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The Drake Hotel was one of, if not THE, first boutique hotel in Toronto when it opened. When we heard that dot-comer Jeff Stober was opening The Drake west of Queen West, we thought it impossible for the hotel to survive in the then downtrodden boonies. We were wrong, so wrong—not only did The Drake persevere but it quickly became a hotspot for locals who lined up to get into its basement band venue and kickass lounge. Now, ten years on, we set out to discover whether The Drake Hotel still had true cachet.
We walked in on a wintry Saturday afternoon and the place was overflowing with bohos and hipsters alike, most waiting for a table in the recently-reno’ed (and enlarged but still full to capacity) restaurant and lounge. If you ever wondered what the Canadian design aesthetic is, you need to come here. There’s lots of natural wood, industrial lighting, earth tones, forest motifs and—to take it one step further—The Drake has a kitschy camp feel that reminds us of every camping trip we ever took as kids, sans mosquitoes.
The rooms carry on that mid-century modern campground feel but with modern ModCons. You can see inside the rooms in the photo gallery, but there are a few things that deserve an extra shout-out. First, let’s hear it for “Hairy Chest Man.” This particular doll for adults with leather studded collar is handmade and you can find a different doll in every room. Next, the “pleasure menu”: The Drake purports to be the first hotel in the world to carry one and while we can’t vouch for that, we can say that it is probably the most extensive menu of its kind that we’ve had the “pleasure” of seeing (yuk yuk). We also loved the owl light and the toiletries by Malin + Goetz.
Next up in our Toronto tour is the 18-room hotel, The Beverley, found on hipster hangout, Queen West. After some initial confusion as to whether to head up or down the stairs (go up to check-in and down to go to the popular restaurant and lounge), we met up with GM Scott Newnham who showed us around this tasteful minimalist boutique property.
The hotel’s motto is, “Everything you need and nothing you don’t,” and we think this is a pretty accurate depiction of what the hotel’s all about. Cool, white minimalism takes over the rooms — with a happy shock of vivid color coming from the bathrooms — and what’s there is luxurious: Frette linens; local spa Body Blitz toiletries; fluffy cotton robes; and flat-screen TVs mounted on the ceiling or wall.
Have a look at the photo gallery below to see for yourself!
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For a new hotel that’s not opening in the heart of the city but in the country, there sure is a lot of buzz around the Drake Devonshire Inn. Mind you, it is opening in a quaint little town with a quaint name — Wellington in Prince Edward County — but we suspect it’s because The Drake name holds a lot of clout in these here parts (for a peek inside The Drake Hotel Toronto stay tuned until next week when we’ll bring you inside it’s hallowed halls).
In keeping with The Drake Toronto, we’re expecting a certain cheeky Canadiana charm to fill the twelve-room Inn, which is expected to open early summer. The architects have taken an existing historic building and are melding it with the new to create a rough-luxe design aesthetic where flannel would be appropriate. The hotel’s aim is to bring the big-city cool kids to the country — a sort of adult year-round camp — and that also means an old-school games room, farm-to-table dining in an indoor and outdoor restaurant that serves home cookin’ with a twist, loads of local entertainment and maybe the odd pillow fight.
And while you’re hanging out on the outdoor deck sipping a Pinot, it’s--quite literally--hanging out over Lake Ontario.
Rates aren't available yet, but we hope to know more soon.
[Renderings: Drake Devonshire Inn]
We popped in to 12-room boutique Hotel Ocho during our recent excursion to T.O. We found an industrial-style crash pad with Danish minimalism and shabby chic décor thrown in for good measure.
The hotel opened in May 2011 in an area underserviced by the big-name brands. Next to Chinatown and in the trendy Queen West area (you can rent a bike right outside the hotel to get around), it attracts the creative class with its basement restaurant and lounge offering martini and wine nights. The hotel’s reception is also in the basement level, although you might just miss it if you're not aware, since check-in is located behind the stairs leading up to the second level (as you can see, there’s some quirk here too!).
Once you hit the rooms—on the top two floors of the four-storey building (and yes, there is an elevator)—you’ll have a choice of a Standard Room, Superior Room or Deluxe Room. All have wood-plank ceilings, flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. We had a peek at a Superior Room and it also had a little desk, an open bathroom concept and walk-in shower, and La Source toiletries. The Standard Room also had the open concept bathroom and was... cozy.
The hotel showcases local artists and rotates the work about every two months, giving the hotel a lot of character. See for yourself in the Photo Gallery below!
While times, they are a-changing, the vast majority of airport hotels are still conservatively-designed chain hotels. The Grand Hotel Winnipeg Airport, part of Preferred Hotel Group, could be the next generation of stylin’ airport boutique hotels that have it all goin’ on.
To prove our point here are 10 things that we loved:
1. It brings back the golden age of flying – We’ve all heard tales of a time when one wore their Sunday best to fly and martinis were copious. We’ll never get those days back, but with The Grand’s design scheme we can still pretend. Colours in the hotel are tarmac grey paired with sky and Robin’s egg blues. The addition of whites makes the hotel feel crisp and laundered. It feels like optimism, all shiny and new.
2. Artwork – The hotel doesn’t bill itself as an art hotel, but it should. All of the artwork in the hotel—the rotating images behind reception, in the rooms and throughout the public areas—are photographs taken by the hotel's owner, Keith Levit.
3. The Room – Spacious and well-thought out, full of flat spaces and cubby holes for our stuff. We had a Deluxe Runway View room (620 sq ft) and—calling all location scouts—it looked directly out onto the apron and runways.
4. Local food done really well – Fresh ingredients including the kitchen’s homegrown micro greens made for a great dinner, and you should see that walk-in wine cellar!
Not ones to apologize for noticing and appreciating the minutiae of a hotel because we do sweat the small stuff, some small but important deets are below:
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Drake Devonshire Inn, opening this summer.
When we released our Master List of Worldwide Hotel Openings in 2014, our Canadian hotel section was sparse. Sorry. BUT, news has been coming in from our neighbo(u)r to the north about 2014 hotel openings so we've been able to expand on that section. We'll add this to the Master List soon (sorry again) but here's a dedicated look at what's in store for Canada. Looks like we need to make a trip up there soon, eh?
· JAG Hotel: Spring
· ALT Hotel Montreal Griffintown: Spring
· Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (reopening): June
The rest of the country below!
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Ever vigilant, we’ve noticed that there’s been a real buzz in the hotel world in the geographic center of Canada—unassuming Winnipeg. We decided to find out why two new locally-owned boutique hotels are or have just opened, why Groupe Germain decided to build the soon-to-be-open ALT Hotel, and why the Delta Winnipeg decided to embark on a top-to-bottom reno that sets them up to be the one of the first Delta Hotels to unveil the chain's new room design blueprint.
We first spoke with Neil Fishman, GM of The Grand, a boutique hotel that just opened on September 23 at Winnipeg's international airport. The property is Winnipeg’s first member of Preferred Hotels, falling under the Sterling Design label. We asked him what was behind the decision to open the hotel now? His response:
In October 2011, the Winnipeg Airport Authority built a brand new state-of-the-art airport [which we at HC just happen to know was designed by Caser Pelli & Associates, architects of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur]. We thought it was important to build a hotel that would be adjacent to the new terminal while offering our guests a new, unique boutique hotel experience. It was our goal to build a property unlike any other hotel in Winnipeg—to offer amenities and services no other hotel was able to offer. Winnipeg is a booming market and there is a tremendous amount of growth in the airport area.
The Grand is a vision in glass, making it unique in the city. We’re told that the property has spa-like bathrooms, iPads in every room, Smart TVs with free access to Netflix, and, for you Starbucks fanatics out there, Starbucks coffee in the rooms and the lobby. (We’ll be reviewing this hotel later in the year so you’ll get the full inside scoop then.)
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Last week we speculated that Marriott’s Autograph Collection had a hankering to take over the hotel world and we reached the conclusion that our speculation was, in fact, fact. As if to prove this point we give you Exhibit A: another Autograph Collection hotel is to be built in Surrey, British Columbia–-which is about 35 minutes from Vancouver.
“Why Surrey?” you may ask. Well, according to Statistics Canada, Surrey is one of Canada’s fastest growing cities with a growth rate of 10,000 new residents every year and 2,334 new businesses were created in 2011. We did not know that.
The 144-room property will be officially known as Civic Hotel at 3 Civic Plaza, Autograph Collection but we’ll shorten that in order to save our weary typing fingers to Civic Hotel, which we think sounds just fine.
More hotel deets after the break!
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With a name like Harvest Inn, best bring your hanky and keep your wine glass full!
We get a bit hesitant when it comes to fall foliage season. Sure, the leaves are in full color around most of the country and the change is so pretty to witness. But we're wary of jumping on the Leaf Peeping Bandwagon.
It’s selfish really. For some of us, this means the start of allergy season when we'll begin raking up endless piles of...tissues. Not a good look. Still, we won't be leaf-peeping poopers. Instead, here's a handy guide to some lovely hotels promising awesome autumn splendor.
As a bonus, our Sniffle Meter gives you the highest pollen count you'll face there on a scale of 1-10. The highest meaning bring your Claritin!
So pack your mock-turtleneck, Keen's, and Kleenex. It's time to embrace Mother Nature's bounty!
The Golden Arrow at Lake Placid, New York is high on the allergy meter. But go anyway!
GOLDEN ARROW LAKESIDE RESORT, Lake Placid, NY
Sniffle Meter: 7
You'll be in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains at this traditional ski resort town. But during the fall months it's all about hiking and biking the miles of trails, and getting the last bit of golf in. The Golden Arrow has an awesome location overlooking Mirror Lake, and better yet have allergen-free rooms so you'll be comfy at night on dust-mite covered beds and a hepa-filtered room after a woods-filled day. Room rates begin at $119 in October.
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Who can believe the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto is one year old? They grow up so fast...
The hotel is marking its big birthday by partnering with Sunny Fong of luxury women’s wear label, VAWK, to create spiffy new Lobby Lounge outfits. Celebrities have traipsed down the red carpet in VAWK designs worldwide, including the Cannes International Film Festival, the Grammy Awards and the People’s Choice Awards.
For the Shangri-La Toronto the designer drew inspiration for the sexy and sophisticated outfits from the “artwork in the lobby, the Ming vase tea library and the ornithological theme that is prevalent in the hotel, and the Zhang Huan ‘Rising’ sculpture.” The dress design borrows from traditional Asian design with shoulders reminiscent of the pagodas found in Chinese gardens and a sleeker silhouette of the traditional qipao with mandarin collar. The goal was to create something dramatic, almost theatrical, and holy-cremolely, he did achieve that.
And then there's the VAWKtail.
Hard Rock’s coming to Canada! The Great Canadian Gaming Corporation is opening Canada’s first Hard Rock Casino this winter (an opening date announcement is imminent) in Coquitlam, which is about 18 miles east of Vancouver.
Great Canadian Gaming is reno’ing an existing casino, the Boulevard Casino, and turning it into a rock ‘em, sock ‘em entertainment wonderland. In the plans are seven restaurants ranging from cool and casual to fancy-dancy; three bars specializing in custom cocktails, craft beers and Canadian wines; gaming options which have heretofore not been seen in Canada; an intimate live performance space to feature local acts; and a 1,000-seat theater geared to showcase top music—rock, reggae, mainstream, indie, country, EDM, you name it—as well as comedy and other performance acts. We’re hoping to see some of the biggies here that turn up at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Vegas, but only time will tell.
Most important for us, the hotel-loving crowd, is will there be a luxe hotel opening to accompany all of these decadent entertainment choices? We’re told that the company is currently evaluating whether or not this will happen, but we hope that they reach the logical decision to open a Hard Rock Hotel. One needs a nice place to crash after staying up all night playing pai gow or baccarat and grooving to Tiësto.
[Renderings: The Great Canadian Gaming Corporation]
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As the grand finale to cocktail week here's Part 2 of our round-up of some of the nifty things we see going on in the world of hotel bars and bevvies. Don't forget to let us know what’s going on in your section of the world!
Beer is the new wine: Before some of you get stressed out, we’re not saying that wine’s going away, but we have noticed that beer is getting more attention these days. Some hotel bars are making beer their “thing,” some are making their own and some are getting it made for them.
Most of us tend to only hang out at airport hotels when we’re going to and from a place, but the Four Points by Sheraton LAX has a 100-beer beererie called Brewster’s that includes an ever-changing tap list of craft and microbrews. They have an on-staff Director of Brewer Relations who ensures the beer list is fresh and filled with rare brews, monthly beer appreciation nights, beer pairings such as Smoked Stone Porter with smoked salmon, beer turndown service that includes a beer-stocked minibar, and a recently-launched Hoppily Ever After package that lets the happy couple-to-be create their very own custom, brewed-to-taste beer for their big day—isn’t that just so romantic?