The Drake Hotel, despite its slightly snooty atmosphere, is one of our favourite hotels in Toronto. Small, intimate and completely art mad, you'll have a hard time finding something like it in the rest of the world, let alone in Toronto. There are so many quirky details incorporated in one space that it's hard to know where to begin! It's a hotel that people love to hate because it's got everything just right - but let us reassure you: it's all true. The Drake is one of those hotels that has something for everyone, be in an outdoor space, live music, an incredible flair for art, cosy rooms or friendly staff, the Drake has it all. Located right in the centre of Toronto's art-hub on Queen Street West, this is a great base to explore the rest of the city from, especially for guests who like to do something different every evening without having to go too far afield. The hype that surrounds this hotel is absolutely and completely justified - it is rare that we give hotels a 10/10, but The Drake deserves top marks. Congratulations to the Drake team for getting it spot on!
Located at number 1150 Queen Street West, it is just up the street from Toronto's other main art hub, The Gladstone (see our review). Although it feels remote from the rest of the city hustle and bustle, this is the best place to stay if you are into your art as the bulk of art galleries and artist workshops stretch along Queen Street West and further away from the city. The main city centre isn't too far though - there is a tram line that runs all the way there in less than 15 minutes. There are two airports in Toronto - the city-centre airport, which is on the islands just off the mainland and the Pearson Airport, which is the main international airport - both are within a 20 minute drive of the hotel (traffic-depending).
The Drake has a main restaurant where live music concerts often take place and this area can get very full, especially during Nuit Blanche (end September/beginning October), so make sure you get there extra early during events or book a table well in advance.
The hotel doesn't have a gym on site, but guests can use the Sudbury Gym just across the road for free.
Stepping into this wondrous little boutique hotel is like stepping into a Wonderland of contemporary art - which, you'll realise soon enough, is the main focus at the hotel. People flock from all over the city to see the exhibitions that take place here - well, it's so much an 'exhibition', but the art is curated throughout the hotel and the lady in charge of coordinating the entire project is Mia Nielsen.
Curator extraordinaire, Mia not only handpicks every piece of art shown at The Drake, be it photography, video, sculpture or paintings, but she is also a goldmine when it comes to taking people around the hotel for an art tour and she knows her stuff! Some projects are more ambitious than others, but on the whole, you'll see art that you've never seen before, including pornography in one of the restaurants! But worry-not, unless you get up close, it is hardly noticeable, and that's the art of putting rather unusual art in unpredictable places. The piece that we actually appreciated the most during our stay, was the Michael Toke piece in the stairwell up to the Sky Yard. Subtle and extremely clever, this interactive piece gives the viewer as much they want to see. The seemingly pretty turquoise wash with a Japanese undertone, reveals itself via the mirror sculpture that sits in the cabinet on the other opposite wall and each little mirror is positioned to reflect a specific piece of the painting, and a rather raunchy piece at that! Having passed it many times, we felt rather silly at not having taken notice before our art tour with Mia.
Spectacular in its uniqueness, Mia explained that she's always on the prowl for new ideas and the crazier, the better - all whist keeping them more than subtle of course, for part of her role is to think of the little people that stay here too. Mia explains "I'm also interested in a kind of complexity because the works are up for quite a long time, and so people will pass a work many, many times. I'm interested in (showing) them something that may offer them some surprises once they've seen it six, seven or 10 times."
For the rest of the dazzling collection, we won't spoil the surprise!
Hiding behind its creative vibe, there is over a hundred years of history - the hotel was originally built in 1890 but before becoming the cultural landmark it is today, it changed hands a few times. It was in 1949 that it was snapped up by new owner, Michael Lundy, who refurbished it entirely. In 2001 the current owner, Jeff Stoeber, undertook an entire renovation of the hotel whilst keeping much of the interiors as they were, including the lobby and main staircase, which gives the hotel its irresistible charm.
And before we forget, the facilities you will be able to find here are in-room massage (we strongly recommend you book well in advance in order to avoid disappointment), the deli café, main restaurant and superb ever-changing pop-up restaurant on the ground floor, the nightclub in the basement, and Sky Yard up on the roof, which gets extremely lively in the evenings, especially during a video screening.
Overall, an incredible awe-inspiring and best of all, dynamic project, we feel privileged to have spent a couple of nights here during our trip in Toronto.
There are 19 rooms altogether and what beautiful rooms they are too. If you like all things retro, with a touch of contemporary chic, then this is the place to stay. Most of the rooms have a similar decor, but vary in size (150 sq.ft to 385 sq.ft). There are four categories: Crash Pad, Den, Salon and Suite.
Crash Pads are the smallest rooms but they are cosy and they have everything you could need. All rooms have queen size beds, a stylish ensuite bathroom sealed off with a glass wall, high-end Malin and Goetz bathroom products in generous sizes, charcoal hardwood floors or carpets, custom furniture, and all the expected mod-cons including a flat-screen television, DVD/CD player, iPod docking station, complimentary Wi-Fi, safe and mini-bar. The Suite has a mid-century living area with distressed furniture.
In terms of comfort and style, Drake's rooms win hands down and definitely have the wow-factor when you walk in.
The Drake has four restaurants/bars and we won't blame you if you have trouble making up your mind about which to try first! Let us reassure you: no matter what you choose, you won't be disappointed, but do plan to spend a little more than usual as eating here isn't the cheapest of options in town.
The Dining Room is the hotel's main restaurant and our favourite space. We particularly liked the pop-up restaurant concept, which changes every so often. During our visit it had been turned into a replica of a China Town restaurant complete with gold waving cats and a menu that is worthy of the best Chinese restaurant in town. The decor and food changes every month in this space, and there are always different music events going on here. Remember that the restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
The Lounge is part of the dining room and is open throughout the week. Retro and stylish like the rest of the hotel, this space is just perfect for drinks all night long. Sky Yard up on the roof is also a great space that gets very crowded and lively in the warmer months, although it is open throughout the year (it is heated). The Café just left as you come in through the main entrance, is also a fantastic and good-value place to come at any time of the day for a coffee or a full-on meal.
The Underground is the hotel club just down the stairs after reception. There are usually events that go on here throughout the week and is particularly popular at the weekends. However, if all you want is a little intimacy, guests also have the option of booking Room 222, which is a private dining room that overlooks Sky Yard.
No matter which venue you choose, you can be sure that the food will be up to your expectations, but we preferred the Dining Room for its eclectic variety and the divine Japanese delights including raw tuna that simply melts in the mouth.
Hotel reviews based on comfort, location and price ratings of its categories
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Mark out of 10 for geographical location
flights June : average price