Story by Nicole Keck
Vacay.ca Family Travel Columnist
TORONTO, ONTARIO — For some, the phrase “women’s club” may conjure up images of ladies who lunch, dressed to the nines only to impress each other, awash and content in the frivolity of socialite life. But even a brief visit to Toronto’s Verity Women’s Club — unique in the world in its purpose and offerings for women — is enough to turn that outdated notion on its head, and to remind you that today’s woman wants much more than killer Manolo Blahniks and the perfect chardonnay (although, let’s be honest, we want those too).
Stepping through Verity’s doors, members and guests are immediately greeted by striking walls in contrasting shades of bright pink and tangerine orange, deep aquas and lush greens, and modern fixtures juxtaposed against the charm of a restored 1850’s chocolate factory. The choice of colours are at once feminine and bold, and the decor is both traditional and contemporary, well symbolizimg the women that the club serves and is hoping to attract.
Indulge in Sweetgrass Spa
The 55,000 square feet that Verity calls home has a few must-see features that are open to the public, including a huge, full-service women’s-only spa called Sweetgrass. It offers many different packages ($110-$405), including one called “All About You” where you can spend four-and-a-half hours enjoying a manicure, pedicure, 60-minute facial, 60-minute Swedish massage and champagne spa lunch — which doesn’t mean just salad, try the macaroni and cheese with bacon — for less than $300. Sweetgrass also accomodates groups if you’re looking for an idea for a girlfriends day out. At the very least, consider scheduling a massage and putting yourself in the skilled hands of Sylvie, one of the masseuses on staff. According to her, “Sweetgrass provides us only the best quality products and equipment to work with, which I appreciate, it makes my job very enjoyable, and in return, they expect only the best from us.” And that shows.
Sweetgrass has paid great attention to detail in its decor, professionalism, and gorgeous surroundings, including a lovely guest locker room where everything feels luxurious. While you’re there, check out the spa’s own new line of Canadian-made cosmetics.
All that pampering can make a girl hungry, so grab your guy or your BFF and take your freshly-primped self to George, the on-site restaurant. The decor is modern and chic with exposed ductwork and painted brick walls, balanced by luxurious linens, throw pillows in the booths and delicate Ivy window coverings made of iron. Its dark, minimalist style puts the attention where it belongs. At George, the food is the art.
Chef Lorenzo Loseto and his team offer a tasting menu in flights of 5, 7 or 10 ($99-$140 per person, plus $80 for the wine pairings). The menu includes dishes such as Buttered Lobster Salad with greens, shimichi mushrooms, orange segments, avocado, wild rice, artichokes, mustard, cilantro and cashews — a surprising and phenomenal combination of flavours. You may also choose from Sashimi Tuna served with white asparagus salad with Haitian pickle, spicy pepper salsa and pearled strawberries; Quail Breast with Mint Yogurt Sauce; and Beef Tenderloin, among other choices. If you’re feeling adventurous, George will make each flight a surprise, which is a lot of fun, and a great way to try things you may normally pass over. All of the meats are organic and horomone-free (supplied by Olliffe butchers,) and their seafood is chosen from ocean-friendly sustainable stocks. If you’re a foodie, you’re in for a treat, and if you’re not, George can easily seduce you in that direction.
Men Can Sleep Over at the Ivy
Verity also runs a four-suite, ultra-luxury boutique hotel called the Ivy (and although it’s part of the women’s club, accomodations are offered to men and women). For a romantic getaway, check out their packages that include a one-night stay, couple’s massage, water relaxation, dinner at George and breakfast in your room. It costs $365-$499 and is worth every penny. You’ll be near theatres, galleries and concert halls if you want to step out for the evening, or choose to stay in and enjoy the facilities at Verity and have Sweetgrass spa treatments in your room.
The Ivy is the only hotel in the world to provide handcrafted Hastens beds in all of its rooms. Add to that, Italian linens, intoxicating Bulgari toiletries and a huge soaking tub with a variety of bath salts to choose from and you’ve got everything you need for a lavishly indulgent night. And come morning, you can enjoy your breakfast on your private balcony overlooking a 19th-century courtyard, while surrounded by all the modern comforts of a truly astonishing hotel.
Members-Only Benefits at Verity
Verity’s members run the gamut from entrepreneurs to moms seeking sanctuary and adult conversation to ladies looking for friendships that support their goals. The name Verity refers to the quality or act of being true and real. According to founder and CEO Mary Aitken, the club functions to make women’s “me time” richer and more nourishing, to make it help your work and expand it to suit your needs. She describes it as both a haven and a beehive, and it’s also been described as a vital third space between work and home. More than a third of the club’s members are under 40.
Along with its lounges, gym, office spaces and gorgeous meeting rooms, Verity allows members to also enjoy a large variety of community outreach initiatives and smaller business- and pleasure-focused “clubs within a club.” You name the interest, Verity likely has a club to match.