One King West a great hotel in downtown Toronto

OKW Lobby(1)Great downtown Toronto location? Check.

Sleek room design with a kitchen and laundry? Check.

Chic lobby with a giant bank vault in the basement and a huge, grand hall upstairs? You got it.

I had a chance to bed down at the historic 1 King West Hotel and Residences on the weekend and came away hugely impressed.

I had a model suite and not all rooms look like mine just yet, but I’m told they’re being renovated and mine will be pretty typical. The suite I had on the 10th floor was quite large and comfortable; probably 425 square feet.

There was a nice desk setup (always important for biz types) and a good-sized TV and a comfy chair, with a just-right king bed with nice linens. The room was done up in charcoal/dark wood tones with a bright orange pillow on the bed and a giant, circular, orange mirror. Very cool and jazzy.

The bathroom had both a tub and a terrific shower with an adjustable head and plenty of power. The hot water came on instantly, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as you would think in properties of this calibre.

1-IMG_8983They have a variety of rooms sizes, ranging from 359 square feet (still pretty good compared to a lot of hotels you’ll find) up to 600 and beyond. They also have a one-bedroom suite that’s a whopping 789 square feet.


Wi-Fi currently is only free in the common areas but they’re working towards a system where all suites will have free wireless Internet access. There are USB ports in the suites so guests can charge their devices. They don’t have iPod docks now but I’m told they’re upgrading the alarm clocks they have now.


The kitchens are a huge benefit. There were two burners and a microwave and a sink with all the dishes and cutlery you’d need to make a sandwich or a pasta dinner to save money. Plus a refrigerator, which was perfect for chilling the nice Flat Roof Manor Pinot Grigio we sampled prior to dinner and for chilling a bottle of Two Oceans sparkling wine I had on hand for a special occasion.

My unit also had a combined washer/dryer, which I’ve never seen in North America. A little guy, to be sure, but it’s another way for a business person to save some dough, either his or her own or for the company.

I didn’t get a chance to use it, but the rooftop gym on the 17th floor looks quite airy and bright. And they have some wonderful meeting rooms with excellent city views and lots of light, plus the fabulous Grand Hall on the second floor with its soaring arches and a ceiling that’s almost high enough for a helicopter to take off.  It’s one of the highlights of downtown Toronto architecture in my opinion.

The hotel is connected to the city’s underground and the King St. TTC/subway station is maybe 10 feet out the front door.

One thing I always like in a hotel is a sense of place. They accomplish that nicely in the lobby areas and main floor hallways at 1 King West via some great historical photos of the downtown 1904 fire and great shots of the old City Hall.

My room had lovely, nostalgic prints of women in big hats and kids frolicking in the sand at Sunnyside Beach.

The lobby has huge ceilings and lovely lighting, as befits a former bank building (it was headquarters for the Dominion Bank in the late 1800’s) and an Ontario Heritage site. And there’s a lower-level bank vault, complete with one of those giant gold doors you see in the movies, that is sometimes used for special functions. If you ever get the chance to go, don’t miss the opportunity to see it. I was only there once but it left a great impression on me.

1-IMG_8989The entrance off King St. is glorious, with creamy marble and gold railings in a soaring room that reminds us of the times when people actually cared about craftsmanship. It’s really quite something.

I had a lovely dinner at Bistro in the lobby area. The menu isn’t huge since the hotel is surrounded by so many restaurants. But I had a very good pasta dish with chicken and mushrooms in a cream sauce and a very nice appetizer of fried scallops and calamari. I also tasted a nice chicken satay appetizer with a tasty ginger glaze and a risotto cake, which was excellent. I recommend the molten lava chocolate dessert with berries, too. They also have a great breakfast buffet with tons of choices, including Canadian bacon and fresh fruit and nice omelettes with plenty of veggies and other tasty bits.

The wine list could use a bit of a boost, in my opinion. There are decent offerings from South America, Australia and Europe and the prices are reasonable, but I think biz types would probably like to see some higher-end wines and maybe better selection from Canada and California.

I also think the bartending service might need an upgrade. I had a decent La Paloma with tequila and lemon-lime but the bartender struggled when we asked for a French 75 with Champagne, gin and lemon juice. It didn’t come out well, but she had the courtesy not to charge for it.

All in all, I’d give the place a very solid two thumbs up. The wine list could do with some improvement and perhaps the bar. But there’s a nice aesthetic to the place and it’s handy and handsome and not overly pricey.

The cheapest regularly priced room for a Friday in late February was listed today at $190. But the website also was showing specials from now until Feb. 28, with rooms starting at just $127.

NOTE: Jim Byers’ blog appears several times a week. His visit to One King West was subsidized by the hotel.


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