Now for a duet of a pair of personalities in the Montreal luxury hotel arena, both of whom were key players at the 2023 Virtuoso Symposium held in this magnificent Québec city. First up on the stage is Andrew Torriani, Co-Owner and GM of RITZ-CARLTON MONTREAL.
The 11-floor building has been a feature of Montreal’s high society since it was opened by César Ritz in 1912. He cleverly bought in the Carlton Hotel Group to manage the hotel, hence the founding of the Ritz-Carlton brand. With similar astuteness, The Ritz turned to prominent people for financial and general support, names of the calibre of Sir Herbert Holt, President of the Royal Bank of Canada; shipping magnate Sir Montagu Allan, and textile tycoon Sir Charles Gordon. Fast-forward to today, and after a spell as an InterContinental the Ritz was bought by a consortium headed by hotelier Marco Torriani and his family. One of the terrific Torriani sons, Andrew, switched from helping run Air Canada to solely running the hotel.
Ritz-Carlton Montreal is unique in the brand in that is outside managed, which is synonymous with franchised. The service is at least up to the brand’s high levels but the words ‘ladies and gentlemen’ are less evident, white gloves are non-existent and bedrooms’ notepads are white not blue.
Summer-long there are also real live white ducks actively living in a palace on a mini island in a lake in the middle of a paddleball court-sized garden framed by the L-shaped Maison Boulud. Daniel Boulud has been a friend of the Torriani family for many years and his food scene here is maturely exciting. Enter, from Sherbrooke, a fairly dark bar, a blazing fire year-round and the glass-walled kitchen. Progress through to the inside restaurant area, with a semi-private room to your left. Continue on, to the conservatory, which can be open sided, or shielded from the elements by transparent ‘camping walls’.
Dinner here is simply good taste. Perhaps start with a Bernardaud plate holding tennis ball-size yellow heirloom tomato filled with burrata on a bed of jellied tomato water. Perhaps go on to a serious steak of foam-covered halibut with fried artichoke and sea asparagus. Superb fruit-studded focaccia and a glass of Barra of Mendocino 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon completed this repast. Interestingly, it does seem that Canadian wines do not feature heavily on Montreal wine lists. (Breakfast, however, can be entirely sense of place: Girlahead had Le Montréalais, superb home-smoked salmon on halves of toasted bagel spread with cream cheese and embellished with Lebanese cucumber, radish, and red onion.)
A red and white easel-board outside Maison Boulud points to Christian Louboutin up one flight of stairs. Yes, up there, a meetings ante-room is a scarlet-hued Louboutin pop-up, with exclusive styles that are not available in his permanent stores: Canadians, from the time of Sir Herbert Holt on, have always been a nation of fashion, retailers rather than designers. There’s a Tiffany store on the street corner, and, within the building, a working florist and an art gallery. Other things to mention, by the way, are two gorgeous 3-D pointillist artworks by Jane Waterous, companions to her work shown at FOUR SEASONS OCEAN CLUB in Nassau – and the glorious Winter Garden rear-lobby lounge (this, a reminder of MARK HOPKINS INTERCONTINENTAL, atop San Francisco’s Nob Hill).
Final unforgettables. There’s a pool, rooftop and indoors, and the gym’s great. The 139 bedrooms illustrate classic understatement, colours that do not intrude, beds that enable sleep. And oh the concierges. Two calm and unflappable female concierges showed yet again that when there is even the slightest tech challenge, choose a with-it luxury hotel and head for the youngest-looking person around.