Toronto is a city that always brings it, with top-of-the-line cultural centres—the newish Aga Kahn Museum, although a bit out of the way, is a stunning architectural achievement not to be missed, and the city’s SoulPepper Theatre Company remains at the forefront of theatre in Canada—and outstanding good eats at restaurants that are casually cool or highly hip—The Saucy Pierogi in Little Portugal, one of the newer up-and-coming “it” neighborhoods in the city, and the stylin’ El Catrin in the Distillery District with its Mexican tapas-type menu, are both a case in point. Plus the city has a happening nightlife scene, good shopping and wine country so close it would be a shame to bypass it.
Toronto Tourism: www.seetorontonow.com
The Ritz-Carlton Toronto: www.ritzcarlton.com
Having a good home base is a necessity for this writer and The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto is very conveniently located in the heart of the entertainment and financial districts at 181 Wellington St. W. If you take the UP Express train, which just opened in 2015, from Toronto Pearson International Airport directly to Union Station, you can comfortably walk to the hotel with suitcase and espresso from favorite local coffee purveyor, Balzac’s, in hand without breaking a sweat. As one of the tallest buildings in the city at 53 stories, just look up if you lose your bearings.
Said to have some of the largest rooms in Toronto, the Ritz-Carlton has 263 of them in total, including 63 suites. Contemporary in style, the rooms have a calming, neutral color palette that complement the high-end amenities found within each one. Particular standouts are the beautiful African Anigre wood found in the rooms, the huge floor-to-ceiling windows with heated perimeter flooring to offset any chill, the heated Portuguese Estremoz marble floor in the bathroom, a TV in the bathroom mirror for when you simply cannot miss a single moment of “Game of Thrones,” and the much-appreciated, oft-used Nespresso machine. Not to mention a plush, comfy bed with Frette linens. My Deluxe Room (1619) had a great view looking out over the Toronto skyline.
Food and Drink
Here is an important scoop: upgrading to a Club room is worth the expense (approximately CAD $150). This upgrade does not just give you a breakfast in the Club Lounge, but a sumptuous, elegant, and tasty breakfast full of finds for every savoury or sweet breakfast-lover out there, with both hot and cold selections. And breakfast is served during a decent time window of 6:30 or 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Plus, there are treats—literally treats, as in jelly beans, chocolate and other sweets—that you can grab at any time of day, plus lunch, mid-day snacks, hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, and dessert and cordials served at various times.
And the service is impeccable. When I spent the greater part of a day working in the lounge, one of the Club attendants—who had been bringing me espresso all morning—sensed when my work was coming to a close and showed up with a glass of Champagne instead. All included, of course.
There is also a Club concierge to help you plan your time in Toronto, including the booking of a personal shopper or organizing one of The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto’s wine experiences, such as an afternoon of samplings from small batch Niagara vineyard, Peninsula Ridge Estate Winery.
For dinner (or breakfast or lunch), there is the restaurant TOCA, serving rustic yet refined Italian cuisine, where the blend of flavors and ingredients never outshine the simplicity of the main fare. A four-course tasting menu can be had for CAD $95. And cheese lovers take note: the restaurant has one of the only cheese caves in Canada that you can tour, every day at 5:30 p.m.
Also onsite is the bright and airy Ritz Bar and the posh outdoor DEQ Terrace & Lounge for light bites.
The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto has a lovely spa—it’s the only Spa My Blend by Clarins outside of Paris—and, although a spa that is primarily white in color might sound clinical, the flood of natural light and warm wood accents found in the space ensure it comes across as light and airy instead.
Elect to try the My Blend Facial, since the only other place you can get it is in France’s capital. This is a customized facial that takes into account your skin’s needs, environmental factors and your lifestyle. Your aesthetician will ask you to fill in a questionnaire and then an iPad spits out your prescription for better skin.
Up until recently, Toronto didn’t have a five-star hotel. The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto was one of the first on the scene, opening in 2011, and it lives up to the “Ritz” name. Yes, it is expensive, as a five-star hotel is, but the staff provide attentive service that makes you feel well-taken care of and the hotel offers small perks that make it a hotel experience and not just a hotel stay.