City Escape: Date Night at The Magnolia
By Tracey Drake, Homes & Living Magazine, Summer 2011
There is a famous Spanish proverb that says, “How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then to rest afterward”. On a recent weekend city escape to The Magnolia Hotel, Spa and Prime Steakhouse in downtown Victoria; my husband Steve and I had the opportunity to put this adage to the test and guess what? It’s true!
We opted for the Date Night package, which caters to couples that want to relax and reconnect. The hotel offers different package versions, which can be further personalized. Our customized getaway included one night accommodation in an exquisite diamond hotel suite, an unforgettable dinner at Prime Steakhouse, and tranquil time spent at The Spa Magnolia.
Walking through the front doors of The Magnolia Hotel, the warm welcome from the staff and delightful elegance of the hotel lobby provided the first clue that this weekend would be the perfect distraction from our hectic lifestyle. With just 64 rooms, The Magnolia Hotel is ideally sized to offer unsurpassed personal attention and 4-diamond hotel amenities. The architectural styling and interior design of the property represents all things that are unique about Victoria – an obvious nod to the past with an infusion of old world charm, but with no modern convenience overlooked. The 12-year old luxury boutique hotel was a new build that was designed to blend in with the historic, old town district – which earned the VREB’s ‘Commercial Building Award for Excellence’.
Our corner room on the seventh floor featured soaring 10 foot ceilings; a fresh, stylish decor and awe-inspiring vistas of downtown Victoria, the inner harbour and parliament buildings. Complimentary fresh apples and bottled water provided a quick late afternoon snack; a decadent chocolate left on each pillow after evening turndown service was a thoughtful touch. The room featured a two poster bed with beautiful high end linens, and a large sitting area with loveseat and romantic gas fireplace. As for the spa inspired bathroom, it was so decadent, I could have easily spent the weekend in the well-appointed marble haven with soaker tub and separate glass enclosed shower – and I am not the only one. Ronette Nyhan, Director of Sales for The Magnolia Hotel & Spa, told us about a guest who reserved this room for his wedding anniversary, and asked if the hotel could set up the bathroom for his wife – exactly like the picture – and they did!
Later that evening, dining at Prime Steakhouse, the only restaurant in Victoria on Where Magazine’s list of ‘Canada’s Best New Restaurants of 2010’ was nothing short of magnificent. The rich décor and relaxed atmosphere was welcoming yet vibrant; cozy yet cosmopolitan – to my mind, it was vintage rat pack meets modern urban chic. We were seated at the ‘parliament’ table with stunning outlooks to the government buildings and the harbour; views that changed from architectural awe to a romantic glow, as the sun set over the city. The table service was attentive and professional, thanks to our server, Andrew who was knowledgeable about every item on the menu that includes six cuts of aged beef, as well as lamb, seafood, poultry and pasta. We chose Sesame Crusted Tuna and Lobster Bisque as starters, and both were sumptuous. For our main course, we dined on Lamb Rack with an herb crusted red wine jus and juniper gastrique, which was rustically divine; and Dry Aged Bone-in NY Steak that was cooked evenly to medium-rare perfection; an often difficult feat with a thick, 17 oz. cut of beef. After touring the kitchen with Chef Bruce Batty, it was easy to see why Prime consistently serves up world class cuisine. Chef Batty attributes the mouth-watering flavour and tenderness of Prime steaks to their in-house dry aging system and his kitchen’s Montague over-fired broiler, which locks in the brilliant flavours with a crisp crust. Since Prime’s entrée portions are generous, we wisely chose to share the molten cake for dessert; a warm, flowing, chocolate celebration that was worth every second of the 12 minute, made-to-order, baking time – and the sweetest end to a splendid day.
After an early Sunday morning walk around the inner harbour and a delicious complimentary breakfast that, along with the usual continental breakfast fare, included a Belgian waffle station and gourmet oatmeal counter, we headed to the spa.
The Spa Magnolia is a rare indulgence for all the senses that feels like it is worlds away, even though it is conveniently located right off the hotel lobby. Walking into the spa reception area, we were instantly enveloped in a sea of serenity; this spa has done an admirable job getting the mood just right. After changing into soft robes and slippers, we were escorted to the lounge by Paula Veenema, Spa Director, where we waited for our spa therapists; Macayla and Heather, to begin our couples massage. This is one of the best couple suites I have come across; the room was spacious and warm; the massage tables angled at either end to allow lots of room for two therapists to move around in stealth mode. There was nothing crowded or contrived about this space – it is a sanctuary built with the couple in mind. The Spa Magnolia features seven treatment rooms, an expertly trained staff and an elegant street entrance that offers day spa services for Victoria residents. The one-hour couple massage was our happy ending to a wonderful urban retreat.
Vacationing in your own backyard is an eye opening experience – we truly felt like we had ‘gotten away from it all’ while still taking the time to appreciate our own city. It is funny that in all my walks downtown, I never noticed the stunning architectural façade of the Union Club. Or how, at 8am on a Sunday morning, the inner harbour shows its peaceful, softer, non-touristy side; the only sounds coming from the boats gently moving in the waters and the occasional squawk of a resident seagull.
Before leaving for home, we learned about The Magnolia Hotel & Spa’s popular Orcas and Orchids weekend package that is being offered again this summer. This fun weekend includes hotel, a whale watching excursion with Prince of Whales that ends at the private dock of the Butchart Gardens, where visitors can marvel at rare orchids and enjoy a unique garden experience. The perfect excuse to return soon for another weekend city escape!