Just a few years ago, Toronto was poised to put another “world-class city” feather in its delicate cap, as cachet real estate and hotel development started staking land claims left and right. Then the recession hit, the Gansevoort Hotel project went on indefinite hiatus, the Templar Hotel showed no signs of progress and the Trump Tower began to quietly lag (it’s expected to finally open this fall, years behind schedule). Still, as you’ll see from the following roundup, it’s not as if Toronto’s boutique hotel scene has ever been in grave danger. Here’s a look at the landscape as it stands today.
The Influencers: The Drake, The Gladstone
When these two hotels launched and re-launched in the mid ’00s, The Drake and The Gladstone became Queen West’s two elephants in the room. With their diminutive room counts (19 and 37, respectively) and focus on “culture” as well as impeccable small-batch service, not only did they ignite Toronto’s boutique hotel trend — small and unique rather than big and uniform — they also kickstarted the inevitable gentrification of the once-untouchable Queen Street stretch near Dufferin.
1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042 and 1214 Queen St. W., 416-531-4635.
The Behemoth: The Thompson
Another newbie on the Toronto scene, the Thompson Hotel was one of the few to actually make good on its promise to open a few years back. One of the most hype-filled boutique brands worldwide, the hotel brought with it a bevy of buzz-worthy dining and drinking options including the hipster lunch counter formerly known as The Counter (now The Thompson Diner) and Scott Conant’s chic Italian chain Scarpetta. If you’re in the boutique game to be seen versus to see, the Thompson is the obvious choice.
550 Wellington St. W., 416-640-7778.
The Luxurious: The Hazelton
The Hazelton Hotel all-but opened with a banner that read “TIFF celebs stay here!” Canada’s first hotel to earn five-star distinction, this two-year-old Yorkville hub is custom-made to attract the bold-faced names that descend upon the city every September. Why else would the 62 rooms and 15 suites be designed “to evoke 1940s Hollywood glitter,” and why else would the building house a private cinema? This is to say: If you want to go celeb-hunting, you needn’t go far. Just make sure your card has a healthy credit limit.
118 Yorkville Ave., 416-963-6300.
The Newest of the New: Ocho
Granted, it opened without fanfare, and on a relatively unglamourous stretch of Spadina Avenue (near/in Chinatown); still, Hotel Ocho’s arrival this summer represents the manifestation of the boutique hotel floodgates that were supposed to have been opened a few years ago. Made up in industrial loft style — basically, Brooklyn chic — the hotel features 12 rooms with individualized artwork and modern design, plus a surprisingly affordable restaurant/café. Maybe not as ostentatious as typical boutique joints, but certainly more unique. And newer!
195 Spadina Ave., 416-593-0885.
Image courtesy of The Gladstone Hotel.