Toronto’s oldest hotel today combines a boutique art hotel with a gallery, and it continues to be one of the biggest supporters of the Toronto art community in myriad ways. Named after Canada’s seventh prime minister Wilfrid Laurier, Fairmont Château Laurier has dominated the Ottawa skyline since opening in 1912. Its elegant corridors and grand ballrooms witness countless international events and celebrity guests, and the hotel is almost as recognizable as its neighbor, Parliament Hill.
Style & character:
This Romanesque Revival-style building was once one of Toronto’s grand railway hotels; today it maintains a design connection to its past via vaulted ceilings, original hardwood flooring, steamer trunk-friendly hallways that now double as gallery space on two floors, and a working manual cage lift running up through the main stairwell. Art is literally everywhere you look and changes regularly, thanks to the programming of more than 50 exhibitions throughout the course of the year. Old World grandeur starts right at the wooden, revolving front door and never stops. A hushed, museum-like atmosphere permeates much of the cavernous public areas and banquet rooms, with their turn-of-the-century furnishings, hand-painted ceilings, marble flooring, ornate plasterwork and vast yards of drapery. Photographer Yousuf Karsh once had his studio in the hotel, and a few of his most famous portraits hang in the lounge off the lobby, including a portrait of Winston Churchill that made its way onto the British £5 note. Take the 30-minute, self-directed walking tour of the hotel guided by iPads loaned out at the front desk. Typical guests are art enthusiasts, for whom the art community environment is just as important as the thread count. Local patrons pop in to hang out, pull out their laptops or grab lunch.
Service & facilities:
Food & drink:
The main-floor Café is busy all day with breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and cocktails – the focus is on local, seasonal ingredients and good value. Gluten-free breakfast sandwiches are filled with amazing homemade sausage. The dinner menu changes regularly and features shareable comfort food, with gluten-free and vegan items available.
House specialties include slow-roasted jerk chicken wings and a vegan burger with shiitake bacon, toasted coco bread, and pickled mango. The Chef in Residence Program [sic] mirrors the hotel’s art programming, bringing in noted local chefs to curate special one-off culinary experiences.
The Melody Bar is a lounge area during the day and morphs into a venue for live music, film screenings, karaoke and more on Tuesday to Saturday nights.
Value for money:
00 1 647 793 7027gladstonehotel.com