Luxury Hotels

Montreal’s sensational new luxury Four Seasons hotel

The open atrium

Who remains the greatest Montreal-er in living memory? Leonard Cohen springs to mind. There is a 21-floor high mural of him, on Crescent Street – see the photo above. Artist Gene Pendon, working with a team of 15, created the 10,000 sq ft likeness from a photo taken by the singer’s daughter, Lorca Cohen.   As luck would have it, Cohen can be clearly seen from the city’s newest luxury lifestyle centre, originally conceived as a Thompson but it marvellously evolved into Four Seasons Hotel Montreal, and it opened 8th May 2019. The gal called in for a few hours before leaving town. It is an intriguing concept, with a direct 3rd floor opening to the Weston family’s Holt Renfrew (think Hong Kong’s Marco Polo direct to Lane Crawford, but they are both owned by Wharf) and, from the fourth floor up, an open atrium hosts futuristic sculpture – think The Peninsula Tokyo, but there the atrium ceiling is closed, here it is open to the sky.

No, not a hammam but the ladies’ washroom

There was once a Hotel de la Montaigne on this rue de la Montaigne site but then along came local entrepreneur and retailer, Andrew Lutfy of Groupe Dynamite. He is already billed as keynote speaker at the C2 Montréal thinktank, 27-29 May 2020: by that time he will be able to share a year’s experience of his 163-room hotel, which opened 8th May this year. It might be Lutfy’s first hotel but he knew, and knows, what today’s lifestyle followers want (I have not yet met Mr L but I gather that for him the word ‘lifestyle’ is even more important than the word ‘luxury’). He got Gilles & Boissier to do most of the interiors, which include ladies washrooms that are more like a hammam. He wanted bedrooms with clear glass walls allowing see-throughs to freestanding corium bathtubs – see the video below – and he OKed finest-crystal bathroom glasses, Riedel naturally.

Fish drying chamber, with scarves

There is an eight-room spa with airy off-white colouring and somewhat narrow corridors that could pose challenges for sumos and, indeed, many of today’s normal people by the time they have wrapped white towel robes around their torsos (by contrast, the large all-white sauna makes you want to sing. The 24/7 airy fitness centre has a new range of Precor pieces that almost made me yodel as I followed its alpine walkway, complete with on-screen cowbells. It is the third floor, however, that is showcase, and cash machine, for the hotel. Four Seasons appointed a first-time GM, who had been number two in the Macau hotel, but they cleverly hired a highly creative and locally-experienced Director of Sales and Marketing, Alex Tessier, who had, at a previous boutique hotel in Montreal’s Old City, won a global marketing award where finalists included Accor, at corporate level.  Here, he was determined to have the restaurant full from the first night – what do you think first-timers thought of the restaurant entrance, going in past a glass-walled fish drying cabinet that is also incongruously hung with designer scarves?

Caprese, by Marcus

And, sure enough, Marcus, the restaurant, has indeed, despite being upstairs on the third floor, been full from day one. Part of its success is its layout, with indoor seating and, year-round, a covered terrace. Marcus Samuelsson, he of Red Roosters and others, is a big draw to those who know him and his easy-to-eat food: his menu here is traditional French brasserie, with raw bar and fish of the day and a few infiltrations, say sashimi and quite honestly one of the best capreses in a long time. From Marcus you can sashay around the Social Square, the third floor of this luxury hotel, taking in the low barrelled ceiling of the night club, and the speakeasy-type booth for two, ideal for paparazzi-phobes who want links to a mixologist and no-one else. And from the third floor Leonard Cohen is so close you feel you can touch him. WANT TO SEE ROOM 1005?

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Luxury Hotels

Simply Sunday – going local is not always as easy as it sounds

Lamb three-ways

The gal really wanted to have a Québecois dining experience, start to finish. Sofitel Montreal Le Carré Doré, on Sherbrooke Street, seemed to be a luxury hotel that could provide it. Its lovely restaurant, Renoir, has a French chef and a French pastry chef, Olivier Perret MCF  and Roland Del Monte MOF, respectively.  The hotel also has a one-time chef, Marc Pichot, as its GM – the passionate and charismatic Marc Pichot, above. And he is French.

Oh well, at least the menu offered hope in this quest. I started off with Heirloom Quebec tomatoes three ways, with focaccia, taggiashe olives and basil.  I went on to Quebec lamb three ways – belly, flank, sweetbreads – cooked with spelt, artichoke and almond (see photo on left). Both courses were exquisite.  There was a challenge with the wine: instead of a local I somehow ended up with a first-class Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne 2017 Pinot Noir Les Ursulines Nuits-St-Georges, in an American, C&S, glass. BUT, and this is what made the meal overall ‘Québecois’, the service was outstanding, thoughtful, personal and professional. And so I feel the evening achieved its intent. That was my Montreal dinner, in a first-class restaurant that just happened to be in a luxury hotel.

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Luxury Hotels

Montreal’s Fairmont, upgraded, is unrecognisably gorgeous

GM/RVP David Connor

Hard to believe, but it is a decade since the gal stayed at Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, Montreal’s anchor hotel above the main rail station. This is where, in 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their famous Give Peace A Chance love-in, in suite 1742.  Since then things have moved on and up, fast. There is a commemorative all-wall photo of the pair in the lobby, but the real art is truly sensational: the image above, taken in the really good 21st floor Fairmont Or lounge, is an Escher-like steel model, Révolution 2010, for Michel de Broin’s five-floor-high staircase at the Jacobin Convent in Toulouse.  The hotel re-opened 2017 after an astronomical renovation, which included not only spending on art but on converting third-floor bedrooms to small-size meeting rooms.

Tennis display in the lobby

Each unique, these rooms have such names as Ping (yes, that room’s carpet is grass green and the communal meeting surface is a ping-pong table) and Swing (see what is hidden in an alcove – photo above left). The hotel’s GM, David Connor, who also heads Accor for Eastern Canada, reckons the new-concept spaces more than compensate for losing bedroom revenue.  He still has 952 rooms and suites to fill every night, which, with average stay of 1.2 nights, means an awful lot of check-ins and check-outs every day. There is now, fortunately, a massive exaggerated-typeface artwork, Alexandre Berthiaume’s Typospective AI 2017, occupying the entire wall behind Reception to look at, in case you have to wait 30 seconds.   There are also special events in the lobby. As sponsor of the men’s Coupe Rogers 2019 tennis tournament, the hotel not surprisingly had game-related displays, and rangy muscular-calved guys, in the lobby.

The lobby’s food market

But the entire lobby has changed. The inner-circle Beaver Club gourmet restaurant is now Agora, an open space for displays and meetings. Whatever may have been there before is forgotten but the new Artisans gourmet supermarket is sensational, like a Dean & DeLuca meets Whole Foods, right in the hotel: I bought a cobb salad there, it was made on-site, tasted good. From here you can circle round to the new all-day eating-drinking venue, Roselys (do not ask me what the name means and sorry, I forgot to ask). This is so modern, different heights and types of seating. Why go out when you can eat and drink so well here?

A Roselys vignette

There is also a coffee corner, Krema. Yes, the temptation was to sign up Starbucks, says the canny David Connor, but every Tom, Dick and Harry does that.  Far more impressive is to work with local coffee companies and perfect something just right for this so well-established hotel, where top executives meet and stay as a matter of course during the long months when Montreal is a business and convention centre. And when those stalwarts go on vacation, some return with their kids, rooms become just family venues, and the hotel’s operations adapt accordingly. That flexibility is just one sign of a luxury hotel, and its staff. AND NOW SEE SUITE 2054

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