Toronto was all abuzz on October 5th, 2012. The day that many had awaited for, well years, had finally arrived. Since Four Seasons began in the city, and has always been headquartered there, it was pretty necessary to have a flagship luxury hotel in town, and sure enough, last year, it finally opened (the first guest had already arrived, early, and her suitcase had to be stored, which of course Four Seasons did with aplomb). The ribbon was ceremonially cut by the founding boss of the Four Seasons group, Isadore Sharp, who posed with the hotel’s manager and regional director Dimitri Zarikos, then-CEO Katie Taylor, and his wife Rosalie Wise Sharp. The gal could not, sadly, be in town, but she heard all about it..
When I finally arrive, the first thing that strikes me is the lobby, which soars 30 feet up. Areas are semi-partitioned off by open metal grilles, some decorated with stunning flowers (at opening time, Jeff Leatham, the Paris-based designer who did Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, came to advise the local floral specialist). I comment on the height of the lobby. Just like home, says the hotel’s interior designer Glenn Pushelberg, one of my all-time favourites – think Four Seasons Marunouchi in Tokyo, W Times Square in New York and St Regis Bal Harbour, north of Miami.
Some home, says I, though I did have to concede that my own home’s ceilings are nearly 20 feet high.
Here, the lobby is spacious enough to slot in, so to speak, a mezzanine restaurant, which has been designed by Mrs Sharp. When she did Four Seasons’ restaurants in London and Singapore she used masses of multi-coloured murano glass.
Here she has gone for subdued walls and columns, in pale mud-colour that looks as if has been deliberately coated to give ripples and ridges. These are decorated, however, with literally brilliant art works, mostly giant collages, done by Los Angeles-based Parisian nutcase Thierry Guetta, who works, Banksy-style, as Mr Brainwash, or MBW for short. Each work sells for over six digits, US-dollar-speak.
The restaurant that Mrs Sharp built is Café Boulud, yes, a full-sibling of the one I love in the Surrey, New York, and a close relation of another favourite, Maison Boulud in Ritz-Carlton Montreal. Here, the 156-seats are packed, even on a snowy Monday night. The chef sent out tasting plates of his home-made charcuterie, including a yummy pork head-cheese. After that I went veggie, Salad Tropézienne, with frisée on top of artichoke puree, and then nine-herb agnolotti pasta with tomato marmalade, unpuréed artichoke, parmesan and olives. And after that the Japanese patissière (sic) sent out things like a grapefruit givré. Learn something every day, gal – today’s erudition is learning a word that means sorbet stuffed into something.
Toronto residents have taken to the hotel’s amazing spa with gusto. It fortunately has 16 treatment rooms but, even so, works from dawn to dusk. Saturdays can see 160 supplicants waiting, at different times, to be beautified, say with 90-minute gold-beauty Omorovicza treatment, from Hungary.
When it is all over, you have gold dust on your arms to prove what you have been through. In my case, Kathy Kim only woke me from much-needed slumber-on-the-treatment-bed when she gently rolled two sort of lollipops, holding frozen blue liquid, around my eye sockets.
Rumour had it that, to get planning permission, the developers of this stunning luxury hotel had to promise the council they would spend a couple of million on beautifying public land around. Looking down from my 16th floor eyrie, I can see one of the results – a rose-shaped maze of paths in what will, in summer, indeed be a blooming flower garden. Looking across are historic Yorkville buildings, suitably restored. 210 residences rise 30 floors above the 21-floor hotel. The view from those must be even more spectacular..