Hotel Review: Ritz Carlton Toronto
Published: February 2012
In Canada’s most dynamic city, GARETH DAVIS finds a well-known brand that’s still cutting edge...
RITZ CARLTON, TORONTO, CANADA
Instead of the usual tale of gorgeous building destroyed to make way for car park, this is a case of car park levelled to make way for gorgeous building. It’s a Ritz Carlton so in my experience not always a guarantor of beauty. When I stayed at the RC in Istanbul my thoughts were 70s office block exterior, fusty mansion house my-grandmother-would-like interior. But the Ritz Carlton Toronto is a different breed. Following a reboot of the brand in 2006, this Ritz Carlton exhibits all the attractive contemporary luxury qualities you’d expect from one of the world’s leading hotel chains.
It soars twenty floors into the cluttered skies of Toronto’s downtown. All rooms are north or south facing so you either get an eyeful of cityscape or a view of Lake Ontario and icons like the CN Tower and Rogers Centre. This isn’t a family hotel. There aren’t any kids’ facilities; the emphasis is on grown-up business and pleasure. You feel the adult love – so to speak – in reception. You also feel a whiff of Canada. Part of RC’s rebooted philosophy is an aesthetic marriage of property and destination. So the warm woods in beiges, creams, toffees and coffees that deck the lobby evoke the forests of Canada underlined by the large bronze maple leaves studded into the floor. Don’t mistake me. This isn’t Disney. It’s contemporary, sleek, top notch decor that’s as sharp as a Mountie’s boot.
The rooms reflect this tonal naturalism. They’re all a great size; 240 sqft is the minimum and deluxe is the standard. There’s a sense of openness. All doors slide, none close. There’s a very real sense of usable living space and utter functionality. Everything’s where it should be – and working as it should. The bathrooms are Portuguese marble, the toiletries RC’s own brand unless you’re in a suite where you can wallow in Bulgari. My only problem as ever was the technology. Hours to master the lights but hey, that’s age for you.
Accommodation occupies the sixth to twentieth floors. On floor five’s the Spa, one of the lightest I’ve seen, a cube of glass with more great views and again, that emphasis on bringing the Canadian outdoors inside without chilling your toes. The tonal theme of the rest of the property continues. Only local products are used and a manicure and pedicure had me walking on air for the remainder of my trip.
The same could be said of a stint at the TOCA Bar where Moses the mixologist struck me as the Heston Blumenthal of the cocktail world, what with his bubbling concoctions. Put off by the free use of liquid nitrogen, I stuck with a stunner of a Negroni.
TOCA is also the name of the hotel’s signature restaurant by stellar Torontonian chef Tom Brodi. DEQ is the hotel’s more casual dining option, Med-oriented with pizza oven, charcuterie bar, and yes, it has a deck.
I visited TOCA on a Saturday when the low ceilinged, low lit space was bustling, the bright sounds of a kitchen echoing off through a nearby arch. The acoustics by the way are fantastic, no noise bouncing all over the place and the space where wood predominates scores the singular success of not feeling like a restaurant in a hotel.
There’s a great selection of wines by the glass. I kicked off with a zingy bubbly from Prince Edward County at €9, hugely reasonable for a great nose and bursts of fruit. I don’t often mention water but hey, how often do you get a choice of three sparkling? The house filtered at $2.50 is unlimited.
The wine list is just what you’d want; mega Canadian representation whilst the rest of North America gives a good showing. There are lots of interesting varietals and Europe and the Antipodes aren’t forgotten but why bother? Glasses are from $5.50, bottles of white from $35 and reds from $45.
My starter came as a total shock but my fault for not asking what “langos” was. Not being familiar with the Hungarian flatbread I expected my smoked salmon, rocket, sour cream and garlic to come in recognisable form and not as a pseudo pizza! $17 down and huge in proportion, I should have looked elsewhere on the menu but if you’ve got an appetite... My main on the other hand – Wellington County beef tenderloin with oxtail, and mushroom and peppercorn sauce – was immaculate at $39.
I matched both dishes with glasses of Niagara 07 Baco Noir ($8) and Hendry Napa Valley Cab Sauv ($13), the first spot on whilst the latter I thought was too, too much, with tanks of tannin.
It’s great to be able to give an unhesitating thumbs up to a feisty five star that absolutely delivers. I ought to make special mention of the Club Level accommodation on the eighteenth to twentieth floors. For a $100 premium you get access to the Club Lounge with STUNNING views of the lake, and a fantastic host of extras from full breakfast to lunch to canapés to dinner to a complimentary bar. I strongly recommend it.
The Ritz Carlton Toronto reeks of utter confidence in what it’s doing. It’s understated; there’s nothing faddy, modish or de trop about it; a great base to explore Toronto that ticks all the boxes.
Hotel Review: Ritz Carlton Toronto
Gareth has been with TRAVEL CHANNEL since its launch in 1994. He has produced and presented on TRAVEL LIVE and THE TRAVEL BUG, produced ESSENTIAL... and reports on TRAVEL TODAY. He is a regular contributor to the website. In 2010 he produced the hit series THE HOLIDAY SHOW which he also co-presented with Ginny Buckley. Garethís passions are history, culture, food & drink.