BY MARK KEAST

The temptation when the holidays end and you’re staring down the steel barrel of another marathon winter is to get a limo to Pearson Airport and jet anywhere hot for as long a period as you can. Cuba. Mexico. Jamaica. Barbados. Turks and Caicos. Doesn’t matter. Just get me out of here, right now.

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But what if we could sell you on using that unused vacation time, or even a weekend, to stay right in the heart of Toronto during the winter months? The Big Smoke has a growing stable of luxury boutique hotel offerings, “lifestyle hotels”, all possessing an intense independent spirit, all accessible in minutes through the downtown core via an uber car. The Thompson Hotel on Bathurst Ave. has closed down, to be replaced by 1 Hotels, an “eco-conscious luxury experience” according to one story, to be opened this summer. But there are so many other options. Grab your overnight leather bag and go. Diversity applies to Toronto’s restaurant scene, but in the case of “stay-cation” hotels like the ones below, the idea is not to leave the hotel. The idea is to rarely leave your room. You shouldn’t have to.

Comfort and convenience are the objectives, right down to the minute touch points – like the line of soap products they go with in the bathroom showers, the quality of the sheets and pillows, or even the brand of coffee they offer if you don’t want to leave your room, and want to brew a cup when you wake up in the morning. My wife still wears the slippers from one of these Toronto hotels (and yes, we were allowed to take them home).

“Our target is the experience-seeker,” says Jacques Lapierre, general manager of Bisha, on Peter St. “Whoever comes here can try something different. Our guests don’t need to step out here. Even with the restaurants, it never gets redundant.”

That’s the hook, when the topic is Toronto, winter-time “stay-cations”. Each hotel listed here has their own promotional packages/enticements to lure you over.

BISHA

Bisha melds together art, fashion, music, culture, with an amazing, true quality food experience that reflects who we are, and coffee at the grab-and-go Parisian cafe at street level. It’s an urban, cool, edgy mood that’s so anti-chain hotel, so unscripted, with one of the truly great downtown views anywhere. Beautiful, dark, rich decor in the lobby – black velvet walls (touch them!), distinct scent, visual aura. There are Alexander McQueen fashion pieces, covers of past Interview magazines on the walls, Andy Warhol art, pop diva imagery, staff dressed like rock stars in black leather Mackage jackets, and the Lenny Kravitz-designed seventh floor. This boutique hotel reminds us the most of luxury boutique hotels you’d find in Manhattan.

A personal favourite is a winter-time lunch in KŌST restaurant on the 44th floor. Luxury rooms range from 450 SF to larger suites with balconies – 700 SF through to just under 1,000 SF (there is also a two-level suite, at 2,000 SF, plus patio space).

Bisha, in the Entertainment District, currently offers up a two-night promotion where guests are greeted with a glass of champagne and given a $100 food and beverage credit to use at the hotel’s restaurants and lounges. Images courtesy Bisha.

Image by Brandon Barre

Image by Brandon Barre

Image by Brandon Barre

Image by Brandon Barre

ONE KING WEST

One King West is located in an Ontario Heritage designated building – a mix of the posh and grandeur of Canada’s banking past with modern day comforts and luxury amenities. The location was the former head office of The Dominion Bank. Amenities at the hotel include full concierge service, valet parking, and rooftop fitness centre.

Teller’s Bar and Lounge, located in the lobby, includes a late day menu, evening beverage and light snacks, and a great breakfast buffet. Like any weekend getaway, the idea is to re-charge the batteries with little or no effort on the part of the guest. Chain hotels have to maintain the same standards across all their properties, so they tend to be cookie-cutter. Independent, smaller properties can bob and weave, and create unique experiences. Images courtesy One King West.

Their weekend package includes breakfast for two, complimentary Wi-Fi and late check-out.

 

HOTEL LE GERMAIN

Hotel Le Germain on Mercer St. in Toronto is an urban oasis not just because of its luxurious and inspiring architecture, but also because of a culture of service the hotel is renowned for. A question we ask ourselves, when we walk into the room in one of the boutique luxury hotels on our list – could we live there for a month? The answer in the case of Le Germain was “yes”. Walk in, toss down your leather bag, hop on to the comfy King bed, turn the computer on and check your emails. Good coffee in the room is another one of those smaller details we always look for – check that one off the list. The rooms at Le Germain are elegant, warm, cozy, with a modern twist. All the amenities you need plus state-of-the-art technology are there.

The Victor Restaurant Bar features a chic design and has signature dishes like lobster bisque, steak, fresh seafood or fish. Buffet breakfast isn’t over the top at all – it’s smaller, a quaint atmosphere, and the food quality is top notch. All the little details make a difference, and Hotel Le Germain nails it on all counts. Images courtesy Hotel Le Germain.

Hotel Le Germain offers a weekend special, 15% off their regular rate.

Victor Restaurant, Image by Lisa Petrole

Victor Restaurant, image by Lisa Petrole

Victor Bar, Image by Lisa Petrole

 

THE BROADVIEW HOTEL

We remember the Broadview at the corner of Queen St. E. and Broadview Ave. as the home of Jilly’s Strip Club during our college years, and let’s just say the property has undergone a rather substantial renovation since those days. The Broadview makes our list in large part because of its indoor/outdoor rooftop patio – on the 7th floor, with unobstructed views of Toronto’s skyline.

The property is now a 58-room gathering place in an area of the city that’s fast evolving. Each of the room blends classic and eclectic, with luxury linens, even a vinyl record players. There are concierge services and onsite dining options, even pet-friendly rooms in the event you don’t want to leave your dog alone for the weekend. A look at their rates over a weekend in February featured a range – for example, a King Traditional room features 275 square feet of space, a Eurotop king bed, luxury linens, custom, locally crafted bathroom amenities and blackout blinds, as well as a custom made desk, and a 40” TV, and was going for $309 per night. Images from Broadview Instagram account.

The Broadview Hotel is offering a Bed and Breakfast promotion that includes a $30 breakfast credit per night per room for the Lobby Cafe and Bar