The Four Seasons in Toronto is the perfect place to see and be seen in the city for upscale travellers.
Hotel Insider: Four Seasons, Toronto
After pulling into a generous driveway (a surprise for the cramped Yorkville neighbourhood), I am ushered into a plain white room. Glass doors open into another, slightly larger and wood-panelled room, which then leads into a grand, two-storey reception area, complete with giant, whimsical sculptures of dandelions blowing in the wind. The reason for the maze, say hotel staff, is to replicate the residential feel of walking into a home, though you'd be forgiven for wondering if you had the right address at first.
Yorkville used to be the hippie hangout of Toronto in the 1960s and 70s; how things have changed. Today, it's a smart shopping district, with luxury brands and expensive, independent retailers along with cafes and restaurants. The Royal Ontario Museum is just a walk away, and if you want to see the rest of Toronto, the Bloor Street subway is almost at the hotel's doorstep, making it an ideal city hub.
At 46 square metres, even the entry-level superior room is spacious and airy. Floor to ceiling windows brighten the room and, although it overlooks a busy city street, it's quiet. The taupe-and-brown colour scheme, embroidered fabrics and simple furniture aren't elaborate but are stylish and modern nonetheless, with bespoke works by Canadian artists commissioned for the hotel on the walls. The marble-floored bathroom, divided by sliding doors with mosaic designs, is wonderfully spacious, punctuated by a huge, stand-alone bathtub to complement the separate shower.
The 55-floor complex, which opened in November, is the Canadian chain's flagship hotel, and also features 34 floors of residences - the penthouse recently sold for a Canadian record C$28 million (Dh104m). It also houses the city's largest spa; it's busy and booking a massage requires planning. The dbar lounge on the ground floor is also always busy with the city's well-groomed and well-heeled, especially around lunch time and after work. Come September, when the Toronto International Film Festival kicks off, expect to rub shoulders with Hollywood stars.
All the staff are friendly and talkative without being overbearing. They also go out of their way to help: one doorman waited for 10 minutes in rain on the street to hail me a cab, while the concierge took care of mailing a dizzying collection of Christmas gifts.
Chef Daniel Boulud divides his menu at Café Boulud into a traditional French, a seasonal local market, a vegetarian and a world cuisine. For my first meal, I chose the Ontario venison with beer braised cabbage, cranberries and spaetzle ($34; Dh126), with the venison cooked perfectly medium rare. Later, I sampled the crispy duck egg ($16; Dh60), a surprising delight, and speckled trout with cauliflower, black current and capers ($28; Dh104); everything is imaginative, with each bite offering layers of flavours. My favourite dessert was the warm chocolate coulant ($12; Dh45).
The sumptuous bathtub, long and wide enough in which to stretch out and soak away the cold winter chill.
While the food of Café Boulud is sophisticated, the decor is not; its casual, 1990s-era design and artwork are not only incongruous with the rest of the hotel, they are also not what a "destination" eatery for a flagship hotel should feature. Even the dbar lounge, which carries the same motifs as the rest of the hotel, is more classy.
The perfect place for the well-heeled traveller who wants to see - and be seen in - Toronto.
The bottom line
A 46-sq-m superior room costs from $504 (Dh1,876) per night, including taxes. The Four Seasons Toronto, 60 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto (www.fourseasons.com/toronto; 001 41 6 964 0411).