Originally published October 9 2021 in The Toronto Star
One of the storied grand dames of Toronto hotels has finally taken off her facelift bandages. After a massive redesign that took almost four years, the Park Hyatt Toronto, famous in its old life for being a society mainstay and filmfest hot spot, reopened on Sept. 15 and I was among the first guests to check in.
OK, so you walk in and then…
To your left is the lobby-style Joni Restaurant — a brightly lit, soaring-ceilinged affair, where seeing and being seen is clearly on the menu. To the right is an intimate check-in area for overnight guests, with a crackling built-in fireplace and a groovy couch living its best perch-on-me life. The interior redesign, by Alessandro Munge of Toronto’s Studio Munge, was inspired by Canada’s seasonal landscapes, and the common areas feature plenty of wood, limestone flooring and neutral or pinky-orange tones. While work by Canadian artists is peppered throughout the property — including an impressive, large-scale beaded tapestry by Indigenous artist Nadia Myre in the restaurant — the overall vibe seems squarely aimed at the high-end business traveller or moneyed tourists who don’t like big surprises.
Tell me about the rooms
There are 219 of them, and some are fully wheelchair-accessible, with prices starting at $549 a night. My two-room corner suite is the kind of place where Succession’s Kendall Roy might go to plan a hostile corporate takeover while simultaneously having a tiny, chic nervous breakdown. It’s all very manly and plush — think navy carpeting, custom wood furniture with stylish rounded edges and Chablis in the mini bar. The white marble bathrooms stacked with Le Labo toiletries are a highlight — mine was big enough for its own mortgage and included a soaker tub and a large rain shower — and I was a fan of the vintage-y, three-mirrored vanity table tucked into the hallway between the bedroom and the palatial loo. Every room comes with a Nespresso coffee maker (though I had to call down for cream), Google Chromecast streaming and blackout curtains. Motion-sensor nighttime lighting under the bed and in the washroom lies in wait to give insomniacs a fright.
So, who’s coming here?
It remains to be seen who the out-of-town visitors will be once travel fully reopens, but for now the rooftop bar and the restaurant are being patronized by an obviously Yorkville-forward crowd, including Pilates-hardened boomers, the Saturday-night-heels-and-slinky-dress set, and a table full of brides-to-be in Gucci sneakers talking about how just everyone is booking their upcoming weddings at the Park Hyatt.
What’s on the menu?
Executive chef Antonio Soriano, who moved here from Buenos Aires, has crafted what he calls “multicultural, global and free” menus with a focus on local ingredients for both the full-service Joni and a separate bites lineup for the upstairs bar. Dinner is a tasty if slightly chaotic combination of French techniques and international influences. The waiter talks us into the sweet potato dish — a charcoal-roasted sweet potato topped with crisps made of its own skin and a peanut miso sauce — and he’s not wrong. Other dishes include chestnut-flour cappelletti stuffed with ricotta, lemon and chestnuts, topped with shaved black truffles, mushrooms and Madeira sauce, or lamb braised in a coffee-kombucha jus. For breakfast, lobster eggs Benedict seems over the top but is worth every bite, and you can get a hearty dollop of caviar on top of your avocado toast because, of course. There are also plans to offer a weekend high tea.
I’m suddenly feeling thirsty and exceptionally literate
Perfect! The iconic rooftop bar is now called Writers Room, in honour of the old-school Canadian literati who used to frequent the joint. (Margaret Atwood even set a scene of her novel “Cat’s Eye” here.) Writer-inspired decor, like framed collections of antique ink bottles and writing quills and a Douglas Coupland collage, are set among the sexy booth seating. It’s definitely a place where you can canoodle in a corner or, better yet, on the expanded outdoor terrace with its incredible view of the city. (Soft, luxe blankets for shivering damsels are a nice added touch.)
I hear there’s a massive subterranean spa
The famous Stillwater Spa will live to see another day in some form, but you’ll have to wait a little while longer for your haute hot-stone rubdown: there’s no date set yet for its reopening.