Things Are Looking Up
For an unforgettable getaway, stay in contemporary work of art, the loft-luxe Rundles-Morris House (C$595 a night), Stratford's most distinctive and exquisitely designed address. A deluxe, self-contained suite on four levels, including a full, top-of-the-range demonstration kitchen, the House deservedly features in the Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture. A soaring, three-level atrium is flanked by stairs and intersected by an overhead walkway in this light-filled, architectural gem. Toronto starchitects Shim-Sutcliffe worked with Jim Morris to create this dream home of concrete, warm cedar, and Douglas fir, and Morris and his dashing partner, local Richard Maloney, have spent years painstakingly furnishing and fitting the house with Roblin paintings and Gehry and Le Corbusier chairs. The House has a living room with fireplace, den, bedroom, two bathrooms, and views of Victoria Lake. Book well in advance: their season is short (May through October) and Stratford's most stylish stay is a hot, hip ticket.
The hosts pay exquisite attention to every detail and nothing is too much to ask of them. The delightful Richard catered to our dietary requests (one vegetarian, one gluten-free) and served a delicious seasonal, healthy breakfast -- stunningly presented fresh orange and grapefruit cocktail plate, followed by a frittata served with local Soiled Reputation fields greens and lightly fried tomato.
Life moves at a stately pace in the farm town of 30,000, less than two hours from Toronto. Stay a couple of days to rent pedal boats, feed swans, and stroll through verdant gardens, stopping to picnic by the water, and saunter through galleries and antique stores. By night, explore Stratford's culinary and theatrical offerings.
This Stratford, like its British namesake, is famed for its theater festival. Running May through October, the festival keeps things delightfully dramatic in this sleepy Ontario town. The 2009 season features 14 plays including Macbeth, West Side Story, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The charming Richard organized tickets for us to catch Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest at the Avon, one of four festival theaters.
The one that you must not miss is Rundles Restaurant. Stratford's standout culinary star sits alongside Morris house, another gem of design. This gourmet haven has been concocting some of the country's finest fare since 1977. On my visit, I marveled over each morsel of gingery shrimp, Dungeness crab, and cucumber roll (pictured), reveled in the succulent duck confit, and was astounded by the tart perfection of chilled rhubarb dessert soup. In a nod to the land of his birth, Morris' wine menu features vintages from descendants of the ?Wine Geese,? Irish emigrants who went to France in the 17th and 18th centuries. If you're staying two nights or more with Jim and Richard, book a dinner at their bistro Sophisto for your second night. For other dining destinations, check Epicurean Trek.
If you fancy something lighter or just a jolt of java, grab a coffee at the hip, retro Sputnik Coffee (46 Ontario St.) or Balzac's roastery (149 Ontario St.) or a cranberry muffin at the Honey Tree Patisserie (131 Albert Street).