Jeremy Kinsman, Commentating columnist
Toronto? I was one of many who travel to Canada’s busy and booming financial and cultural capital in pursuit of deals, film projects, customers, investors, partners, ideas, or a fee of one kind or another, but I used to go there alone. Mrs Smith avidly volunteered to accompany on business trips to San Francisco, Auckland, or Cape Town, but an invitation to Toronto? Somehow, the idea suggeste…
Toronto? I was one of many who travel to Canada’s busy and booming financial and cultural capital in pursuit of deals, film projects, customers, investors, partners, ideas, or a fee of one kind or another, but I used to go there alone. Mrs Smith avidly volunteered to accompany on business trips to San Francisco, Auckland, or Cape Town, but an invitation to Toronto? Somehow, the idea suggested the time away from the cats would seem unusually long.
In fact, it didn’t, though I can’t speak for the cats. Indeed, the stay was so fine, we’re going back. The first bargained pre-condition had been for a night at the stunning new opera house built for the Canadian Opera Company whose elephant-free production of Aida offered a quality of performance that would have had even Giuseppe Verdi himself on his feet shouting ‘Bravi!’ as the final curtain came down.
But the clincher was a hotel room it was hard to leave for anything except Aida. The spacious bedrooms are undoubtedly Toronto’s most chic. Indeed this is a sybarite’s paradise – a world where green-granite Bulgari-stocked ensuites are astonishingly sprawling and pillow-top mattresses are clad in 300 thread count linen. I’ve seen the very plush room Verdi lived in for more than 20 years at the Grand Hotel et de Milan and I dare presume the Maestro himself would have cherished a stay at the Hazelton Hotel in Toronto.
Start with location. If Toronto has a centre, it’s at the Hazelton’s door. The hotel’s neighbourhood is where galleries, fashion, and food converge. We’d been greeted by the friendly, young, and professional staff who swept us into the lobby whose cool contemporary angles and some stunning art and installations brought us to an admiring halt. 12-foot high flowering bamboo stalks faced a film set light deflector meant no doubt as an emblem reminder of the status of Toronto’s International Film Festival, when the Hazelton is favoured by such as Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Garner, Ben Affleck and Mickey Rourke indoors, and a platoon of paparazzi outdoors.
Introduced to a very large room on the third of four floors whose bed definitely beckoned after our pre-dawn departure and trans-continental flight, we chose instead to redeem our legs with a short neighbourhood stroll that turned into a full afternoon’s reward of art and international fashion, books, and first-class sushi.
Back in our new home, we opted for a workout revival, Mrs Smith heading for the mosaic-tiled lap pool that would be the prize feature of any dream house. As for me, while I haven’t seen the much publicized personal gym of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, I’ll wager it’s no better than the Hazelton’s.
Once again, the easy next step would have been to linger in the bath, possibly with an eye to the TV screen implanted in the sizeable mirror, before falling into that inviting bed. The rooms are restful, noiseless, totally loaded electronically for entertainment apps. The city’s bustle stays on the outer side of high curtains Mrs Smith knew from designers were the best of the best, as are all the Hazelton’s design features. The tones are greys, creams, some black, and browns. It is definitely restful. A vast chair sits in the corner, inviting a reader or film-watcher to sink down to a dreamless state of total leisure.
But we carried on, saving that chair and then probably the world’s best bed for last.
Going out again was not going to be on that first night, but friends joined us for dinner in One, the upmarket and ambitious restaurant created by local kitchen wizard Mark McEwen. Judging from the amount of Russian heard at the bar, and the Ferraris and Lamborghinis outside, Prokhorov might have been right at home in this stylish and see-and-be-seen main Toronto draw. In summer time, the terrace is said to be a real treat, but in late autumn, the spacious room with a client on every seat was treat enough, if only for the irresistible experience of breaking a new price ceiling for a hamburger, $29, with fries another $7 – hard to say if any burger can be that good, but it was damned good. So were Mrs Smith’s tagliatelli. Walls have panels of what is clearly fur; soft, grey, and very calming. Whose fur? I was surprised to learn they were ponies’. Yikes. But they do offer a great look.
At last, that bed. What a bed! The linens have a threadcount that must also be a new record. The pillows actually have an embrace, and if we had wanted something suited best to our contours, or sore necks, or even proclivity to snore, the Pillow Menu had a lot of specially designated alternatives.
The street, unbelievably, is only a few floors below, but there were no sirens, squeals of Ferrari tires, or, God forbid – screams – that would be able to penetrate the thickness of those curtains. Of course, there are few screams to be heard in this fine neighbourhood of what is a very friendly town on one of the world’s Great Lakes.
Morning did break. Becalmed in that room and that bed, we weren’t witnesses to its start, but we were able to catch up with the day in time for a few Sunday-morning croissants with our lattés that would have won a blind tasting in Lyon. The next few days went by happily in Toronto. We walked the ethnic neighbourhoods hunting the perfect dim sum and pho, strolled through the leafy university, and explored Toronto’s abundant museums, before the great treat of the so-fine opera. But we always had the smiles of a very happy couple who were going back to the world’s perfect bed.