The American Automobile Association and Canadian Automobile Association last week quietly released their new list of top-rated hotels and restaurants in Canada and the U.S., and it gave the (relatively) new Four Seasons hotel in Toronto a coveted five-diamond rating.
That brings the number of Canadian properties with five-diamond status to five in Canada: the Four Seasons in Toronto’s Yorkville area, the Ritz-Carlton Toronto downtown, the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal, the Four Seasons in Whistler, B.C. and the Shangri-La in Vancouver.
Which means Ontario is the only province with more than one five-diamond property and Toronto the only city with more than one of them. And that’s a good thing for tourism, even if most of us can’t afford to stay in any of these hotels on a regular basis. Or at all.
I’m always a tad surprised when I see these ratings. I did a story a few years ago in the Toronto Star on how the Canadian Automobile Association inspectors do their work, and it was a good piece if I do say so myself. Not because it was so well written, but simply because it’s such an interesting process.
The inspectors go through EVERYTHING when they rate a hotel. The guy I tailed along with for a day examined behind toilets and opened microwaves to see if spaghetti sauce had been splattered on the roof and not cleaned up. He looked at how beds were made and looked behind desks and dressers for dust bunnies. He also counted coat hangers, because a five-diamond property needs a certain number. And they can’t be wire like the ones most of us use. And they have to have at least a couple, as I recall, that have padding for delicate fabrics.
They also look at the quality of furnishings and floor tiles in the bathroom and even at how the hair dryers are stored. If they’re mounted on a wall, you’re staying in a hotel that doesn’t trust its customers and has no chance at a five-diamond rating. If they’re in the drawer, that’s better. But if they’re in a closet in a silk bag with the hotel’s name on it, that’s a home run.
I find it fascinating. I really do. And, if I’m not mistaken, there was only one five-diamond property in Canada a few years ago, the Four Seasons in Whistler. That hotel got five-diamond status in 2007. The Ritz Carlton Toronto (see photo above of the cheese cave at their terrific restaurant, TOCA) joined the club in 2011, while the Shangri-La Vancouver and the Ritz Carlton Montreal entered in 2012. And now the Four Seasons Toronto makes it five.
Lest we get all puffy chested by the sudden crowd at the top, keep in mind that the city of Chicago alone has four five-diamond properties, New York City has eight, Florida as a state has 13 and California is home to a whopping 19. I still have a sneaking suspicion that there’s either something in the water south of the border, or that maybe our inspectors are tougher than the Americans. Because I honestly can’t see how California can have almost four times the number of top hotels as Canada. And that’s my home state.
There are a ton of four-star properties across Toronto and Ontario; too many to mention. But among them are the Shangri-La and the Trump Toronto, both of which I’m sure have been hoping for five-diamond status. Especially Trump. And everyone raise your hand who feels sorry for The Donald.
Yeah, I thought so.
The AAA and CAA also have issued new five-diamond restaurant ratings. Just so you know, there are only six in all of Canada and NONE in Toronto. The only one in Ontario is Langdon Hall in Cambridge (see photo above). British Columbia got shut out entirely, but there is a five-diamond restaurant in Alberta; Eden at the Rimrock Hotel in Banff.
A whopping four of the six five-diamond eating spots are in the province of Quebec, and three of those are in Quebec City. Restaurant Initiale in Quebec City has been on the list since 2011, but this year inspectors added both La Toniere and Le Patriarche in Quebec City. Le Baccara in Gatineau, Quebec, has been listed as five-diamond since 2000.
There are only eight five-diamond properties in California and seven in New York, so Canada appears to be much more competitive when it comes to food versus hotels.
I also see that Chicago now has seven five-diamond eating spots, the same as New York. Nice.
If you total up the hotel and restaurant numbers, you’ll find Canada has gone from eight combined places with five-diamond ratings to 11. And that’s a pretty good jump.
A press release from the AAA said a total of 183 select establishments (124 hotels and 59 restaurants) throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean received the AAA/CAA Five Diamond Rating in the past 12 months, qualifying them for the 2014 Five Diamond Award list. The association also noted that five-diamond establishments represent just 0.3 percent of the current 59,000 AAA/CAA Approved and Diamond Rated establishments (29,000 hotels and 30,000 restaurants).
Also worth noting is that only one hotel has maintained the Five Diamond Rating for 38 consecutive years, since 1976 when the Diamond Ratings were first introduced for hotels. That would be The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Kudos to those who made the list. You’re in very select company.