Old school glamour is alive and well at the Ritz-Carlton – and strutting her stuff like never before. After four years and $200 million worth of transformation, the newly renaissanced urban oasis is back and better than ever…
It was a quintessential summer day in Montreal the afternoon of my first post-reno visit to the Hotel Ritz-Carlton Montréal. After admiring the cherry red Bugatti parked outside the entrance, I took a seat in the lobby and was soon approached by a server in a smart vest and slacks, “Mademoiselle, would you like something refreshing to drink?” Now that’s what I call classy.
That whopper of a chandelier in the Palm Court is an original from 1912, when the hotel opened exactly a century ago, as is the marble floor that was polished back to its newborn gleam. Princesses of Montreal, don’t fret, still there is the spiral staircase, which was a requirement of Cesar Ritz who understood the importance of “sense of arrival.” If you’re planning a wedding (or a gala, because why wouldn’t you?) and would like to celebrate it in the impressive Oval Room, take a number girlfriend. There’s already a waiting list.
Montreal foodies have been counting the days until the opening of star chef Daniel Boulud’s Maison Boulud. Perfect for summer, the atrium opens up onto a sweeping terrasse where everybody’s favourite pond awaits. The famous ducklings are still in rehearsal, but will be back soon I’m told. This restaurant (although completely changed) marks the spot of my very first birthday brunch with my boyfriend. So like many other Montrealers, I’m very sentimental about the Ritz.
The original room-count of 229 was scaled down to 130, bringing it closer to boutique hotel status. Whereas the rooms may have been boxy in the past, they’re now ultra spacious and elegantly redecorated with windows that actually open. The smallest size is a cozy 338 sq. ft., while the Junior suite is a handsome 600 sq. ft. La crème de la crème, the Royal Suite, is 4,700 sq. ft., making it the largest suite in city. History buffs may remember that Liz Taylor and Richard Burton famously got married here (their first marriage) by ordering a minister via room service.
Deep modern bathtubs are accessorized with chichi Bulgari toiletries. If you’re on the Sherbrooke Street side, you can enjoy your hot soak next to a window overlooking the Golden Square Mile. (Don’t worry; the blinds are one-way only.) Each bathroom has two sinks, a 19-inch flat screen, and a separate stand-up shower with rain, steam or power options. And don’t be frightened by the motion sensor toilet- its lid opens and closes automatically.
Bright and airy and lined with original Quebecois artwork purchased in the 1960s, the architects maintained the wide hallways, which they needed back in the day to swiftly lug those heavy steamer trunks from door to door. Yes, think Titanic size. A pool has been added to the top floor of the property. It’s still under construction, but I hear it will open onto a rooftop deck and that it’s a saltwater infinity edge style that is heated by recycled energy. Fancy and green.
Personalization is key to top service here. Rooms are “activated” upon check-in, meaning the floors in the bathroom heat up, the air or heater turns on, and even the original marble mantel (gas) fireplace, if your room includes one, starts crackling. Once you’re in your room, a heat sensor automatically turns on your “occupied” sign, so nobody will ever enter accidentally. Finally, when you leave the room (say to shop at the on-site Tiffany & Co. boutique), your temperature preferences are “memorized” so there’s no necessary fussing when you get back. Like I say, classy.
Hotel Ritz-Carlton Montréal, 1228 Sherbrooke West, (514) 842-4212
Photos: Eva Blue