Story by Chris Ryall
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, ONTARIO — Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw would feel right at home at the Shaw Club Hotel & Spa, located across the street from the Shaw Festival Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Unlike many of the Victorian-styled inns and hotels in this pretty and historic town, the architecture and interior design of the Shaw Club is more contemporary and sleek.
The hotel is an AAA/CAA four-diamond 30-room property equipped with updated technology, including high-speed Internet access and iPod docking stations.
Luxury Seasoned for Comfort in Niagara
Shaw Club feels much like a private club (but without the stuffiness) with a luxurious and well-appointed lounge area for guests to mingle, read, have a cappuccino or just watch the betta fish go about their daily swim in a large fish bowl. Guests can enjoy many privileges and amenities: free Wi-Fi, parking, in-town shuttle and a selection of books, magazines and DVDs. Bikes are available for rent and a great way to explore the Niagara area. Each room is individually designed with 320-count Egyptian cotton linens, down pillows and duvets, and features artwork from local artists.
It is a pet-friendly as well as fish-friendly hotel. Guests can choose their own fish bowl and accompanying colourful betta fish to have in their room during their stay. If you grow attached you can even take it home for a nominal fee. The fish theme permeates the entire hotel with a large salt-water aquarium in the reception area, fish-designed soap holders, fish paintings in the washrooms and walls of the hotel. Thankfully, though, the rooms don’t smell fishy.
Food lovers won’t be disappointed with Shaw Club’s restaurant on property — Zee’s Grill. This European-style brasserie features Niagara’s bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables and, of course, the region’s fine wine. Intimate, romantic and stylish with the town’s largest patio, Zee’s diners enjoy eclectic dishes from Nova Scotia Lobster Poutine ($18), Pan-Seared Ontario Chicken Breast ($26) and Miso Pasta ($22) to Nori-Wrapped Rare BC Albacore Tuna Loin ($28). More casual fare like wings ($16), steak frites ($20), club sandwiches ($18), and a variety of salads and soups ($9-$20) are also offered.
Only the Best Loo Will Do
I don’t normally venture into ladies’ washrooms and take pictures of washroom stalls and sink areas. Here I was though inside Shaw Club Hotel & Spa’s female washroom. It was recently awarded the 2014 Canada’s Best Restroom by Cintas Canada, garnering 11,000 votes.
This stylish loo would entice any woman to the bathroom. Enter and one finds a long narrow infinity sink with stainless-steel faucets, a vertical dress-shoe picture gallery, checkered white-and-black tile floor, exotic plant and subtle trendy lighting fixtures. The most unique part? The washroom stalls feature glass doors that fog up for privacy when the door is locked — innovative stall technology! Flush with style in this washroom. How did the male washroom compare? It had some similar sleek design elements, a big fish painting but no fancy washroom stalls. Washroom architects favour women.
Wine, Chocolate and Whiskey at Niagara-on-the-Lake
The Shaw Spa, next to the hotel, is a boutique day spa with three treatment rooms and one couples’ suite. Though small, it offers an extensive range of treatments from body massages, wraps and aesthetic services.
I’m in wine country so my first treatment, a Divine Wine Massage (55 minutes, $105) was done by Alesha, a bubbly and skilled RMT therapist. She applied cold-pressed grapeseed oil and red wine hydrating lotion to my walrus-shaped body. With so much body to cover she must have applied a full case of wine. My body happily absorbed all those nutrients made from grapeseed oil and seed extract.
After my body loosened up beneath her strong hands, I moved to another room where Catherine, my next therapist, was waiting to give me my second treatment — a Dark Chocolate Mousse Body Wrap (55 minutes, $100). Okay, I admit it, I was in a decadent state of mind but they do say chocolate is good for you. Since I don’t like cheese, chocolate was the ideal complement to my vinotherapy massage. Catherine began my treatment with a chocolate-chip scrub. The mixture also included safflower seed oil, kiwi seed, apricot seed powder and cocoa extract. Toxins out, seeds in — a fair exchange.
A chocolate body dip followed with cocoa powder, caramel oil, avocado oil as well as a chamomile, lavender and lemon balm. Catherine wrapped me up and gave me a soothing head massage and let me bake for a few minutes to absorb all those sweet ingredients. I was unwrapped then showered off the scrub mixture. Catherine then applied the final decadence: a white chocolate soufflé lotion that was spread all over my body. It consisted of honey, pearl powder, cocoa powder, algae and lavender. I sniffed my silky soft arm and I smelled like an aromatic and enticing chocolate bar.
My final treatment had me relaxing comfortably in one of the spa’s comfy reclining chairs. It was time for my Hot Whiskey Pedicure (55 minutes, $65). This was a defining moment for me. At age 16, I foolishly got drunk on whiskey trying to impress a girl. Well, let’s just say I didn’t impress her and I haven’t been able to touch a drop of whiskey since. But I figure I’m not drinking it just having it rubbed into my feet. Let’s face it, having a pedicure doesn’t seem that manly — but throw in a shot of whiskey — even the mountain men, cowboys and football players will go for it.
Catherine placed my unsightly feet in a warm soak. She trimmed the nails, buffed and scrubbed my feet with a shot of Whiskey Scrub — made up of bourbon from Tennessee, Dead Sea salt, pearled barley, organic zea mays kernel and Vitamin E. All manly ingredients in my books!
She finished off my feet with a Whiskey Balm made of similar ingredients as well as some ginger root and coconut oil. Polished and buffed and injected with whiskey, I wondered if my feet could pass a breathalyzer test.
MORE ABOUT SHAW CLUB HOTEL & SPA