What’s on the menu at the Royal, Prince Edward County’s swanky new hotel

What’s on the menu at the Royal, Prince Edward County’s swanky new hotel

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Name: The Royal
Contact info: 247 Picton Main St., theroyalhotel.ca, @theroyalhotelpicton
Neighbourhood: Picton, P.E.C.
Owners: The Sorbara family
Chef: Albert Ponzo (Le Sélect)
Seating: 115 indoors, 40 outdoors
Accessibility: Fully accessible

The food

If the location alone doesn’t hook you, the food will. At the newly restored Royal Hotel in the heart of P.E.C., chef Albert Ponzo embraces the county’s produce in a seasonal menu with an Italian backbone (and occasional French touches, thanks to his time spent at Toronto’s Le Sélect). Much of the produce comes from local farms, including Edwin County Farms in Picton, which is also owned by the Sorbara family. Meats and cheeses, likewise, come from local vendors—including ex-Toronto restaurateur Jesse Fader, who literally walks his water buffalo mozzarella over from across the street.

Striking a balance between elegance and rustic comfort, the menu heavily features pasta and pizza; the sourdough base for the latter is made by a busy on-site bakery that also sells bread, pastries and other goodies at the front counter. Mains—like delicate Fogo Island cod served with brown butter bearnaise (there’s that French flair)—are meant to pair with your choice of side dishes, like apple cider–braised red cabbage or emmental potato gratin. For dessert, tuck into a traditional ricotta lemon cannoli—recipe courtesy of Ponzo’s own nonna.

This place does breakfast up proper.


The aptly named Royal Breakfast, complete with two any-style eggs, choice of house-made sausage or bacon, sautéed collards, and a potato pavé: thin-sliced russets are layered gratin-style with roasted garlic and rosemary, pressed and fried. Crisped to order for maximum golden edges. $18.


Here we have the pizza Genoa topped with tomatoes, basil, artisanal Iberian pork salami from Belleville and Ontario water buffalo mozzarella. $18.


Here it is again. Just look at that airy, bubbly crust.


The mushrooms on the funghi pizza rotate according to what’s in season. The current iteration has black trumpet, king oyster and shiitake.


The shrooms are joined by shallots, garlic and crème fraîche. The pizza’s crust is akin to a thin Neapolitan style, though a little firmer on the bottom. $19.


Ribollita, or Tuscan bread soup, is made with the Royal’s own sourdough, cassoulet beans from Edwin County Farms, kale, cabbage, carrot and roasted chicken stock. It’s made the day before, which means the bread absorbs all that goodness—the carby concoction is then seared to order, finished with more broth and topped with parsley and olive oil. $13.


Here we have the polpette, or braised beef meatballs, made with Edwin County farm beef and parmesan. The tender bites are seared, cooked in sugo, and garnished with preserved red peppers and marinated fennel. $17.


Handmade cappelletti pasta is filled with local koginut squash and served in a sauce of brown butter, sage and walnuts. This flavour combination is a well-used classic for a very good reason. $23.


Here’s a closer look.
Fogo Island cod served with roasted Brussels sprouts, fennel and new potatoes. It’s smothered in a generous blanket of rich, nutty brown butter béarnaise sauce. $30.


A half roasted chicken, dry-brined overnight for even seasoning and crispy skin, is served with beef-based red wine jus and preserved tomatoes and red pepper. Pair it with one (or three, who’s counting) sides—braised greens with olive oil and garlic would go nicely here. $37.


The light, elegant crema al limone is garnished with shortbread, fennel fronds and blueberry compote. Smooth as butter and set off by thoughtful accents, it’s an especially refreshing after-dinner treat. $14.


Ponzo took the recipe for this cannoli from his nonna’s notebook—more than that, he even uses her original moulds. It’s partly a matter of sentiment, but the chef swears they work better than the modern tools he’s tried. The filling is traditional: ricotta cheese, lemon zest and icing sugar, garnished with orange peel. See those bubbles on the outside? That’s the sign of a properly made cannoli. $6 per piece.


Chef Ponzo, in his element.
The drinks

There’s an extensive selection of Italian aperitivi, which also feature in the playful cocktail menu. As with the kitchen, seasonal and locally produced ingredients feature heavily here, including a house-made tonic. A thoughtful selection of zero-proof cocktails include non-alcoholic spirits from B.C.’s Lyre’s Spirit Co. The wine list has solid county representation, including the region’s signature pinot noirs and chardonnays, alongside offerings from Italy and France.

The Bison Mule (front and centre) is so-named for the herbaceous Zubrowka vodka, which is infused with bison grass. Briottet basilic liqueur, lime,and ginger beer make for a bright, refreshing take on the classic cocktail. $15.


Here we have the Spritz Veronese—a take on an Aperol spritz. With Montenegro and Select Aperitivo subbing in for Aperol, it’s darker and weightier than the classic, finished (of course) with prosecco and an orange slice. $16.


This very local twist on a gin and tonic, the County G&T features Old Tom gin from nearby Kinsip Distillery. The smooth, lightly sweet gin is barrel-aged, which is what gives it its brownish hue. Even the tonic is locally sourced: house-made, in fact, with local botanicals. It’s all topped off with soda and lime. $20.
The space

The restaurant is divided into four sections: the counter bar, main dining room, garden and parlour, which serves small bites and beverages. A glass wall at the front of the building exposes the restaurant to the vibrance of Picton’s main drag. Elegant while still somehow quaint and intimate, it’s a welcoming place to grab coffee, breakfast, or lunch; in the evening, the lights go down and everything gets fun and moody.

In the parlour, you can grab a drink and a treat from the on-site bakery, which also makes sourdough crust for the restaurant’s signature pizzas.

The Royal was built in 1879; its storied history includes a chapter as tumbledown bar in the 1970s and ’80s. The property was in bad shape when the Sorbaras bought it in 2013—thanks to their comprehensive reno, it has a new lease on life.