Not only are the hip bunk-ups at The Drake hotel in Toronto fantastically priced, but there's every entertainment or eating and drinking requirement on your lap. Enjoy home-baked scones in the café, earmark sushi and live jazz from the Raw Bar, or plump for a mean steak frites in the Lounge… then head up to the Sky Yard for cocktails on the roof or down to the Underground for live bands or a cutting-edge clubnight.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Starving Artist house red or white wine in your room on arrival
Double rooms from £204.05 (CA$311), including tax at 17.52 per cent.
Rates exclude breakfast. During Toronto International Film Festival in September, there’s a three-night minimum stay, and a 10-day cancellation policy.
The Drake's latest addition, The Modern Wing, re-imagines the space while paying homage to building's history and surrounding streetscape. A collaboration between the hotel's in-house art directors and Diamond Schmitt Architects, the brick facade's apertures are intersected by oversized windows, while the wing is capped with a polished steel boxcar-inspired, cantilevered rooftop level suite. Inside, communal spaces are curated with a collection of carefully curated artworks.
At the hotel
A venue fit for a night owl, there’s eating, drinking and dancing opportunities galore. In rooms: iPhone docks; Malin+Goetz toiletries; snacks and drinks; free WiFi throughout; flatscreen televisions.
Our favourite rooms
Crashpads and Dens are cosy and have cute glassed-in showers; Salons and Suites are more spacious. Room 203 has a cool exposed brick wall; 301 and 302 face the street and are beloved by honeymooners for the artwork and lighting. All rooms are designed with an endlessly expanding art collection and a little something special in each.
Leave extra space in your suitcase – the neighbourhood is stocked full of boutique shops, as well as Holt Renfrew, the designer super-store.
There's no gym on site, but you can get free passes to spin classes at 6ix Cycle Spin Studio and yoga sessions at Good Space.
It's more of an adult stay, but children are welcome – adjoining rooms are available for larger families.
All cleaning products are environmentally friendly, and this being Canada, recycling is excellent.
For special occasions or events, book Room 222 at the top for dinner-party fun overlooking the Sky Yard.
Edgy and modish; elegant but effortless.
Beloved-by-locals Corner Café is legendary for its melt-in-your-mouth scones and bistro fare. For a mean steak frites, plump for a banquette in Lounge. For oysters and sushi thrills, pull up a bar stool in the Lounge at the Raw Bar.
Drinks and good times roll in the Lounge and on the roof terrace bar, Sky Yard, until 2am. For some serious choons with your cocktails, the Underground is the basement club that has seen the Killers through to MIA perform. They do a mean Caipirinha, too.
Corner Café: 7am–11pm and 12am Fridays and Saturdays. Lounge: 6pm–11pm and 1am Fridays and Saturdays; Sunday brunch 11am–4pm.
Toronto Pearson International Airport is just west of the city. There are daily links to London Heathrow with British Airways and Air Canada, who’ll also get you across the border, as will American Airlines. From the airport, hop in a roughly CA$42 cab, or catch the 192 Airport Rocket bus service, which reaches Kipling metro station in less than 25 minutes. From there, take the metro to Osgoode and catch the streetcar to Beaconsfield.
VIA Rail Canada runs services to Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa. Most services arrive at Union Station, where there are plenty of taxis for onward travel. To reach the hotel from the station via metro, travel for two stops to Osgoode and change onto a streetcar to Beaconsfield.
Toronto’s streets are laid out in an easily navigable grid pattern. For hire cars, you’ll find an Avis desk at the airport. From the airport, take the 401 highway eastwards, change onto highway 422 travelling south towards QEW then take the Gardiner Expressway to the city centre. There is a public car park and on-street parking across the road from the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel's sister eateries are all must-visit addresses for the hungry/thirsty Drake fan: there'sDrake Mini Bar, for the thirsty, Drake Commissary (where the breads, pastries, sauces and such for all Drake locations start life) and Drake One Fifty, an artsy brassery in the Financial District.
This is a hotel heavensent for cutting-edge culture vultures. As well as all the museum grand dames uptown, for a tour of more contemporary and buyable works, take a trip down Queen Street West in the heart of the Art and Design Design District. Or escape all things urban and go for a great walk through the formal gardens or wooded thickets of High Park, just west of the city. 84 miles south of the city flows the ultimate in natural watery spectacles, Niagara Falls. Closer to home, on the other side of town are the cobbled lanes of North America's largest Victorian industrial complex, the historic Distillery District, is now a delightful pedestrianised area of warehouses converted into cute cafés, galleries and craft shops
Head to Toronto’s Harbour Front at Bay and Queen’s Quay for fresh sushi at Japanese restaurant Miku, which serves up sustainable seafood; start with sashimi sharing plates and work your way to entress of miso-baked sablefish or togarashi-spiced poached lobster.
Cheerful pop tunes pipe through the Drake Café in Toronto, where Mr Smith and I have come for breakfast while the hotel it’s attached to readies our room. Underneath a chandelier of recycled rainbow-coloured bicycle frames I navigate a pile of pamphlets while Mr Smith peruses the menu.
‘We’re in a brochure?’ asks a spiky-haired girl at the table next to us.
She has multiple piercings in her pretty face and, like almost everyone in the café, wears a bulky sweater and boots that swallow her jeans.
Because Queen Street West, the neighborhood The Drake Hotel calls home, is in the throes of gentrification, some locals are bound to be suspect of tourists. I feel a bit defensive, but the girl is chatty. By the time she pulls on her parka we’ve learned she is an illustrator in the midst of completing a gallery submission. I ask her whether she has any parting local knowledge for us.
‘Have the scones,’ she says.
Though he was sceptical of my idea to visit Toronto in January, Mr Smith warms up to it with biscuit-like blueberry scones and a pot of vanilla-speckled cream. He passes me a perfectly powdered-sugared bite and I return to my maps and brochures.
Back in the lobby, Mr Smith checks out a display case of flyers from bands’ performances in the Drake’s Underground club while I admire a grainy photograph of Nina Simone, part of the hotel’s rotating art exhibits. Ana, the hotel’s manager, tells me our bags are already in our Den Room. We ascend a staircase that wraps around a giant brass helix-shaped chandelier and enter a dimly lit hallway with squiggle-printed carpet beneath our feet.
Inside the room we are greeted by a sock doll sitting on the queen-sized bed. A flatscreen TV loops indie rock and glossy photos of garage-band gear hang on 1970s-style baroque wallpaper. One wall of windows overlooks the snowy sidewalk and a pale wooden counter offers jellybeans, wine and a black-leather book – the hotel’s ‘pleasure menu’ of packages that include feathers, vibrators and movies such as Carnal Intentions.
I am about to share my discovery with Mr Smith when he exclaims, ‘Hello, shower!’ A glass stall at the foot of the bed is completely exposed to the room. A frosted panel slides between the shower and the commode, offering only a bit of respite for the modest. Perhaps the sexy show in our room won’t be on the flatscreen after all.
The soft-porn theme continues that afternoon at our first stop of Queen Street’s storefront galleries. A crocheted series of body parts called ‘Boobs & Dinks’ scandalises an elderly resident who gapes through the window. Although the boobs and dinks are woolly, they don’t warm us up. We prefer the Clint Roenisch Gallery down the street, where a wood-burning stove installation fills the space with sweet smokiness.
The smell has made our stomachs growl. We find relief in a brown-leather booth at the Swan, a diner-style restaurant where the old Coca-Cola cooler holds ice for oysters, rather than soda bottles. Once I’ve taken my first bite of a cornmeal-crusted Malpeque on an aioli-slathered baguette, I decide The Swan’s chef is my favourite Queen Street artist.
After lunch, a lace dress in a window beckons me down Ossington, a side street where bars and boutiques bloom between older businesses. At Silver Falls, I peruse a bevy of black vintage dresses, but imagine the evening scene at the Drake will be casual. I resist shopping, satisfied with my suitcase of sweaters.
As it turns out, black dresses abound in the Drake’s lounge. Perhaps patrons dress to compete with the room, where a glassed-in fireplace blazes, movies flicker in a gilded frame and a tiger roars from a mural over a mezzanine. Mr Smith and I get our bearings at the bar with a glass of Starving Artist’s Merlot/Cabernet and a heaped bowl of edamame doused in lime juice.
Mr Smith observes, amused as four flannel-clad guys awkwardly pursue two giggling blondes in a banquette. Instead of moving to the dining room, we keep our front-row seats at the bar and order a charcuterie board. Over our piles of prosciutto, pears and pickled cauliflower, looking for love becomes a spectator sport. Happy I don’t have to work so hard for someone to go upstairs with; I order a cocktail called the Huntress in celebration. The concoction of Scotch, Amaretto and brandied cherries caps off the night perfectly.
The next morning when I awaken Mr Smith is nowhere in sight. After the sock doll watches me shower, a message appears on my phone: looking for lychees in Chinatown. Then another: fish-ball soup. I reply, telling him to meet me at AGO, the Art Gallery of Ontario, after his dim sum.
That afternoon, we explore the undulating walkways of native son Frank Gehry’s redesigned museum. The AGO has pieces dating back to the Middle Ages, but we’re most impressed with contemporary works such as Daniel Altmejd’s ‘the Index’, an outrageous walk-in maze of mirrors, taxidermied birds and furry rocks.
‘Oh look at that, someone left a mess,’ says Mr Smith, coming upon an installation involving a two-by-four on the floor.
That night we dine at Le Paradis, a classy but casual standby in the posh neighborhood of Yorkville. PEI mussels and duck cassoulet prove the Canadians to be as adept with French cuisine as they are with Chinese. We return to the Drake to discover it’s soul night in the Lounge. We pause and consider, but then sneak straight upstairs where our soft bed awaits.
Descending the next morning for checkout we overhear the staff chattering happily, ‘It’s hovering around zero, positively tropical!’ Indeed, the sun is out, and the sidewalks of Queen Street are shining with snowmelt. We duck into the photo booth in the back of the lobby, which wears a sign warning it is ‘old and temperamental’. The row of pictures emerges dark, but it’s clear enough to see that our stay at the Drake left us smiling.