In the heart of Old Montreal, Hôtel William Gray is an architectural marvel: two landmark 18th-century maisons fused with a modernist glass atrium and terrace-toting eight-storey tower. Inside, it’s a happy marriage of styles, from the time-worn stone walls of the subterranean spa, to the floor-to-ceiling windows up top. French influence shines through exactly where you want it most – on your plate; grab a pastry from the people’s favourite pâtisserie, and pick a dry-aged cut from the acclaimed steakhouse’s on-show coldroom. Rooftop cocktails come with Californian cool at La Perché, or city-wide vistas at La Terrasse.
Double rooms from £253.39 (CA$428), including tax at 19.02 per cent.
Rates do not include breakfast. It’s served à la carte at Maggie Oakes restaurant – expect eggs any way you like them, pancakes, avocado toast or a full Canadian fry-up (the menu changes seasonally).
In-house boutique Off The Hook has you covered for street-style sneakers, hip-hop accessories and emergency extra layers.
At the hotel
Outdoor pool, spa, gym, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, iPod dock, minibar of local drinks and snacks, tea- and coffee-making facilities, Le Labo bath products, free bottled water.
Our favourite rooms
Each corner-set Alcove Suite has two walls of windows and a bath tub looking down on Old Town alleyways and the domed Bonsecours Market; extra wows come with the one boasting a balcony, too. For cute and cozy, choose a room in the historic Maison William Gray, where vaulted ceilings and exposed stonework abound.
The heated outdoor plunge pool is open to ages 18 and above and set in a sheltered rooftop courtyard; access is included with any spa session or you can purchase a pool pass for CAD45 a day.
There’s a head-to-toe menu of spa therapies, administered beside original fireplaces in the stone-walled cellars of the William Gray house. The signature experience is the ‘thermal circuit’, a sequence of hot and cold rooms infused with aromatherapy fragrances and featuring Canada’s only salt cavern. There are high-tech temptations too – try sound-wave therapy, take a nap on the quartz bed, or hit the machines in the well-stacked fitness suite.
Don’t underestimate the Canadian summer – remember your swimming cozzie for the plunge pool. With this amount of meat on the table, a sweat band is a sensible precaution.
In-room spa treatments are available on request. Four rooms are adapted for wheelchair users.
All ages welcome. Good luck getting them off the pool table.
Snag a booth facing the glass-walled meat chiller to get your saliva glands going before sinking fangs into your steak of choice; more herbivorous types might want to aim for the living-plant wall.
Canadian casual, with a dash of Français chic.
The ground-level Maggie Oakes restaurant is named after William Gray’s wife, and boy would she be proud of it. Top billing goes to the AAA-grade Canadian beef, dry-aged in the cold room for more than 35 days and served up in slabs alongside a half-glazed red-wine sauce. Veggie options aren’t to be outdone though: tagines, salads and pastas to die for (the menu changes seasonally). For on-the-go alternatives, pick from the pastries at the in-house outpost of Montreal’s legendary Café Olimpico.
Two rooftop rivals vye for attention: Perché (closed in the winter months) and Terrasse William Gray (open year-round). California-inspired Perché plates up sushi and ceviche in a laidback setting where zesty acapulco chairs sit between potted palm trees. Upstairs at Terrasse William Gray, seafood and charcuterie are served alongside sophisticated cocktails and champion views of Old Montreal. For more of a curl-up-with-a-book kind of vibe, stay indoors at the ground floor Living Room bar, which has shelves of literary classics and a bespoke pool table.
Maggie Oakes serves breakfast from 6.30am to 11.30am, brunch from 11.30am to 3pm, lunch till 5pm, dinner from 5pm to 11pm; the bar serves until 1am. Terrasse William Gray opens at 11.30am, Fri-Sun, 4pm on other days; it closes at 11pm.
A bunch of dishes from the restaurant menu can be whipped up to your room on demand.
The hotel is in the heart of Old Montreal, with its entrance on a quiet side street and the lively, busker-friendly Place Jacques-Cartier to the rear.
Montreal airport, which is named after Pierre Elliot Trudeau (Justin’s pop), has flights to and from major cities across Europe and North America. It’s 22 kilometres or half an hour from the hotel by car; the hotel, or the Smith24 team, can arrange transfers for you.
The Montreal Metro is a cheap and (usually) reliable way to zip across the city; the closest stations are Champ-de-Mars and Place d’Armes, each less than 10 minutes’ walk away from the hotel. The long-distance railroad arrives into Montreal Central Station, a 10-minute taxi from the hotel. From there it’s three hours to Quebec City, five hours to Toronto or 11 hours all the way to New York City. Check ViaRail (www.viarail.ca) or Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) for schedules and tickets, or let the Smith24 team to do the legwork for you.
In winter, snowdrifts are best tackled by wizened local drivers, and the Old Town is very walkable anyway, so city-breakers won’t need a car. If you are a-roadtrippin’, the hotel offers a valet parking service, for CA$36 a night.
Worth getting out of bed for
Your first stop should be Place Jacques-Cartier, the sloping market square behind the hotel, where buskers and street performers set the city’s beat. From there, explore the cobblestone charm of Old Montreal, taking in the St Lawrence promenade and 17th-century French architecture along the Rue St-Paul. At Place d’Armes you’ll find the soaring Basilique Notre Dame; it’s worth a peek inside for the blitz of blue-and-gold and to see the stained glass, which tells tales of Montreal history. Dig even deeper at Pointe-à-Callière, the birthplace of Montreal and now the city’s leading museum of history and archaeology. Check the programme of upcoming events at the Phi Centre, the cultural hub of music, film and art.
Conquer a teetering tower of ricotta, roasted squash and pear tartine at Olive and Gourmando (351 Rue Saint-Paul), the farm-to-face lunch spot that everybody’s talking about, between mouthfuls. Wood-fired pizza and antipasti are among a bevy of Italian options at Bevo (451 Rue St-Vincent). Francophones will know that Chasse et Pêche (423 Rue St-Claude) is all about game and fish, and they’ll soon find out that Quebecois chef Claude Pelletier knows exactly what he’s doing with both. Subterranean seafood den Le Bremner (360 Rue St-Paul) serves scallops on the half shell alongside today’s oysters and a hot lobster roll.
The city’s co-workers take their caffeine hits under spectacular art deco ceilings at Crew Collective, a converted 1920s bank at 36 Rue St-Jacques. Try Tommy (200 Rue Notre-Dame) for croissants, quiche and morning-after green juice. The original Café Olimpico was founded by Italian immigrant and espresso enthusiast Rocco Furfaro in 1970; it’s in the Mile End district at 124 Rue St-Viateur West.
Those who find basement speakeasy The Cold Room are rewarded with the city’s most inventive signature cocktails; look for the blind duck and the plain black door, on Rue St-Vincent. Toast the French influence at brick-walled wine bar Modavie; it’s cozy in winter, buzzy in summer, and hosts live jazz all year round. For a change of rooftop scene, try Terrasse Nelligan (106 Saint-Paul) for cocktails under maraschino-red parasols at the William Gray’s sister hotel.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in Montreal and unpacked their cheese curds and smoked meats, a full account of their Quebec break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Hôtel William Gray in Montreal…
What, we wonder, would 18th-century merchant Edward William Gray make of his old digs today? For sure, he’d find the place without too much trouble, still on the same quiet side street in the preserved heart of Old Montreal. The mottled masonry, period window frames and vaulted ceilings would look familiar too, but that’s where the similarities end. Gray’s house and the neighbouring former warehouse Maison Cherrier are now seamlessly joined by a glass atrium, and their backyard is filled by a modernist eight-storey tower. Way back when, getting locked in the cellars might have been a terrifying punishment; these days there’s an indulgent spa down there, so sign us up for double detention. The restaurant, meanwhile, is named after Gray’s wife – incomparable of course, to his living, breathing love, but this Maggie Oakes plates up hunks of dry-aged steak on demand, which must be a bonus. Bewildered perhaps, amazed for sure – Mr Gray would certainly have a long list of questions. First up: ‘Any chance of a room tonight?’