This one’s for the ladies. When you’re planning your next girl’s getaway, here are four freebies (personal assistance, make-up application, dinner and drinks) to give you that special VIP feel – and save you a few bucks for shopping spring essentials like a new pair of Marc Jacobs sunglasses or Lanvin flats. Eyes on the prize…
1 Free personal shopper at Holt Renfrew: Suhaila Niazi works at this haute department store doing clothing and wardrobe assessment. “I get a lot of clients from the U.S,” explains Niazi. “They say “I’m coming down this weekend. I need a dress for such-and-such event. Can you help me?”” At which point Suhaila starts a file and takes note of your size, skin colour, hair colour and budget. “If someone tells me she’s got $1,000 to spend, I think of Elie Tahari, DKNY or Theory. If it’s more like $5,000, I go to Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Prada – and I throw in the Louboutins.”
Now, I don’t usually open my personal black book to the world, but you can call Suhaila directly on her cell at (514) 292-6974 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to text her at 3am from Paris when you’ve forgotten if the blouse you bought goes with the slacks or the leather skirt. I swear she won’t mind. If you’re shopping with/for a man, ring up her cohort Dany Roussel, (514) 212-9907 (or email email@example.com), who’s able to outfit any kind of guy, from banker or lawyer type to creative art director.
Some people pay big bucks for one-on-one assistance like this, but at Holt Renfrew it’s part of their customer service. Your free total consultation includes a 90-minute dress-a-thon in a private dressing room where a rolling rack of your custom pre-selections awaits. Beside her regular clientele, Suhaila also outfits a lot of movie stars, like she did with Johnny Depp (whom she dressed for scenes in Secret Windows), Angelina Jolie (Taking Lives) and Halle Berry (Gothika). There’s no extra charge for the girly gossip either.
2 Free make-up application at the Chanel Beauty Space at the Bay: Most make-up counters at department stores offer free applications, but I just get giddy thinking about the Chanel Beauty Space at the Bay downtown. There’s enough room to accommodate you and your five gal pals. Test out the newest eye palettes, latest lip shades and freshest fragrances under the trained eyes of make-up professionals. If you’re going out for an important event, you can even book a one-hour appointment for a full application. Chances are you’ll need to buy that lip-gloss and eye shadow for touch-ups later anyway, but it’s the “complimentary” thought that counts – and think of all the savvy tips you’ll glean! My girl Larissa, who’s the Assistant Manager there, bless her soul, taught me some magic tricks on how to distract light from those wrinkles around my eyes. That alone is worth the visit.
3 Free dinner at Bond Bar & Lounge: Okay, you have to buy a cocktail or split a bottle of wine with your bestie, but when you do, you eat for free on Wednesday nights. Drink for your supper! You’ll get a fixed menu that offers a soup entrée and a main course. Last week, the choices included a goat cheese salad with almonds, cranberries, caramelized onions and baguette, or, grilled salmon plus a salad with fruit and fig vinaigrette. Reservations are highly recommended. (Also, I know I’ve mentioned this a half dozen times by now, but I am a big fan of the nearby Rouge Nail Bar and Bleu Blow Dry Bar, pictured in the video up top, for group manicures and hair styling. As you know, getting ready for your girl’s night out can sometimes be just as fun as the night out itself.)
Back to Bond, the scene is laidback, trendy and lounge-y with a 25 to 35-year-old kind of clientele. Head bartender, Miriah, recently added some new drinks on her spring drink menu. Sweet-tooths can try the “Spicy Chocolate,” which was inspired by a martini Miriah tried in Moscow that had a chilli pepper in it. She did it her own way by adding dark chocolate, and mixing Ketel One vodka and muddled chilli peppers. Then she shakes it with Frangelico. Or you can opt for the popular “Holly Goodhead” (yup, from the James Bond flick) that has vodka, fresh strawberry purée and cassis. It’s also known as the Pink Martini.
4 Free bubbly at Garconnière: Speaking of pink, lovelies get a free glass of rosé sparkling wine between 5 p.m. and midnight on Fridays, hence the name, Pink Fridays. The semi-subterranean space is cute and small, with old stonewalls and a central fireplace. The musical vibe is lounge/house, with a little bit of dancing around 12 o’clock. You can stick around for dinner, but you must try the oysters ($18 half dozen or $36 for 12). The crowd is a little older, mainly sophisticated professionals, aged 35-and-up. Head bartender Alissa assures that everyone is usually “very well put together – there are “no baggy pants, no slurring of words.” It’s a Champagne bar, so the drink menu is fancy and long– but, hey, you’re also free to take your time.
Holt Renfrew, 1300 Sherbrooke Street West, (514) 842-5111
The Bay, (514) 281-4422, ext. 2650
Bond Bar & Lounge, 101 Fairmount Avenue West, (514) 759-6607
Garconnière, 343 Saint-Paul Street East, (514) 543-8274
Photo Credits: Bond- Serhio