It’s been just a year since The Royal Hotel opened its majestic doors in the county. The infamous Picton property has been completely and carefully reborn, brick by brick. Literally. The entire front facade of the building damn near collapsed during the construction, forcing the closure of the main drag for months.
For the owners, and first-time hoteliers, the project was of course daunting. But the potential unlocked a new era for the town and its people. Shuttered for years and needing serious repair, the derelict property was almost a complete teardown. Then Greg Sorbara went for a stroll one day.
A WALK TO REMEMBER
The former MPP and his family have owned a working farm in the county since 2008. The property is a whopping 650-acre farm dubbed Edwin County Farms which now supplies the hotel with almost all the proteins and produce, especially in the summer months. Returning from his stroll, Greg immediately spoke with his family to get them on board. The tight-knit group had success turning the once-overgrown farm into a real business. But what did they know about hotels?
THE BEGINNING OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP AT THE ROYAL HOTEL
A farm needs tending, but this property required more than just some good old-fashioned hoeing. Greg’s Bay-street son-in-law Sol Korngold may have questioned Greg’s sanity but he later ditched his 9-5 to join the family business. He now acts as General Manager and is credited with getting the project (finally) up and running.
If you’re lucky enough to be a local, then you probably treasured your times at The Royal. As a frequent tourist, I often wondered what was hiding behind the boarded-up windows. Sol may not have known a lot about the hotel biz but he knew the town. And he knew the obligation, to provide employment and inject some hometown pride into not just one building but Main Street itself.
The ambition was there, and after some back and forth, he took charge and got the renovation rolling. Enlisting the same team behind the beautiful Stock TC, Giannone Petricone Associates was a smart move. Everything in the hotel was imported from Italy. Including this custom hidden bar cabinet (above) that houses all accoutrements in one functional and beautiful package.
RESTAURANT FIT FOR ANY ROYAL
The restaurant is crucial to the hotel’s overall success. You need locals to keep the lights on when you’re working in a seasonal beach town. Wisely, they secured Chef Albert Ponzo (Le Sélect) in the early days. Ponzo is a professional, groomed in Toronto’s eponymous Parisian bistro before moving to PEC. He has an appreciation for sustainable farming, including nose-to-tail cooking and relying on farm-driven food to perfect his plates.
OKAY, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ROOMS AT THE ROYAL HOTEL?
There are 33 rooms total, including the pet-friendly adjacent property The Annex. They’re all meticulously and thoughtfully designed and lit, pulling from a slightly Scandi design. Each room is named after a locally grown apple and ours, dubbed Empire Suite, was flawless. A king-sized bed is flanked by a magnificent fireside deep soaker tub. The tile in the adjacent bathroom is mesmerizing. The mix of Scandi with Italian design is welcome and warm. A comfy pullout optimizes the sleep situation.
Storage is easily accessible via recessed cubbies in the bedrooms. The whole property features these intuitive touches. Hidden hooks and pulls blend seamlessly throughout. The effect is calm, functional and intuitive.
Warm woods pair naturally with sandy light tones. It’s reminiscent of the hotel’s proximity to one of the province’s most beautiful provincial parks.
Have you packed your bags yet? While the summer promises to be a busy season at The Royal, Picton is a nice day trip. Nearby Sandbanks Provincial Park is an oasis. And be sure to stop in at The Ye11ow Studio for beautiful pottery and county finds.
With a bustling bar/cafe/bakery in the lobby and a nifty cocktail cart out back and poolside (yes, they have a pool), The Royal Hotel is carving out a new era of staycations near the six.
All images by Libby Roach.