Toronto’s newest luxury installation impresses even the most seasoned travel connoisseur.
“Isn’t the Hazelton Hotel perfect…”, purred a well-known Italian hotelier, who had better remain nameless.
He was in Toronto, Canada, to see friends and, like us, had just overnighted at the hotel which opened August 2007 to iconoclastic acclaim. Well, it is part of the elevation of Toronto’s luxury lifestyle offering, says Joel Rosen, the consultant who, with The Hazelton’s owners, Peter Cohen and Bruce Greenberg, and ongoing consultant Klaus Trenter, made The Hazelton into an immediate brand.
The Mercedes pulled into a sideway off Yorkville, a young man in black opened the door and we walked into a tall-tall reception corridor, a memory of grey dominated by two shiny steel sculptures, both about 12 feet high, both composed of piles of fake suitcases piled haphazardly on top of each other. The parlor – off which the concierge and reception have separate cubby-holes is again grey, with stunning sculptures. A dark steel ‘pair’ of people twine around each other. Three dark pots are set in such a way that the gapes between appear, if you close your eyes, to be two nude people about to confront each other. The pair of elevators have green slate floors, and glass walls etched with a damask pattern. You find the same damask pattern, black on a white background, flanking some room doors: the hotels 77 rooms and suites are on floors two through four of the seven floor limestone and brick building, with 16 residential apartments above.
Hotel bedroom floors have wide corridors with rust carpeting with a white trellis pattern. We proceed to a cubist-type multi-color original oil painting, and go round behind it to Hazelton Suite 305. We realize immediately this is a typical design by the cult design duo Yabu Pushelberg, a symphony of grey, black and darkest brown. Enter into the foyer, turn left to the parlor or go straight ahead to the bedroom, with the walk-through closet and bathroom to its left. Most of the flooring is polished narrow-plank dark wood, all the walls are grey, or wide-plank wood, there are black-net sheer and shiny bronze light-blocking drapes, controlled by bedset panels. The corner parlor, as if in a corner turret, looks out over Yorkville and Hazelton Avenues. It has a round table with six grey armchairs, grey velour sofas and a grey carpet, and heavy-heavy art books on Vogue. There are 42-inch Panasonic plasma televisions on a wall here, and in the bedroom, and a television screen is set into the bathroom mirror.
The main bathroom – there is a guest powder room, with linen-look paper towels – is lined in giant slabs of milk-mottled green granite. You have overhead and hand-held showers, and a deep Kohler soaking tub. Two oval sinks are set in more granite. Toiletries are Bulgari’s White Tea, and Mascioni ribbed towels are Turkish. Mascioni has also provided the bedlinens, which are Italian, 300-count, making up a bed that has a Serta pillowtop mattress.
Klaus Trenter and his team thought of everything, including free WiFi, ample sockets, and adaptors from UK electric plugs (and the bathroom television was already tuned to BBC World). There is a safe, and a minibar that comes filled with your choice (no alcohol, but what is there is free). As well as a Nespresso machine there is a kettle, and the teabags are not your usual, but silk-covered tea portions in hotel-branded tins from The Tea Emporium. At night turndown, a maid in a grey uniform left a large Boutique Caterer double double espresso chocolate chip mocha cream cookie, plastic wrapped and tied with grey satin ribbon marked ‘Welcome to the Extraordinary’, and room service doorknob on a grey card held in a black folder. A two-page weekly newssheet, The Extraordinary, recommended local restaurants and gave opening times for main museums and stores, including Whole Foods Market, a block away. There had been time for a somewhat-bracing swim, in a subterranean pool in a marble-lined room (how nice to find a bikini-drying machine).
It was time for dinner, at the hotel’s wildly-popular ONE restaurant, a joint venture with Toronto restaurateur Mark McEwan. We went down around 8:45pm and the place was buzzing. There must have been a hundred people sitting or standing in the large, spacious bar (tall ceilings, wood floors, and dark grey cowskin wall panels to absorb the noise). We were led by a chic young woman in a black-wrap DVF-type dress through to the restaurant, another BIG area, like a box with one side, the one that is all glass, squeezed in and out. Once again, dark colors apart from shiny steel-frame and sandalwood-colored leather arm chairs. There are wood floors and those grey cowskin panels, right up to the white ceiling, absorbed the noise. Here every table was taken, to give about 150 diners all having an excellent time. Yes, one was wearing a pale lemon dress but everyone else was in – dark, dark, preferably black, be it sweater or suit or whatever. Our dark-haired waiter, from Spain, was also in black, a kind of shapeless shirt and long pants.
White Tafelstern china and a linen napkin sit on a pale mushroom damask cloth, the same color as the napkins and the single-card menus. These are easy to read, and somewhat frustratingly feature simply nothing that you do not want. First courses, salads, soups, pasta, fish and seafood, meat, vegetables, potatoes and grains – and you have not even got to desserts – and you want them all. Dinner is, however, served from 4.30pm until midnight (according to the menu, which also lists the names of executive chef Andrew Ellerby, pastry chef Tony Accettola and manager Tim Salmon) so if you went in at the start you could easily eat your way through.
This is family-style, so all dishes come in serving containers, for people to help themselves. We had seared king scallops, complete with the oyster-orange, and du puy lentils and lardons – also a brilliant dish of roasted bits of carrot with chunks of avocado and orange segments, cumin and coriander. We went on to sweetbreads with onion puree and pancetta – and a hearty braised beef short rib with horseradish and parsley, with a couple of sides (creamy spun mashed potatoes with chives, and Asian greens). We drank wines by the six-ounce glass, poured from the bottle, Manzanita Chardonnay 2005 from California and Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc 2006 from New Zealand, and Castle Rock Pinot Noir 2006, Mendocino, California. Next visit, I promise I will try the Hazelton Martini, chilled navan vanilla cognac, Stolichnaya vanilla vodka with a splash of Frangelico garnished with a hazelnut.
After an excellent night’s sleep I went for a run, and then finished off in the 24-hour gym. I recommend breakfasting in the room (the juice is just fabulous, squeezed at three that morning, I was told), and then, before putting your face on, if you are a girl you should head straight down to the spa run by the divine beautician Linda McDonald-Ferris. Her 90-minute session, using Yon-ka and Valmont products, was the most amazing sensual experience – apparently I fell asleep, possibly because of the cuddly little cashmere socks she had given me to put on. She finished me off with a potion that apparently had real gold in it. I dashed upstairs, finished my face, and off we went.