Story by Adrian Brijbassi
MONTREAL – The first time I stayed at Le Place d’Armes Hôtel was in 2001. Then it was a recently opened, small boutique hotel of about two-dozen rooms. Part of the Antonopoulos Group’s stable of outstanding properties in Old Montreal, Le Place d’Armes was a three-star hotel that was the least luxurious of the collection, which at that time included Auberge du Vieux-Port and Hotel Nelligan.
So, I was stunned when I arrived 10 years later to find that the hotel had grown from a small corner property with a tiny entry that was difficult to get in and out of with your luggage to a half-block juggernaut with 140 rooms, a spa, fitness facility, meeting rooms, billiards room, restaurant and bar/lounge. This time, I entered through sliding glass doors into an airy lobby decorated with the awards the hotel has won in recent years, including a four-diamond honour from the CAA/AAA.
What really wows you, though, is the suite. Mine was a huge 550-square-foot space with an extra-large king-size bed replete with pillows and soft linens, a flat-screen TV, a well-designed desk, complimentary WiFi, and a stunning bathroom with slate-grey floors and a massive shower.
“A lot of our guests comment on the size of the bathrooms. They say, ‘Wow, you can fit 12 people in the shower,'” says front-desk manager Jennifer Fabris.
Le Place d’Armes ranks among the finest boutique hotels in Canada, putting it up there with the outstanding Opus Hotel in Vancouver and the Le Germain franchise. But it’s exceptionally well priced, a reason why Travel + Leisure reader surveys have named it one of the best overall value hotels on the continent. You can get a night’s stay in the $150-$180 range.
“It’s very nice to be able to compete with the bigger hotels and bigger names in the industry and still be a family-owned hotel group,” says Fabris, who has been at Le Place d’Armes for about a year.
The hotel’s expansion was undertaken in 2005 to add more services such as the spa and restaurants to make it more competitive. Fabris says the hotel now books around 38,000 room nights a year. The suite sizes range from 300 to 800 square feet, with the average of about 550 square feet, she says.
What hasn’t changed in 10 years is the hotel’s proximity to one of Montreal’s most noteworthy attractions, the Notre Dame Basilica, which is a block away. The Place d’Armes Metro stop is also nearby and the hotel is the closest to Sainte-Catherine Street among the Antonopoulos Group properties.
It’s strange to say, but Le Place d’Armes (55 Rue St. Jacques; 514-842-1887) is one of the very few city hotels that tempted me to just enjoy its space and not explore its surroundings. Reasons for that feeling are my familiarity with Montreal, the chilliness outdoors and also the amenities available. As Fabris points out, the temptation is by design.
“It’s a goal of our management team and our staff to keep our guests here during their stay and make them want to come back again,” she says.
The flagship restaurant, Aix Cuisine du Terroir, serves authentic Quebec cuisine and also delivers plates to the sexy bar/lounge called Suite 701, which turns into a nightclub on the weekends. It’s a good spot for appetizers. The crabcakes ($14) were plump and satisfying, with three to a serving. Also worth a try is the Capitaine D’Armes cocktail ($10), which mixes cranberry and banana juices with a good splash of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum (a nice combination, even if Appleton would be preferred).
MORE BOUTIQUE HOTELS IN MONTREAL
The Antonopoulos Group deserves the recognition it receives for delivering luxury at a value price. In 2010, I stayed at Le Petit Hotel, the most recent Antonopulos property, soon after it opened and was impressed by the level of service and comfort in the loft-style rooms. Guests receive complimentary hot chocolate or tea at any time, which you’ll be thankful for when visiting in winter. Although nightly room prices have risen to the $150-$175 range, it’s still a bargain.
Auberge du Vieux-Port has recently undergone a renovation that had seen it close for a few months. It has kept the original stone walls from the 1800s while adding a new restaurant called Taverne Gaspar, a friendly, casual-dining space with a happy bar staff. It serves a fine complimentary breakfast for hotel guests. Trendy Narcisse Restaurant is also on the premises.
Like Le Place d’Armes, the rooms at Auberge du Vieux-Port are well-appointed. What makes this boutique hotel attractive, however, is its location. It’s right across from the St. Lawrence River and steps away from Rue St. Paul, one of Canada’s most iconic streets, and the historic Bonsecours Market.
MAP OF THE FOUR ANTONOPOULOUS GROUP HOTELS