Earlier this month, I had a quick (one night) business trip to Toronto. I had seen the new Ritz Carlton under construction during prior visits and, knowing that it had just opened, decided to give it a try.
I made my booking through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR) on their website. Booking online gets me double Membership Rewards points for my stay. The FHR benefits at this property include the standard guaranteed 4pm late checkout, breakfast for two (in-room or in the restaurant), and upgrade (if available upon check-in). The special fourth amenity is a $100 food and beverage credit, which I understood to be good at any outlet at the property. I did not ask about its applicability to in-room dining.
My rate was C$496. I felt this was a bit high for Toronto, but the Toronto Indy race was just the prior day, and many of the city’s hotels were booked. Looking at a few random dates in the future, the prevailing rate for the lowest room category is $505 on the hotel’s website, and $516 through FHR, so perhaps my rate was not increased due to the race.
FHR is also running a ‘stay 3, pay 2’ promotion for this property through September 5. This is an attractive offer. The Promotion Code is FHR10204. I don’t see a similar promotion on the hotel’s website at present.
I arrived at the property on foot (coming from a nearby meeting) at around 3:30pm with only hand luggage. The front entrance is covered by a generous set-out (opposite of a set-back?) which provides shade in the summer and I’m sure will provide some welcome protection during the winter.
The Front Desk was staffed by two people and I was assisted immediately. I presented my Platinum card, my Ritz Rewards Card and my Passport and was promptly checked-in. Without prompting, I was told that I was upgraded to a Lake View One-Bedroom Corner Suite. The clerk said they were fairly full, but were happy to offer an upgrade to a FHR customer. He explained the $100 F&B credit as well and asked if I’d like the late check-out (which I did need). I appreciate hotels that acknowledge the FHR program – offering late check-out and an upgrade – and don’t rely on the customer to ask.
I was assigned to room 905 and was told where the lifts were, but was not escorted. (I’m fine to go myself, though it is a welcome touch when I’m escorted to the lifts, particularly at hotels like this, were a few turns are required to get there from the Front Desk.)
Room 905 was a corner suite, and is in the bottom right of the floor plan photo. The room had city and lake views, including an upward view of the CN Tower.
Hotel Floor Plan
The room’s layout was very similar to the one-bedroom suite that I had when last at the RC-Battery Park in New York City. The RC-Toronto room felt a fair bit smaller, however. Like the RC-BP, the room was silent inside, and there was no noise coming in from other rooms, the hallway or outside of the building.
Guests enter the suite into a small foyer, off of which was a powder room. The living room measured perhaps slightly less than 12’ by 12’. It was comfortable, though any smaller and it would have felt small. The foyer and one of the living room walls were wood paneled, which gave the room a rich, warm feeling. The living room had a flat-screen television and music system.
The room had a small pod-style coffee maker. I rarely use these in-room machines, but decided to give it a try. It made a surprisingly good cup of coffee.
Also, near the glassware stand, there was a subwoofer. I’ve only seen these in hotel rooms a few times.
The powder room was appointed in a style consistent with the room. It included a telephone.
Television, Mini Bar
From the living room, guests walk down a windowed corridor towards the full bath and the bedroom. There is a sliding door at the living room end of the corridor, allowing you to close off the bed and full bath area, if you wish. I quite like setups like this as, when coupled with a powder room, it allows you to have business guests without feeling like you’re bringing them into your bedroom. The corridor had a bench in front of one of the windows, which provided a nice spot to sit briefly or to rest an article.
Corridor (from Living Room)
Corridor (from Living Room)
The full bath was nicely appointed. It had a glassed in WC, full shower and separate tub, two wash basins and an in-mirror television. The room was comfortably large (just a little smaller than the living room, frankly) and had a tasteful amount of stone. The bathroom door was a sliding wooden door.
The water pressure in the shower was good (but not great). The amenities were standard Ritz products, nothing over the top. Towels were plentiful.
Shower and WC
Everything worked fine in the bathroom, though there were two oddities. The placement of the light switch for the WC took a little finding. The WC light switch was to the left of the shower, which itself was left of the WC. The smoked glass door of the WC also didn’t go all the way to the floor, but rather ended at the same spot as the shower’s door. This looked odd, and I suspect was an oversight, though it didn’t impact the effectiveness of the setup.
The bedroom was on the small side. While there was room to move around the bed, there wasn’t much room. There was a small sitting area in front of the far side windows. While this was a thoughtful touch, the area itself was a bit cramped. I sat in one seat myself (reading on my iPad), but it would have felt cozy if two people were there. From the right-hand chair, there was probably less than two feet to the side of the bed.
The bed was very comfortable and the bed coverings were of good quality.
The closet had a variety of hanger types (for different types clothing articles), a laptop safe, and a number of other thoughtful amenities. There was a small dresser and a flat-screen TV in the bedroom as well. On one bed-side table, there was a music system which included an iPod/iPhone dock.
View from Bedroom - CN Tower
View from Bedroom (Lake Ontario)
View from Bedroom (Park at Street Level)
The room had hardwood floors throughout (except in the main bathroom), with area rugs in the living and bed rooms. The windows were all floor-to-ceiling, and had tasteful window treatments. When drawn, they blocked out all of the light. Turndown service sealed the bedroom and corridor windows, and left the living room with just the opaque privacy screen closed, which was nice.
WC Door Not Well Sized
Beyond the WC door sizing, there were a few other very minor fit and finish issues in the room (an odd switch plate cover, and an improperly finished sliding door). While the living and bed rooms could have been a bit larger, overall, the quality of the fit and finish in this room was very high.
Unfinished Sliding Door
I was traveling solo, and needed to get some reading done in the evening so decided to have a quiet evening on-property. Before heading downstairs, I called for turn-down service. The service was completed while I was downstairs.
I took a seat outside at DEQ, which is the casual restaurant/bar option at the hotel and located a few steps down from the main lobby. There are both indoor and outdoor seating options, and I went with outdoors. Service was surprisingly prompt (I find outdoor seating sometimes comes at the expense of service) and friendly. Upon my inquiry, my server suggested the Tomato Stewed Gulf Shrimp Flatbread. This is served with Ontario Burrata (I don’t think of Ontario as a hub for Burrata!) and basil. The recommended dish was excellent. I enjoyed a couple of beers and read the documents that I needed to read. I also spent some time reading the news on my iPad. There were always a few seats open around me, and I wasn’t rushed at all. I spent about two hours there. To make the most of my $100 F&B credit, I left a very generous gratuity.
There was a U2 concert nearby, and you could hear the concert on DEQ’s outdoor deck (though not too loud). DEQ was playing its own music as well. Inside, I thought DEQ’s music was too loud, but it was fine outside. (I couldn’t hear any of these noises in my room.)
I went to TOCA for breakfast in the morning. This did not go as well as I had hoped, and was the principal blemish of my stay. The restaurant was less than half full, but I could sense the disorder when I arrived as the seating process was a little choppy. Once seated, I ordered the full breakfast with eggs over easy and rye toast.
It took a little while for the food to come out, but when it did, the toast was wrong (whole grain) and the eggs were cooked well done. The person who delivered the food turned and left immediately without asking if there was anything else she could get me, and I didn’t have a chance to point out the errors with my order. After a minute of trying to flag a server, I got up and sought out help. They did re-make my eggs, but then brought out a plate with only the eggs, and not the other accompaniments. I asked to have the balance of the order brought out, which, after a bit of hesitation, was done. The food itself, once prepared to order, was fine. This ended up causing a 15-20 minute delay in my otherwise well-timed morning. While breakfast was ‘free’ with the FHR package, it is nice when a hotel simply gets it right; serving breakfast is a core competency of a hotel. I suspect this problem could be attributed to teething pains and will be worked out in due course.
When I checked out (at 3pm), they suggested that they would just email me my bill, ‘in just a few minutes.’ That was fine, and I re-firmed my email with the desk clerk. They had my correct email on file, and I said thanks and headed out (on foot).
Of course, two days later, my bill had not come via email. I called the hotel, and they confirmed that indeed they had the correct email address – and this time emailed it while I was one the phone. I find getting an email copy is easier than the paper copy (which just gets scanned when I get to the office), but it shouldn’t take a second request to get this sent.
Finally, now two weeks later, I still haven’t received Ritz Rewards points for my stay. I’ve had this happen now (not get points posted) at the majority of my 9 Ritz Carlton stays this year. I will again write in to Ritz to let them know and ask them to post the points manually. This inability to get the points posted automatically (I always present my Ritz Rewards card upon check-in) is getting to be a real frustration for me.
My AT&T Blackberry worked fine (five bars) in the room and throughout the hotel’s public areas over the Rogers network. There was a charge for Wifi (C$9.95), which worked well in the room and in the public areas.
The property has what appears to be a sizable spa with a lap pool and gym. I was unable to visit the facilities during this visit.
I’m mindful that a multi-category upgrade can skew one’s view of a property. Despite the upgrade that I received, I’ve tried to look at everything at this property with a detailed and skeptical eye. I did not inform management that I would be writing a review or in any way identify myself (other than as Amex FHR customer and a RR member).
This hotel is a Tier 2 property in the Ritz Rewards program. It seems like an excellent redemption value at that Tier level.
Despite the breakfast situation, I was very impressed with this hotel and plan to make this my principal hotel in Toronto going forward.
181 Wellington Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5V 3G7 Canada
Phone: (416) 585-2500
Fax: (416) 585-2503