Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Ritz-Carlton, Toronto

4 Dec 2015 by Jenny Southan
BACKGROUND Ritz-Carlton is one of Marriott International’s five-star brands. The new-build Ritz-Carlton Toronto opened in February 2011. It is part of a 53-storey mixed-use tower with Ritz-Carlton residences above. The structure was designed by New York architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox in partnership with Toronto-based Page and Steele. WHAT’S IT LIKE? Pulling up in a taxi at the forecourt, there was a cluster of ice hockey fans waiting outside for autographs from sports stars staying at the property. Getting out of the car, a doorman rushed to take my luggage with a promise to bring it up to my room. Passing through the revolving doors, I walked through the high-ceilinged, amber marble lobby to reception. Metal maple leafs are set into the floor and in the centre is a carpeted area with lounge seating. Lifts are at the back, to the left. I was taken to the Club lounge to be checked in, and given a brief tour of my room. My case appeared ten minutes later. Although this is a relatively new hotel, the décor throughout has a soft, neutral feel – there is nothing bold, brash or unconventional to it. For me, it felt a little bland (the photos make it look a bit glitzier than it is), but others will like this. Interiors feature light caramel upholstery, dark wood and pale marble. Rooms at the back of the hotel face the CN Tower and Lake Ontario. WHERE IS IT? In Downtown’s Wellington Street, 30km from Toronto Pearson International airport and a ten-minute drive from Billy Bishop airport from which domestic and US flights depart with Porter Airlines. The hotel is also directly linked to the PATH underground network of shops and cafes, which connect all the office blocks in downtown so people can avoid being outside in the freezing months of winter. ROOM FACILITIES Entry-level Luxury Guest rooms are generous in size at 41 sqm. As well as a king-sized bed with 400-thread-count Frette linens (I slept very well in mine), they come with 42-inch LCD flatscreen TVs, Bose docks, free wifi, safes, kettles and coffee machines, well-stocked minibars, and bathrooms with separate tubs and walk-in showers, double sinks, heated floors and shaving mirrors. Club floors are on levels 18, 19 and 20 – people staying in these rooms have access to the lounge. There is no floor 13 and room floors start from level five. Roughly half the rooms face the CN Tower and Lake Ontario beyond. In 2013, eight existing bedrooms were turned into four larger (88 sqm) Simcoe suites – these are the most contemporary rooms in the hotel. (Before, there were just 56 Corner suites at 60 sqm and two Wellington suites at 223 sqm with nothing in between.) They have different interior design – they look more chic, with a palette of black, cream, gold and white. When comparing suites, they are obviously much larger in size than Luxury Guest rooms (from 60 sqm to 224 sqm), and some have a guest washroom in addition to a main bathroom. Most other amenities are the same. Corner suites remain a good option for business travellers as they have a separate living room divided by a sliding door, making them appropriate for meetings. RESTAURANTS AND BARS On the ground floor is house bar Deq, which has open fires blazing in the winter and an outdoor terrace for the summer. It’s a cosy place to have a cocktail and was busy the Friday evening I visited, although table service was a little bit slow. On a separate occasion I had supper al fresco with some friends – the antipasti plate that the chef put together for us wasn’t fresh, which was disappointing for a hotel of this caliber, with prices that aren’t cheap. I had a much better experience at all-day Italian restaurant Toca, which is located on the first-floor mezzanine level, above the casual Ritz Bar for coffee and pastries (it also has street-side seating). Toca has various sections for dining with a mix of curved banquettes, long banquet tables and private-dining areas (including a chef’s table in the kitchen). A unique feature is its climate controlled cheese “cave” that allows the restaurant to age its own cheese. (Apparently the Ritz-Carlton is the only hotel in Canada to have one.) Guests can booked wine and cheese evenings for tastings or order off the menu after a meal. Ontario’s Lankaaster Aged Loaf won an award for being the best cheese in the world two years ago at the Global Cheese Awards so this is a must-try. I had breakfast in Toca and was very impressed by the quality and presentation of the buffet – there were stacks of fresh blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, succulent fresh fruit, pastries, cereal, yoghurt and various hot savoury items. There was also an a la carte menu – I went for the eggs Florentine on a crisp toasted English muffin. Top marks. The service was friendly and speedy – just what you want in the morning. It also had a nice homely ambiance. BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES At the top of the hotel, on the 20th floor, is the Club lounge. Accessible by keycard, it looks on to the CN Tower and has plenty of comfy seating. There are two Mac computers, a TV area, free wifi, free alcohol, coffee to go, and four food presentations throughout the day. Staff are on hand if you need anything. On the fourth floor is a business centre, while event space spans level two to four, with the double-height ballroom being the largest in the city at 688 sqm on the lower levels. It can host up to 700 for a reception, or be divided into four smaller salons for between 25 and 40 delegates in each, conference-style. Meanwhile, on the fourth floor is the Wellington ballroom for 325 people in a theatre set up, an Executive boardroom for 12 guests seated, the Gallery room for 140 standing, the Promenade for receptions of 250 people, the Cobalt room for a six-person meeting and, finally, four Salons (A-D) for between 40 and 90 people standing in each. LEISURE FACILITIES For a city centre hotel, the Ritz-Carlton’s leisure facilities are impressive. Located on floor five, the Clarins spa has 16 treatment rooms (including two for couples), a nail salon (this was being renovated when I visited in October), a eucalyptus steam room, experience showers, green tea spa bath and a light-filled relaxation lounge underneath a glass atrium. These facilities are open from 11am-7pm Mon-Tues, until 8pm Wed-Thurs, from 10am-9pm Fri, from 9am-9pm Sat and from 9am-7pm Sunday. There is also a salt water swimming pool that is long enough to do lengths while looking on to the CN Tower, and a fitness centre that is open 24 hours a day but has no natural light. Personal trainers are available, and it is well-equipped with free weights, Precor and Technogym machines (including a Kinesis system and treadmills with LCD touchscreens). Earphones and iced water are also available. Private yoga and group classes can also be booked. VERDICT A five-star business hotel in the heart of Downtown Toronto that will cater to all your business travel needs. And there is no excuse not to stay fit with leisure facilities as good as these. FACT FILE HOW MANY ROOMS? 263 rooms – 200 Luxury Deluxe Guest rooms, one Ritz-Carlton suite, two Wellington suites, four Simcoe suites and 56 Corner suites. HIGHLIGHTS The swimming pool, rooms and club lounge with views of the CN Tower, the expansive spa and event spaces, the excellent breakfast at Toca and its “cheese cave”, the only one in Canada. PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in January started from CA$648 (£322) for a Luxury Deluxe Guest room. CONTACT Ritz-Carlton, 181 Wellington Street West; tel +1 416 585 2500; Jenny Southan
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