Some say Canada is a real blend between North American and European styles. You might say the same thing about Canada’s most successful – and sexiest – boutique hotel chain.
I recently spent a night at Hotel Le Germain Toronto on Mercer Street. I’d stayed before, but I was told they’d done some substantial work on the rooms and wanted to see what they’d done to one of my favourite hotels.
Luckily, the lobby is pretty much the same; with a lovely fireplace on two levels and high ceilings and plenty of polished wood. There’s a massive bookcase on one wall lined with art books and comfortable seating areas that give the place the feel of a cozy library meeting a Parisian or New York loft apartment.
It’s not quite a grand hotel of the past that makes you feel you’ve become a member of royalty or stepped into some urban daydream, but it’s far more welcoming than some of the condo-style lobbies you see at places like the Trump and the new Four Seasons, which feel more like a private residence than a welcoming public space.
The rooms haven’t been given a pretty good makeover. Mine was generously-sized with a lovely bathroom and new, off-white Corian tiles on one wall, plenty of counter space for my crap (I mean my wife’s and my toiletry bags) and a great rain shower. As before, there are wooden slats on the outside of the shower wall so if you want to put on a show for your partner while you soap up, you can do that. More modest folks can leaves the blinds closed and let their partner or friend sleep in peace.
There was plenty of counter space, again, for a business person to spread out, as well as a kettle with David’s Tea products and a Nespresso machine as well as a small fridge/mini-bar. One thing that’s new is they’ve done away with some of the blocky bits of furnishings and created more space.
I had a double-wide sleek, black chair that was great for reading, located off to one side of the oh-so-comfortable bed. I also liked the small bookcase bits in the bathroom and main room, which give the place more of a homey feel than some hotel rooms.
One of the walls was a deep grey, covered in a felt-like product called Svelte, that’s meant to improve acoustics and provide a “cocoon effect.” The floors were a similar colour and the ceiling was painted dark. It’s a nice contrast with the natural wood and brilliant white bedding, but a tad dark. I cranked all the lights up but was barely able to get things to what I consider a comfortable reading level. Personally I think a lighting boost from above or perhaps a floor lamp near the chair would be a nice touch. But maybe that’s just me.
I couldn’t seem to turn down the temperature in my room on an unusually warm January night in Toronto. The desk clerk said something about a two-way pump and that there was no A/C in winter. It would’ve been nice to manually lower the temperature but when I called downstairs they quickly brought a large fan to the room so I could sleep at a temperature I liked.
I’ve always been a big supporter of European breakfasts, and here again Le Germain straddles the line between European and more traditional North American offerings. There wrtr several kinds of cheese and three kinds of sliced meats, as well as five types of jam and five styles of granola; aphrodisiac with dark chocolate, roasted almonds, currants and Siberian Ginseng. The coffee is good and strong, with lattes and cappuccino delivered to your table, and there was also several types of fruit and cereal and yogurt, plus various pastries, including good if not quite Paris-quality croissants. You also can order omelettes or an English style breakfast or Chia spiced French toast with yogurt and summer fruit chutney, which I might’ve tried in the days when I had a stronger metabolic rate.
I quite enjoyed dinner at Victor, as well. It’s got a nice ambience; not too large, with massive, overhead lights that look like regular table lamp shades that were force fed steroids at an early age. Our server, Jason, was excellent and we dined on good crab cakes and excellent sushi pizza; with fresh fish over the top of crispy rice.
They do a surf t and turf special on Saturdays, with four nicely grilled and slightly spicy shrimp to go with a just-right portion of steak and truffle potatoes with rich, marvellous chanterelle mushrooms. The branzino (Mediterannean sea bass) was most with a perfectly crispy skin and bits of fennel. We also were offered a fantastic amuse bouche; a zucchini and onion fritter on tomato confit that simply popped with flavour.
They do various specials during the week, such as Burger and Beer or Wine nights, Buck a Shuck oyster nights and other options. The dinner menu when I was there had two types of burgers and steak frites, and a nice-sounding pasta with short rib. Another fresh fish would be a welcome addition, but, again, maybe that’s just me.
We didn’t have room but the coffee and donuts dessert with homemade donuts and coffee ice cream sounded amazing.
We had nice drinks from the bar, as well. My Mama’s Boy came with Makers Mark bourbon, house made honey and lavender syrup, egg white, bitters, a mescal rinse and lavender seeds scattered on top. It was light and tasty. My wife had a lovely Le Germain with St. Germain elderflower liquer cucumber vodka, citrus and sliced cucumber; light and summery.
Upstairs near the breakfast room you’ll find a lovely work of art with a tree and an urban scene made up of what looked like luggage tags wrapped in plastic. It sounds weird, but it’s quite something.
A couple minor quibbles but all in all still a lovely, hip, sophisticated and ,yes, European style retreat in the heart of Toronto. And still my favourite hotel in town.
TOUR RADAR – A NEW WAY TO SAVE
I hadn’t heard a lot about this company until recently. But Tour Radar appears to have some lovely deals for travel packages around the world. They’ve hooked up with Toronto-based G Adventures and other companies to offer deals on travel from Canada to Europe to Asia and more.
They have an “on-line travel expo” happening Jan. 23-30, with travel at up to 55 per cent off. So check them out.