Grail Springs Retreat Centre for Well Being (Bancroft)

I’ll let you in on a little secret … I turned the fabulous forty this year. For some people, it would be the beginning of having a midlife crisis, but for me it’s been really calming. It’s nice to be comfortable in your own skin and know what you want in life. Hence, to celebrate the milestone birthday, I wanted to do away with bottle service or lavish dinners and focus on wellness instead. I know, how grown up.

Grail Springs Retreat Centre for Well Being fit the bill for a tranquil weekend getaway. It’s a small property that had about 18 guests over the Victoria Day long weekend - hurrah to no lines at check-in or having to hustle to find a chair. Of course, their outdoor “spa” facilities are no where near the calibre of sites Scandinave or Vetta. The miniscule jet less soaker tubs that make up the “water circuit” and warm-up-yourself infrared sauna could resemble ones you’d find at someone’s cottage.

Yet, that’s not why you come to Grail Springs. After experiencing it for the weekend, it’s the fact that there aren’t too many things to do that makes the stay attractive. I didn’t feel like I had to go from place-to-place or task-to-task (apart from the morning breakfast, spa treatment, then yoga timetable). It’s why when speaking to other guests, they choose to go back solo for progressively longer stays. It’s not about the amenities but finding time to relax and unwind. It’s a place where if you go by yourself there are tons of other guests doing the same, so it doesn’t feel weird.

Consequently, if you’re not there for the immersion pool and sauna, what is there to do? I highly recommend the spa treatments. They’re pricey but was one of the better treatments I’ve had at an out-of-town destination. When the weather is nice and the black flies are at bay, the outdoor lake-side property and trails are also a draw. Yet, when all else fails, it’s nice to just sit in their Great Room and read or talk to people. It’s also a great place to BYOB (bring your own board) if you’re into games.

But, onto the food – my focus here at Gastro World. It’s all inclusive and there’s no choice so everyone eats the same meal (with consideration for allergies). Everything is vegan, but delicious thanks to a new chef that has recently joined the team.

Just be mindful that Grail Springs tends to serve a substantial breakfast and lunch, a small snack in the afternoon, and ends with a light dinner. We didn’t realize the progression upon checking in on Friday and proceeding to dinner, it was really scant after hours of driving. It started with a not overly exciting green salad that was nevertheless refreshing and incorporated a tasty maple balsamic dressing that was balanced and not too acidic.

Their dishes are flavourful, the main of soft tempeh crumbles tossed in a lovely spicy mix. It’s simply paired with crunchy grilled garlic broccolini and seems hardly enough when the other sides are a bit of creamy corn “pudding” and a sweet and sour red pepper purée. This could really benefit from some wild rice or even a slice of bread to make the meal more substantial and to soak up the sauces.

A cup of fluffy raspberry dark chocolate mousse finished. It was a tad sour for my taste but did have a nice rich chocolate finish. I scraped every bit of the mousse since I was still so hungry – and they do not give seconds despite what their Google replies indicate. Do yourself a favour and have a hearty lunch or make a pit stop for a pre-dinner snack before checking in.

Grail is also known for their infused water and non-caffeinated teas. Their teas were delicious with the minty cold tea being my favourite, especially when paired with chunks of frozen pineapples that gradually thawed and were a great nibble.

I’m happy to say that they do serve caffeinated beverages during breakfast a wonderful cream of Earl Grey one morning followed by a well steep Classic Breakfast blend the next. There’s also a coffee station each morning for those who need a cup of java.

The breakfasts are hearty as everything comes with a slice of well toasted buttered multi-grain bread. Day one it was paired with creamy overnight oats that had a great fluid consistency and a fresh strawberry and date yoghurt that was more sweet than tangy. Day two the breakfast was less extravagant, a simple plain coconut yoghurt topped with various fruits and nuts.

We had an equally filling lunch on Saturday starting off with a bowl of piping hot silky cauliflower volute, which was spiked with curry oil to add an unexpected element that works well with the rich cauliflower soup. It’s a dish that our entire table loved, chef please do more soups!

After the hearty volute, we were surprised to see the baseball-sized stuffed onigiri that followed. I could have done without the orange added into the chopped kimchi and tofu filling as it was too overpowering. Once mixed with the crunchy sesame oil laced coleslaw and creamy whipped avocado the orange essence mellowed and was better. I love the inventive idea and certainly did not leave lunch hungry.

In fact, I was so stuffed that I didn’t even need the afternoon snack – an “elixir” that tasted like watered down passionfruit juice and a dark chocolate chunk cookie. I had a bite of the cookie anyways and it was surprisingly soft and fluffy for being gluten-free.

Thankfully, I left room for dinner as the broccoli salad was a delicious start, the florets cut into slices so that each was well covered with a creamy chili dressing that seeped into the broccoli’s cervices. I would forego the coconut bacon and spiced sunflower seeds as the dressing was already so savoury and flavourful that adding the other two elements made it too salty. Personally, I found the salad had a Caesar-like taste and would have paired the broccoli with vegan parm and lightly toasted still soft croutons instead.

The lemon garlic roasted tofu was surprisingly tasty and went perfectly with the stewed ratatouille base. I didn’t even mind the olive tapenade, but only used a bit of it as with the ratatouille was well seasoned already. You will not find bland tofu here.

Another dark chocolate element for dessert – a disappointment for someone who does not like chocolate. This was worse, the “brownie” resembling a crumbly and dry truffle ganache that I could only have a couple bites before giving up on. Give me a large scoop of the popcorn ice cream with crumbles any day, the highlight of the dessert.

A few letdowns aside, I was pleasantly surprised by the calibre of the plant-based dishes served at Grail Springs. After reading their Google reviews, I had braced myself for flavourless starchy concoctions that would leave me starving and in need of the protein bars I brought for back-up. Their new chef has certainly elevated their offerings, creating flavourful meals that were vibrantly coloured and plated beautifully. It was a great experience and the weekend left me feeling nourished, both in my stomach and soul.  

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 2004 Bay Lake Road

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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