The Pearle Hotel & Spa: A Jewel on the Lake

By Barbara Ramsay Orr

“But the pearls were accidents, and the finding of one was luck, a little pat on the back by God.” – John Steinbeck


As a travel writer and guidebook author, I have frequently written about the attractions in this part of the province, between Toronto and Niagara. I always saw the lack of a unique hotel, one that could be a destination by itself, as a real drawback to tourism. Now, there’s the Pearle!

The Pearle Hotel & Spa, opening this spring on the Burlington waterfront, is a long-needed addition to the hospitality sector of the area, providing a sophisticated urban retreat for both locals and visitors. It will be the first hotel in the Autograph Collection by Marriott International in Ontario.

The 151 room hotel is the initiative of Pearle Hospitality, the group that has graced southern Ontario with establishments like the Ancaster Mill, the Cambridge Mill, The Elora Mill Hotel & Spa, Spencer’s at the Waterfront and the popular Earth to Table Bread Bars.

Under the leadership of Aaron and Leanne Ciancone, the Pearle has been designed to be more than just a place to stay. During a hard-hat tour, the brother and sister pair talked about their vision for the property.

“The Pearle,” says Leanne, “is positioned to become a central fixture in the life of the community in Burlington, providing both fine and casual dining, a patio and bar for meet-ups and special event space, as well as accommodation.”

Comfort and welcome are of primary importance, just as it was for the woman for whom the hotel is named, their grandmother Pearle.

“Pearle was a business woman who worked hard alongside her husband, but who also always found time to cook comforting meals for her family and to entertain friends with legendary warmth,” explains Leanne.

“While it will be upscale and elegant, we want it to be unpretentious and free from formality,” says Aaron.

The hotel will be a tip of the hat to a beloved lady, but also a celebration of the lake. Built in the same place where humble summer cottages once stood, the hotel brings the views of the water into every room.

Lake Ontario is an exceptional geographic gift that we are blessed to have at our side, and the Pearle Hotel & Spa is dedicated to reminding us how gorgeous, how globally unique and how vast this lake of ours is.

Thus the water assumes a prominent position in the design and orientation of the hotel, scheduled to open in June 2021. The global award winning design team of Studio Munge has helped turn the Pearle vision into reality, preserving the familial warmth of Pearle and the rustic appeal of the lake cottages of Burlington’s past.

The dominant colours inside are the soft creams and ivory shades of literal pearls.  Large windows bring in the special light of sun reflecting on water. Many of the lake-facing hotel rooms will have balconies looking out over the water, perfect for sunset watching, with a wine glass in hand and maybe some pre-dinner nibbles.

The primary restaurant, Isabelle, named after two of Pearle’s granddaughters, Isabella and Elle, is lined with windows that flood the space with light, and opens onto a generous patio that looks directly over the lake. Dishes served here will continue the tradition of using fresh local ingredients, many of them sourced from the company’s Earth to Table Farm. The emphasis will be on innovative sharing plates, served family style.

For a light repast, or lunch on the run, homemade pizzas or freshly baked loaves of bread will be available at The Earth to Table Bread Bar, the fourth one to be opened. (The Bread Bar’s motto – Good Ingredients matter!) Carrot cake, bread pudding, super fresh salads and Buddha bowls, as well as freshly baked bread and pizza will be available daily.

The hotel spa on the main floor centres around a light filled swimming pool looking out over the patio and the water. The Pearle Group’s Elora Mill Hotel & Spa was recently named the number one spa and wellness destination in Canada, by Spas of America, so guests can expect first class treatments. With nine treatment rooms, a hammam steam room, fitness area and gym, it will be a welcome respite both for guests of the hotel and for local clients.

Seasons by the lake are celebrated in the hotel’s interior design; the main lobby aims for an autumnal feel, with soaring ceilings, textured limestone, curving staircases and a show-stopper glass chandelier, reaching from the second floor down to the lobby, with each light resembling a handblown teardrop. The chandelier, as well as the glass flowers for the ballroom, were specially created by Events-cape in Etobicoke. The Ciancones have tried to use local and domestic suppliers and craftsmen as much as possible. Local artists have added their talent to the interior design, with a large mural for one of the event rooms  done by Christina Ott, Crow Studio, and original photography in the guest corridors, lift and lobby by Joanna Bell, and other works by Canadian artists throughout the property.A feature wall will showcase early photographs of the Burlington waterfront in its past heyday.

Isabelle Restaurant will be springlike, with a trellised ceiling; the ballroom will have the snowy freshness of winter and hotel suites will carry the gold and navy hues of fall, all celebrating the changing of Canada’s seasons.

One grace note of the hotel is the pre-stamped postcards placed in each room, with encouragement for guests to send a personal message. “Each Autograph Collection hotel has its own unique elements, and one of the Pearle’s is our mission to revive the personal outreach of a handwritten note,” says Leanne. “Pearle herself had elegant penmanship and valued the effort to make personal connections. And the visitors to the lake for vacations in the past often sent home postcards and messages during their stay. This is an initiative to revive the thoughtfulness of a handwritten message. There will be mailboxes on every floor to make it easy, and a reward for completing and mailing a note, perhaps a free cocktail or glass of wine.”

It’s a small but intimate gesture, made meaningful by the addition of heritage photographs of Burlington on each postcard, supplied by the Burlington Historical Society.

If all goes well and social distancing rules are relaxed come the fine weather, The Pearle will be waiting, ready to celebrate the return to good times. I can vividly picture myself sitting on the patio, sharing a plate of something delicious with friends as the sun sets over Lake Ontario.

Welcome to the lakehouse, a waterfront Pearle!