Definition of Shangri-La:
1. An imaginary remote paradise on earth; utopia.
2. any place of complete bliss, delight and peace
(source: online dictionary)
The Shangri-La Hotel Toronto is nether imaginary nor remote. On the contrary, housed in a stunning skyscraper, it enjoys a grand location on University Avenue in downtown Toronto within a stone’s throw of the city’s business, shopping and entertainment districts. Despite being real and situated in the heart of Canada’s largest city, the Shangri-La Toronto certainly lives up to its other definition: a place of complete bliss, delight and peace.
My stay at the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto
Bliss! This is exactly how I felt the moment I stepped into the hotel. For some odd reason, it felt a bit like a homecoming – I was welcomed like an old friend and that feeling never left me during my entire stay. It’s hard to say how the wonderful staff achieve this; perhaps it’s the gracious manner in which every guest is addressed, the sincere smiles, or the seemingly effortless but highly attentive (or rather, intuitive) service. Whichever way they do it, one thing’s for sure….. they do it very well! Throughout my stay, I couldn’t help but notice the glee I felt each time I walked through the hotel doors, a feeling somewhat akin to slipping into bed on a cold night to discover a hot-water bottle under the duvet.
The staff amazed me each day I was there. The waiter knew my preferred breakfast, the bartender knew my favourite wines and housekeeping knew exactly how I like my toiletries organised. In my book, it’s these subtle touches that make a huge difference in any hotel stay.
The small luxuries
At the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto, the small, luxurious touches weren’t limited to the service from the staff. Let’s start with my room. I stayed in a deluxe one-bedroom suite with a spacious living room, two large bathrooms and an equally large bedroom and walk-in closet!
I loved the way the lights came on the minute I opened my room door – sensors took care of that. At the writing table, there was an iPad in an elegant leather case, from which room service could be ordered, spa treatments booked and information requested from the concierge. The room also came with FREE WIFI; something of a rarity at five-star hotels so kudos for that! There was also a Nespresso coffee-machine (which I made full use of!) and two matching flat-screen televisions (in the living room and bedroom). The main bathroom was my favourite space. The marble floor was heated, the mirrors never steamed up, the shower was a blissful treat and the bath-tub doubled as a jacuzzi (one with a terrific view of downtown Toronto mind you!). Did I mention that there was also a television screen in the bathroom? The screen is cleverly embedded in the mirror, allowing me to do one thing I’ve never done before: watch the morning news as I brushed my teeth and shaved.
I also liked the fact that both bathrobes and yukatas (Japanese kimono-style bathrobes) were provided in the room. These touches, like the yukatas and the origami ornaments in the room, as well as the paintings on the walls by Wang Xu Yuan and the abundance of orchids, added a distinct Asian feel throughout the hotel, reflecting the Shangri-La’s Asian roots.
I soon discovered that the hotel has another prized asset: the BOSK restaurant. During my stay in Toronto, I ate at some of the city’s top restaurants such as Nota Bene and Luma, and BOSK ranks, in my view, right up there with them. Being part of a Hong Kong-based hotel chain, the first thing I thought I should try at the Shangri-La was the dim sum breakfast. I wasn’t disappointed; this became my staple breakfast during my stay. My dinners there were a tantalising feast – simply writing this makes my mouth water! Two dishes that I found absolutely outstanding were the seared scallops and the Pacific sablefish.
Indulgence at the Miraj Hammam Spa
The Shangri-La Hotel Toronto is home to the beautiful Miraj Hammam Spa. There are a variety of treatments and I chose the hammam, a treatment based on the ancient Arabic cleansing ritual. A spicy-scented steam bath was followed by a body scrub and an oil massage. The result: a relaxed me and skin that felt so fresh, it actually tingled!
The oasis gets buzzing
Whereas the hotel lobby is a tranquil oasis during the day, in the evenings, it bursts into a hive of activity. Locals and guests pack the lounge and bar for pre-dinner canapés and drinks, while music from the exquisite Fazioli grand piano fills the air. It’s a great opportunity, as I discovered, to strike up a conversation with the locals and test the bartender’s cocktail-making skills. I can recommend the Earl Grey Secret (an intriguing Earl Grey tea and gin cocktail)!
Needless to say, I truly enjoyed my stay at the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto and I was sad to leave when the time came. As I stepped into the car, I looked back at the cheery faces and smiled. I realised that I’d found my ‘Shangri-La’….. in the heart of downtown Toronto.
Read other Velvet Escape posts on Toronto.