The Templar tops our Toronto hotel hot list hands down and without hesitation. An incredible feat of a hotel packed with design features, you'll have a hard time finding something on par. Its nondescript façade may not be much of a giveaway, but bit by bit as you explore the hotel, you will soon understand why it is that this top-notch design boutique hotel is our number one. Ideal for a trendy clientele who is fond of gadgets and who likes being surprised at every turn. Nowhere else will you see so much effort being put into every single detail, and nowhere else will you be able to sit at the chef's table in the kitchen at 3:00am and order - well, whatever your imagination can rustle up! Want to know more? So did we.
Located on Queen Street West between the entertainment, shopping and art districts, the hotel is ideally situated.
The hotel is part of the Design Hotels label, which has a portfolio of about 50 hotels worldwide renowned for good design. Every space in the hotel is barrier free and was even tested out by one of the owners' friends.
There is an enigma to decipher in the design of the hotel at every turn. If you truly want to appreciate just how much has gone into the hotel, don't hesitate on asking for Andrew Van Buskirk, the hotel manager, who knows pretty much everything about every square millimetre of the hotel and if he isn't too busy, he'll be happy to give you a 'design tour' of the hotel! And trust us, it is worth taking half an hour out of your weekend to learn about the hotel's design.
The small 27 room boutique hotel is our favourite hotel in Toronto for the meticulous attention to detail but also in the owners' determination to make everything fun and different. And Templar founders, Rhed Design's Del Terrelonge and John Wee Tom, got it just right. Not pretentious in the least, the hotel is luxurious without being conventional.
The innovative spirit begins in the hotel lobby. The sleek reception desk, a block attached to a mirrored pillar looks like it is floating in mid-air. The detail that we particularly liked was the use of 'Technilight' panels that line the walls upstairs and downstairs. The light-backed wall panels give the impression that on the other side is the outdoors; what looks like an opaque window is in fact LED panels with etched glass on top. This is extremely effective downstairs in the basement, where you will find the hotel restaurant - but instead of feeling like you are in the basement, the panels give the impression of being at least on the ground floor with a view onto the exterior; this genius piece of design was thought up by Rhed Design. Black etched mirror panels continue in the toilets, and are almost impossible to discern unless you know what you are looking for! Behind the door hides a row of cabins, each with its own Starck-designed toilet.
The lobby area, or 'Monk Lounge', as people in the know call it, is the area where guests can relax. A bar was being built in this area during our visit. Clean cut modular and comfortable furniture is what it is about here at The Templar. Even the floorboards have been given a touch of fun. Designed with inserts, the magnetic cow hide patches can actually slide out - practical for cleaning! But back to the floorboards, that beautiful grain and colour is what seduced the designers; so much so, that they sourced the wood all the way in Uruguay!
The floor-to-ceiling bookshelf gives the area a 'cosy nook' ambience, and the fact that every book has been handpicked adds a welcome personal touch. For a wider selection of something to read, guests can borrow Kindles and Kobos at reception.
The main preoccupation at the hotel is marrying form and function for an optimal level of experience and interaction. As you move towards the stairs leading down to the basement, admire the grey slate stone walls. The Ledge Rock was actually quarried in Japan and brought over. Look up at the ceiling and you might be lucky enough to spot an athletic body or two swimming in the hotel's salt water pool above the stairwell. The light through the water reflects onto the walls softening the hard lines.
Downstairs, the LED panels trick you into thinking that plenty of natural light is shining through the etched glass keeping your mood lifted. See more about the restaurant area in the food and drink section below.
In terms of facilities the hotel doesn't have a gym but it has a personalised spa for one guest or party, at a time. There is a bar and restaurant and when we visited, the owners were considering putting a second pool on the roof in a Japanese garden, so watch this space!
Its 27 rooms make the hotel easy to manage and the service personalised. The rooms are located on one of the hotel's eight floors, and although the hotel is narrow, it feels a lot larger than it actually is due to the use of cabinets that line the walls. The advantage of using lacquered walls is that its light-reflecting surface makes space feel larger than it is. The smooth seamless corridors of lacquered walls makes it hard to discern room from room. Apart from the room numbers etched in marble in the floor, there is no other giveaway, so make sure you remember to look at the numbers in the floor when looking for your room, unless you want to risk being caught stumbling into a cleaning cupboard!
On every floor, the corridors are adorned with original art, like the Damien Hirst skateboards on the first floor or the Nigel Scott customised surfboard on the second - these installations will be changing over regularly, so it is likely that these pieces have moved around the hotel by the time you come and stay.
All rooms are completely sound proof. There are several room categories, but due to the awkward narrow shape of the building, there are few rooms on each floor apart from the top two floors, which have been built into an enormous and stunning two-floor King Loft Suites, which we highly recommend if you have a bit to spend.
Everything in the rooms was hanpicked by the owners - even the door jams are stylish! The décor comprises Paulo Lenti felt carpets, Hay stools, Wegner chairs, an enormous flat-screen television, iPod docking stations, and best of all for gadget fiends: everything in the room is controlled via iPad - which even doubles up as a type of Skype phone. Guests are able to call down to the kitchen and speak to the chef on duty - if in doubt about what a dish looks like for example, the chef can even show it to them before they decide. Calls to landlines all over the world are also free of charge (but check this is still the case when you arrive). You can even plug your smart phone into the iPad, which has a special application to make your phone also your room key.
It is the effort to make every detail count that gripped our attention in this place. But it's not finished. The bathrooms are another defining aspect of the hotel. We have never seen such enormous bath tubs! The free-standing Japanese tubs were designed so that a person the size of Michael Jordan can soak comfortably. Other rooms have a large dual shower (in which Jordan could also fit quite snugly!) The bathroom products are of the delightful Red Flower brand and have names like 'Moonflower', that transport you far away from the stress of daily life.
If you can't bear to tear yourself away from your room, which anyone who has seen the King Loft Suites would completely understand, the hotel also has 24-hour room service. Enjoy!
Downstairs from the Monk Lounge, is the Monk Restaurant - but beware. This brainchild of chefs, Roberto Fracchioni and Mark Richardson, isn't a restaurant like any other you would have come across at a hotel before!
First you have a few communal dining tables laid out to encourage guests to mingle. The restaurant only seats 24, so if you aren't a guest here, make sure you book beforehand. The concept is simple: guests can have whatever they want absolutely whenever they want it, and we're serious. If you have a niggling feeling of hunger for a steak at 5:00am, then just pop downstairs in your pyjamas, walk straight round into the open kitchen and ask the duty chef for anything you like (as long as it's legal)! If however you are tempted by a squid salad or something a little more exotic, then the chef, dressed like a skateboarder complete with cap and skate shoes, claims that it wouldn't be a problem either. When we asked him where you'd get a squid at 5:00am - he stopped chopping, paused for a split second and said "China Town", he shrugged his shoulders and continued nonchalantly. We pressed him for more hypothetical requests - he didn't disappoint.
The concept here is two-fold. On the one hand guests can eat in the dining lounge and select food from the iPad menu, which has a 'drop-off' system, meaning that guests are always choosing among the things that the kitchen has. But the choices should be things guests are particularly fond of as their guest profile information is collected prior to their stay. Secondly, guests who are staying here alone don't have to eat alone if they don't want to, or if they feel uncomfortable mingling with the others. The chef's table in the kitchen is always free for guests to come and have a chat with them while one eats and the other cooks.
The best bit though, is the enormous compost machine, 'Gaia', brought over from Korea, in the back of the kitchen. We were relieved to see that this ambitious project is upheld by core values.
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