By Maureen Littlejohn
At the Omni King Edward Hotel, an anchor for the powerful and prestigious in Toronto’s urban core, the glamour of the past is alive and kicking thanks to a $40 million renovation completed in 2015.
“This hotel has a soul. We have a sense of responsibility to carry that legacy forward for the next generation,” noted Christophe Le Chatton, the hotel’s Paris-born general manager when I met him for afternoon tea.
Built in 1903 by distillery magnate George Gooderham, the King Edward Hotel hotel was billed as one of the finest hotels in North America. No expense was spared. Marble was imported from Europe, as were the glittering crystal chandeliers. The furniture came from England and plaster curlicues worthy of a wedding cake covered the walls and ceilings of the majestic ballrooms. The décor may have changed since then, but the palace-like grandeur has not. Enter the lobby, where giant chess pieces loom over deep indigo high-backed sofas, and a refined comfort and peace comes over you. Service is warm. Smiles abound.
All Hail the King (Eddy)
The King Eddy, as it is affectionately known, has always been a magnet for celebrities. Richard Burton proposed to Elizabeth Taylor in the corner of the Sovereign Ballroom in 1964. The same year saw the Beatles camped out in room number 869 during their first tour of North America. Mark Twain, Rudolph Valentino, Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley and Ernest Hemingway are other big names that have bedded down here.
Renovated from top to bottom, the 301-room luxury hotel sparkles with modern amenities while maintaining its aristocratic look. Guestrooms glint with ruby red accents, and walls feature prints of famous Toronto architecture. Throughout the hotel’s public spaces hang huge black and white photos of British royalty, perfect for fans of the hit TV show, The Crown.
One long-standing tradition is afternoon tea, served from Friday through Sunday. Ladies come in fancy hats and white gloves, and often girlfriends come in groups to celebrate special occasions. Sandwiches are dainty and delicate. Scones are velvety, cakes decadent, and the exotic blends of tea are divine.
“We serve a traditional English tea that emphasizes the flavours of each season,” Daniel Schick, the executive chef, told me as he surveyed the room’s happily nibbling occupants.
Whether you stop in for a lovely cuppa, or stay a week, the hotel’s magnificent architecture, storied past and time-tested tea rituals make it a one-of-a-kind, iconic Canadian destination.
For further details, visit the Omni King Edward Hotel website at https://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/toronto-king-edward
Maureen Littlejohn has been writing about entertainment, lifestyle and travel for longer than she’d care to disclose. Currently, she is executive director of Culture Magazin (no e!).