours

Afternoon Tea is served every day 

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