Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
TORONTO, ONTARIO — It’s open — just in time — and it’s worth the wait.
The gorgeous Shangri-la Toronto is ultra-luxury, Asian-style, which sets it apart in an urban landscape suddenly filled with elite properties separated by only a few blocks. It opened its doors on Friday, presenting Toronto with elegant touches that harken to Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Among the highlights:
- A tea sommelier who will help you choose from the 88 different varieties of tea served in the bright, airy lobby just outside of the Bosk restaurant. You can have afternoon tea — Hong Kong style, a nice addition to all of the British-influenced experiences available in Canada’s largest city.
- That restaurant, headed by executive chef Jean Paul Lourdes, eschews the casual dining craze ripping across North America. It’s classy and high-end, a place for special occasions. Lourdes will use his experience working with perfumes to add an additional sensory dimension to his cuisine in a restaurant that seats 80 inside its walls and an additional 30 on its patio. The name, by the way, means small wooded area in French, and the floors and walls are decked in Quebec oak.
- Bosk is also casting aside notions of a 100-mile diet. Try the 24,901.55-mile diet. That’s the circumference of the earth and Bosk is going to search the planet for the finest, freshest food and get it into Toronto within 48 hours, the hotel’s management told me. The menu that’s available in the lobby and the bar features such Asian fare as Shanghai pancakes and Wagyu beef and crisp noodles.
- The artwork features 400-plus hand-painted pieces that fill the lobby and guest rooms, as well as Zhang Yuan’s stunning sculpture called “The Rising” that adorns the exterior of the building and reportedly cost $5 million. The sculpture rises out of a pool of water and features birds flying around what looks like either a hoofed animal or a tree, depending on your perspective.
As an official sponsor of TIFF 2012, the 66-storey tower was pushing its deadline and there are still finishing touches to be made — including the addition of a parrot to occupy the birdcage that you will notice when you enter through the main entrance at 180 University Avenue (see map below).
The 37th annual Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6-16, and the Shangri-la will be a focal point of activity. It is hosting a number of TIFF parties and events, including the Producers Ball on the eve of the fest.
The hotel, which occupies the first 17 floors of the mixed-use tower, said it won’t be taking any bookings until after the film fest. It has 153 guest rooms with a minimum size of 500 square feet and 49 suites that range from 700 to 2,000 square feet.
Three of the four Momofuku restaurants that operate separately from the hotel but are on the property will open after TIFF. The noodle bar is to be open in time for the film fest, according to reports.
The Shangri-la joins the Ritz-Carlton and Trump Hotel as recent additions to a market that was void of luxury accommodations for years. In October, the Four Seasons — with chef Daniel Boulud heading two restaurants — will join the club. For a city that didn’t have any AAA/CAA 5-Diamond hotels until the Ritz earned that distinction last year, it’s a rapid change. Whether the Toronto market can sustain all of these high-end properties is a question a lot of observers are asking.
More Travel News: Grey Cup on Tour
The 100th Grey Cup will be played in Toronto on November 25 and in celebration of its centennial the Canadian Football League is sending its championship trophy on a cross-country tour, beginning in Vancouver on September 7. The trophy will make 100 stops during its 10-week tour on a train that will be a combination of a Via Rail/Canadian Pacific locomotive. The train will be decked out in CFL garb, including images of some of the league’s most memorable moments.
For more on the Grey Cup Express, visit the tour’s website.