Buro 24/7 Middle East explores Canada with the Ritz Carlton
Exploring Toronto and Montreal in style...
As a guest of Ritz Carlton, Buro 24/7 Middle East were invited to experience two of their luxurious hotels in Montreal and Toronto. First stop was the Ritz Carlton Montreal, oozing with a rich history that dates back to 1912, the hotel was the venue for Elizabeth Taylor's most significant (of her eight) weddings – to Richard Burton...
Upon entering the impressive double doors (or rather being ushered in by the polite and impeccably uniformed doorman) the hotel screams old Hollywood elegance, ceilings are adorned with gold leaf paint and chandeliers that look like they could have lit-up many a starlet. However, with the recent refurbishment that took place in 2012, the hotel also benefits from a smart contemporary update, blending the best of old and new.
The concierge at the Ritz Carlton Montreal is one of the most impressive services that the hotel has to offer, attention to detail and customer service is first and foremost, so much so that the hotel has its very own Clef d'Or concierge – Simon Bajouk, who will fulfil your every desire in a heartbeat. A Clef d'Or translates to 'Golden Key' and to earn this elite honour the concierge must know the best of the best within the city they are situated in and have the ability to answer a vast spectrum of guest questions, or at least know where to find the answers.
The hotel is home to Maison Boulud a stunning fine dining French restaurant brought to Montreal by the famous chef Daniel Boulud who incorporates the local and artisanal Quebecois products into all of his dishes. This is the only restaurant within the hotel but other food and beverage offerings include traditional afternoon tea held in the Palm Court, breakfast tea and the option of an Arabic mezze high tea upon request. Room service is available 24-hours a day and offers everything from comfort food to healthy salads. Breakfast can be taken in your bedroom or downstairs in Maison Boulud's connecting greenhouse that overlooks the hotel's urban garden.
Making your way upstairs to the bedrooms, the 2012 refurbishment begins to shine as the regal entrance subtly transitions into contemporary hallways and exquisite lighting. A nights sleep here is truly an other-worldly experience, and we'd even venture to say, one of the best kips we've ever had the luxury to enjoy. The Ritz standard attention to detail seeps into the chic bedrooms, with features such as motion sensors on the floor that activate lights when getting out of bed, which then leads a trail to the bathroom. Large marble baths and rain showers come as standard for most of the rooms and the views, whether it be overlooking the friendly Montreal streets or the garden terrace, are charming.
For those wanting to escape the city stresses or in need of unwinding, head to the indoor saltwater pool, which overlooks the city with accents such as comfortable lounge beds and a fireplace to keep your body at the perfect temperature, this rooftop sanctuary also houses a green pool (reclaimed energy pool) and a rustic sauna.
We recommend visiting in December or January for a winter get-away, the beautiful city is designed for cold weather with underground hot spots and cosy eateries. The Montreal Ritz Carlton is situated in the perfect downtown spot with easy access to the underground passage-ways. Also, after a discussion with the CEO and GM, we discovered that he has dreams of turning the garden into a luxurious ice rink with a bar around the outside and roaring fire pits to keep away the chill. Well worth a return visit.
One of the most interesting places we discovered, thanks to the Clef d'Or, was Le Bremner – a small down to earth basement restaurant owned by Chuck Hughes, a renowned Canadian chef. The hidden gem serves fresh seafood and hearty but attractive dishes and has a welcoming feel. Be sure to taste the Pimms butter pancakes for an out of this world food sensation.
Our next stop was the Ritz Carlton Toronto, a contemporary city hotel, quite a contrast to the smaller, more ornate Montreal relative, but by no means any less impressive. Upon arrival the welcoming lobby feels instantly cosy and warm with the help of a view of the DEQ Terrace and lounge's roaring fireplace as you make your way up to your room.
The Ritz Carlton Toronto offers a unique feature – The Ritz-Carlton Club, another shining example of the brand's flair for detail, combining intimacy, exclusivity and personalisation to the regular concierge assistance. The Club Lounge, on the Club Level, presents guests with continuous complimentary culinary offerings throughout the day and a quiet and serene meeting area for families or guests. Looking out onto Lake Ontario the Club Lounge also offers private shopping experiences with the most exclusive retailers, such as Burberry and Harry Rosen.
The hotel is also home to the renowned exclusive Spa My Blend by Clarins, situated on the fifth floor next to the salt-water pool and jet bath. Originally launched in Paris, the spa offers a myriad of luxurious treatments including body-wraps, fruit and salt scrubs, massages, jet lag revival rituals and many more. We opted for the infamous customised 'My Blend' facial and it was utterly divine. After the knowledgable skin analysts review your skin and identify the effects of your lifestyle and environment they create a bespoke facial treatment that will best improve the radiance, texture and moisture level of your skin.
With an abundance of choice for dining, our favourite by far was the chef's table at TOCA, not least becuase of the notorious 'Cheese Cave' that is home to 35 perfectly aged local and international cheeses, the glass and oak room is temperature controlled and packed with some of the world's most celebrated cheese varieties. The chef's table is located inside the kitchen within a large cubbyhole with walls that are adorned with the signatures of all who have dined there, take a closer look and you will be able to find a note from Buro 24/7 Middle East scrawled amongst the likes of famous actors and politicians. The food is sensational, offering custom menus and the perfect wine pairing, combined with the chance to watch the chef create your delectable dishes in front of your eyes, together with an accompanying explanation of the ingredients and flavours.
After a long day in the cool Canadian air and full to the brim with Toronto's finest food coming back to the Ritz Carlton bed was, once again, a real treat. Heated floors in the bathroom and a large marble bath welcome you in from the crisp breeze outside and with a flick-of-a-switch, the mirror turns into a television.
We recommend visiting Niagara falls and feeling the icy cold sprays of one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It is quite a lengthy drive but well worth it. We also recommend taking a helecopter and flying above to take a look from an incredible perspective.