There’s a new kid on the chic, boutique hotel block.
With its sleek, minimalist design and au courant, hipster vibe, Thompson Toronto is a welcome addition to the upscale hotel market. Following a soft summer opening, the hotel was prepared to meet, and reportedly exceed, TIFF‘s haute hospitality standards. The scene of several premiere events, the hotel got an official seal of celebrity style approval by hosting TO’s most coveted, 2010 social events: Vanity Fair’s TIFF soiree and Richard Branson’s Virgin America touchdown. With its glamorous, rooftop infinity pool, TT – Thompson Toronto – is this city’s answer to NYC’s notoriously naughty, Plunge penthouse bar at the Gansevoort. And that’s a good thing, if you ask me.
Amusing celebrity bon mots that illustrate our American neighbour’s ignorance of all things Canajun-eh, adorn the public walls and walkways, like this one:
“ The cool thing about being famous is traveling. I always wanted to travel across the sea, like to Canada and stuff.” Britney Spears
Britney will be disappointed to learn we’re not an overseas destination. But if she’s a fan of this American hotel chain, with its cool, capital city locations, she’ll be right at home in TT’s cosmopolitan, fame friendly, hood.
“I don’t even know what street Canada is on.”Al Capone
Capone wouldn’t have any problems finding the hotel. Following the germane St. Germaine and the sexy Soho Met, its quarely situated in the heart of our exciting, ever-expanding, entertainment district. Located at the corner of Wellington and Bathurst, the Bell Lightbox is just a stone’s throw away. It’s another good thing.
TT’s exterior is modern and nondescript; it could easily be mistaken for a condo complex or another cool, converted-to-high-tech, warehouse. But the long, lean, doorman who lopes out to meet the cab, is right out of SATC central casting. He’s got a chestnut mop of chin length hair, tortoise shell glasses and a great big Colgate smile. This is just his day job. No matter, he’s all the right service staff stuff: friendly, engaged and engaging. The hotel scores a positive, all important, first impression. Stepping from sidewalk sunshine into a low light lobby causes momentary blindness. It’s very dark. One blink, then another brings the modern, minimal décor – soaring ceiling, dramatic crystal chandelier, black walls and bas relief artwork – into focus. The au courant, visual aesthetic extends to the hotel’s polite, polished, employees. The black, sheath clad, models slash clerks are easily as pretty as that black, coat clad, doorman slash actor. But he’s not alone; there’s more tall, dark and handsome boys wrangling luggage and flashing winning smiles. Next door, in the lobby bar, willowy, winsome girls glide between around carefully arranged conversation areas, dispensing drinks and dialogue. The stark, sparsely furnished interior and carefully cultivated personnel invites comparison to another exclusive NYC property: Ian Schrager’s Gramercy Park. It’s all so hip it almost hurts, which makes the superior customer service – sans superiority – a welcome surprise. That’s a very good thing.
“I believe the world needs more Canada.” Bono
Me? I believe the world needs more hotel room upgrades. Checking in, I discover the hotel automatically offers them to guests, when they’re available. Much appreciated – who doesn’t want to kick it up a notch – and so easy to offer, upgrading is a too seldom practiced policy, if you ask me. Rooms are spare, spacious and monochromatic with lots of hard, sound deflecting, surfaces: wood, glass, ceramic tile, cabinetry and porcelain. The generous, glass walled, sheer curtained bath is a study in natural light and lighter shades of white, but alas, no bathtub in sight. An enormous rain shower occupies half the bathroom’s square footage and, considering that sheer curtain, gives new meaning to a room with a view. The bedroom and generous sitting area have floor to ceiling, wrap around windows hat bathe the room in natural light and when opened, provide the ultimate luxury: fresh air. Decorated in neutral tones, this room has a chocolate stained floor, desktop and wardrobe. The vibrant hits of strategically placed orange – bed pillows, occasional chair and artwork – provide citrus relief in the room’s brown sea. Even the bed frame is upholstered in muddy, faux fur. Like the shag carpet, it’s unexpected and playful in an Aston Powers kind of way. Very groovy, baby!
“In any world menu, Canada must be considered the vichyssoise of nations – its cold, half French and difficult to stir.” Stuart Keane
There are two host restaurants in the hotel. Scarpetta offers ‘rustic but refined Italian’, and is helmed by signature NYC chef, Scott Conant. I’m told restaurant reservations require one month’s notice, but a call to the hostess confirmed same day, early or late night sittings were available. The Counter is a popular 24/7 diner that serves round the clock, comfort food. Its unapologetic, carb friendly menu offers all the right, sobering up stuff for rooftop revelers calling it a night at sunrise.
“I had no idea Canada could be so much fun!” Bruce Willis
The rooftop bar is promoted as an exclusive, guests and members only, club. Unlike Groucho, who never wanted to join a club that’d have him as a member, most of us are secretly seduced by exclusivity. Not so secretly for others, judging by the snaking-down-Wellington-St-lineup. On this Friday night, the Rooftop is rather more inclusive, than exclusive. With handfuls of bright and beautiful young things waiting for a ride to the top, club access is clearly less about semantics and more about economics. There’s no club cover but cocktails cost lots: a gin and tonic rings in at a cool as a cucumber garnish, $17. A glass of vin ordinaire is $19. Plus tips; exclusivity is expensive!
The bar is well situated and insulated to protect guests from boisterous crowds and driving, disco beats. It’s yet another good thing. Because TT’s rooftop – unlike the Hyatt’s Rooftop Bar – is one of the city’s very few, late night venues. So, as the clock strikes one, the party, the elevator and its inhabitants, are still ascending. With its dramatic infinity pool and wraparound terrace, this sexy, sophisticated venue is Toronto’s hottest see and be seen, in the summer or any season, scene. The pool is has been closed for months but the terrace, surprisingly, is open. Stepping out, the Bathurst-and-beyond view beguiles; the star lit streetscape is stunning. Who knew? Now I do. So do you. And, if Britney ever travels overseas to Canada, she will too.
Check in and check it out this winter season. At $199.00 for a queen room, TT’s rates won’t leave you breathless or burst your January belt tightened budget. Or skip the sleepover, slip up to the roof where you can sip, seduce and spend with the inn crowd. Who knows, you might even see Groucho there.