A new hotel opened a few months ago in the middle of the increasingly competitive hotel landscape of Toronto, and given the fact that there is such competition now each new property, if they are to flourish, must offer guests an experience that is unique both in substance and in atmosphere. The new Shangri-La Hotel Toronto is the new jewel in Toronto’s hotel crown, and when it comes to substance and atmosphere you will be hard pressed to find either in greater evidence anywhere else in town.
During a recent visit to the Shangri-La (one of only two Shangri-La Hotels in North America, with the second being in Vancouver) I was at first struck by the serenity and calm that is evident everywhere in the hotel. A lot of hotels exude a hustle and bustle when you enter and check in–not so the Shangri-La. When you check in to the Shangri-La you are seated at a desk and quietly and efficiently checked in, then you are shown to your suite and given a specific and quick orientation on what you need to know about it (all Shangri-La suites come equipped with iPads, electronically controlled drapes and his and her robes and kimonos, among other nice touches).
The design of the suite was interesting in that is was large but not so over the top that your felt swallowed up by it–a spacious living room with a discreet bathroom, then a comfortably sized bedroom followed by a large bathroom with twin vanity and a large, deep bathtub/Jacuzzi, and each room has floor to ceiling windows.
Shangri-La is an Asian hotel franchise and that Asian design and artistic influence is everywhere, but again not an in-your-face everywhere, but a subtle infusion in everything from the designs in the carpeting to the designs of the drawer and cupboard handles–from the art work on the walls to the quiet serenity and calm that the slightly perfumed air provide, the suites in the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto are that special kind of luxurious, a luxury that is relaxing and enjoyable rather than intimidating.
Outside of the suites the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto provide dining and spa experiences and are quickly becoming the talk of the town. The Lobby Lounge is a sprawling comfortable space with fireplaces and comfortable sofas and chairs and tables (the lounge seats 90) where tea and cocktails are served by day from the light let in by the two storey windows, and by night from the lights of the city accompanied by live piano music.
The main restaurant in the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto is called BOSK and it features and accessible but still quite creative menu – over lunch with the wonderful and very efficient Director of Communications for the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto, Kerry Connelly, I had, at her specific suggestion, the Dungeness Crab as a first course followed by the Bosk Beef Burger which was quite literally one of the best hamburgers I have ever had.
From there Ms. Connelly showed me to the spa and health club facilities that were also fantastically arranged. The facilities are over 9000 square feet and come complete with a private studio for yoga and Pilates, a 64 meter swimming pool, infra-red sauna and large Jacuzzi. Around the Jacuzzi area of the pool are private cabana-like lounges with TVs for relaxing in after a swim or spa treatment. The TechnoGym equipment in the fitness centre is state of the art and what makes the whole area even more comfortable is the fact that the pool and the fitness centre and the spa area are separated by enough space that you don’t feel that you have to climb through one to get to the other–they are all distinct components of the same fitness facility.
The Miraj Hammam by Caudalie Paris spa has to be experienced to be believed–a very unique blend of old world traditions combining with new world ideas and expectations. This unique spa experience (the Caudalie Paris experience) can only be found in one other location in North America–the Regency Hotel in New York City.
Having stayed in and written about and spoken about (and even lived in a couple) some of the finest hotels in the world, I have to say that the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto is one of those special hotels that combines all the wonderful elements of a luxury hotel in just the right combinations and portions. The staff is friendly and present but never overbearing or intrusive; the public areas of the hotel are brightly and naturally lit while the hallways and the interiors of the suites are warm and serene.
Also benefiting the hotel is the favorable location (188 University Avenue) with everything downtown Toronto has to offer very close by. Over our lunch at BOSK, Kerry Connelly told me that already the hotel is seeing a number of repeat guests coming back for second and third visits from places such as New York and Boston even though the hotel has only been open for just seven months. That will surely increase as word on the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto gets out.
Other hotels will be built, others will be renovated and refurbished but what the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto offers is a unique experience in a hotel visit/stay and unique in the hotel world translates into special and special translates into, “I cannot wait to go back.”