When The Ritz-Carlton opened in downtown Toronto on February 16, 2011, it ushered in a new wave of luxury hotels. Sure, there were a couple of well-known brands in the city, but truly five-star properties were scarce – surprising given the Toronto’s popularity as a tourism destination among both leisure and business travellers.
Expectations were high for the new arrival. It was carrying the Ritz name after all. It needed to meet – some very high standards – starting with the building itself. The end result is a mixed-use tower with a glass façade houses 263 hotel rooms and 159 condominiums and stretches 53 storeys, making it one of the tallest buildings in the city.
The look inside is equally remarkable. The lobby oozes warmth with luxurious finishes – warm wood paneling, marble floors inlaid with bronze maple leaves. Glittering chandeliers twinkle brightly as the sun streams in the front doors. Its punctuated by a grand staircase made from stainless steel and glass.
The first thing you see off the lobby is the Ritz Bar, bright and light, and a favourite among the after-five crowd. It’s not a run-of-the-mill space in any sense. It recently took on a Peruvian flair, serving tapas, including ceviche and street food classics like empanadas, and well crafted cocktails. It’s a bright welcoming place with extraordinarily personable servers who do the right amount of chit chat and guidance for food and drink choices.
Check-ins are swift and friendly. Front desk staff will actually escort you to your room and then show you around the room. It’s a great opportunity to hear what’s available to guests, from complimentary overnight shoe shines to turndown service. That’s indicative of the service found throughout the hotel. It’s friendly, yet professional and polished.
The rooms boast a plushness that encourages serious nesting. The beds are among the best I’ve sampled in Canada with high-thread count sheets, puffy, lightweight duvets, and mattresses that magically minimize the disruptions from my tossing and turning boyfriend. Handy night lights are ideal for reading into the wee hours of the morning, as I’m apt to do.
For my latest stay, the room had a gorgeous view of the city skyline. Other times, I’ve looked out over Lake Ontario and the CN Tower, courtesy of the over-sized, picture windows. Though I can work at the roomy desk in this space, I prefer to head to the Club Lounge.
It’s a fantastic perk well worth adding to any stay for a surcharge of US $115 approx. (depending on time of year). It’s a wonderful place where the staff make guests feel pampered by providing attentive service and amenities, from a breakfast buffet, all-day tea, coffee and snacks, lunch and hors d’oeuvres, to evening cocktails and wine. I work well at a table next to the window, nibbling homemade cookies and dipping into the jars of candy as I write. Certainly for business travellers, it’s far better than remaining solo in your room.
Whether on a vacay or in town for business, there’s more pampering to be found at Spa My Blend by Clarins in The Ritz-Carlton Toronto. The fifth-floor retreat boasts excellent services, including a customized facial based on personalized skin analysis and massages from around the world, from shiatsu to lomi lomi, a Polynesian technique. It was ranked no. 1 on the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Award in 2013. The airy, spacious lounge coaxes guests to stay and chill, taking naps and sipping cucumber-infused water and nibbling on fruit and nuts. Next door, there’s a state-of-the-art fitness center and also a swimming pool.
Onsite, TOCA draws those who appreciate fine dining that leans towards Italian but with a unique Canadian slant, specifically locally sourced ingredients and others from across the country from Nova Scotia lobster to Quebec-sourced foie gras. To experience a wide range of flavors, try the special Canadian-inspired, four-course Chef’s Tasting Menu for US $70 (based on current exchange rates). For a special occasion, or just because, book your group in at the chef’s table just off the kitchen where you can watch the chefs pull together perfectly prepared meals with precision and speed.
TOCA also boasts a healthy and robust wine list, carefully curated by sommelier Lori O’Sullivan, who has an incredible understanding of the Canadian and international wine scene. Ontario ice wines, some of the best in the world, share space with the best of rieslings, pinot noirs, riojas, champagnes and Old World varietals. It makes wine sipping an adventure.
A visit to TOCA is not complete without a visit to its crown jewel – a glassed-in cheese cave, filled with top international and award-winning Canadian cheeses stored at ideal humidity and temperature levels. Step inside, enjoy the aroma, and the neatly stocked shelves. But don’t worry about being overwhelmed with choice. The expert on-hand will guide you through the selections.
Luxury has many definitions, but by Ritz standards, it’s all about hospitality – the ability to make guests feel like they are welcome. Very few properties really understand this and get caught up in things that don’t really matter. But The Ritz-Carlton Toronto gets it. That’s why it continues to rank high on prestigious hotel ranking lists (like the Forbes Travel Guide) and to draw a wide range of guests, from NHL hockey teams and couples, to corporate execs and celebrities in town attending the Toronto International Film Festival. Everyone feels at home.
Michele stayed as a guest of The Ritz-Carlton Toronto. As always, her thoughts and opinions are her own. Photos courtesy of Michele Sponagle and The Ritz-Carlton Toronto.