1489 East Hastings, Vancouver; waldorfhotel.com; 30 rooms with rates from $110. No eco-rating.
Unless you're a penny-pinching backpacker or a rough-and-tumble longshoreman, an invitation to stay at the Waldorf Hotel only a few months ago would have elicited quite a stare. Tucked away in an industrial pocket in East Vancouver, the complex, built in 1947, had been sorely battered by the passage of time, and long since stripped of its glamorous pedigree as one of North America's most renowned tiki-themed hotels.
Relaunched in October under new management, the reimagined Waldorf is a boutique hotel and "creative hub" unlike any Vancouver has seen. Extensive renovations have elevated the property to a tourist hot spot that elegantly conveys the historic sentiments of its founders while ushering in an exciting platform for cultural exchange.
Celebrated Vancouver architect Scott Cohen worked in an intriguing, subtle mix of South Beach and Polynesian flair to bolster the hotel's midcentury modern architecture. But fear not tikiphiles, there are spaces, such as the Tiki Bar, where the hotel's original concept remains paramount, with the exoticism of the South Seas graciously honoured. Edgar Leeteg's velvet paintings are proudly displayed throughout the Waldorf; his eye-catching portraits splashed across black velvet have many calling the late American artist a lowbrow Picasso.
Tasteful bamboo embellishments greet the eye as you walk in the door. The rooms reflect the 1950s structural vibe, but with such stylish touches as the electric-pink disposable camera in the basket of mini-bar goodies. Enjoy the room's retro feel by using the old-school cassette player, accompanied by a series of mixed tapes recorded on the analog audiophile system in the Tiki Bar. Cuddle up under the crisp white bed sheets, and enjoy the rumbles of Mr. Pablo's Latin Psyche Cumbia, or any of the other one-of-a-kind playlists compiled by the record collectors, tastemakers and DJs participating in the Waldorf's listening library project.
Free wireless Internet is available throughout "the compound" (as the staff has lovingly dubbed it) so you can plot out your shopping excursion in nearby Gastown while waiting on brunch. For those in the mood for local nightlife, both a club and cabaret reside on the hotel's lower level. And for stylish souvenirs and ultra-chic travel necessities, the Waldorf Gift Shop is a total gem. Here you can snap up West Coast essentials like a rain-ready pair of Native Shoes or a sleek braided leather wallet chain from Ken Diamond Designs. You'll also find a Lake and Stars lingerie boutique that recently opened in the hotel.
The genuine excitement exhibited by the staff is near startling. It appears that the newly assembled team is as enamoured with the revamped hotel as the guests exploring its historic corridors. Brand manager Danny Fazio is the perfect host, all too happy to let visitors in on new art installations or whip you up a soy latte.
For casual meals, Café Nuba satisfies any falafel-related cravings. Ask for an extra helping of the homemade pickles to understand why this wildly successful eatery continues to open new locations throughout the city. Those after a fine-dining experience should find a table at the newly minted Leeteg Room. Delectable tapas-
inspired dishes like gambas al ajillo, which boasts plump prawns sautéed in red chilies, brandy and parsley, await. As does award-winning sommelier Kurtis Kolt's top-tier selections and inspired beer list. But don't leave without trying the cucumber-lime tequila cocktail Pepino Magico - just watch out for the chili-salt rim.
While offering a nod to the hotel's Polynesian lineage, the Waldorf redux has mercifully sidestepped kitsch to emerge as a landmark destination for creative travellers. A haven for artists, musicians and cultural thrill-seekers, the Waldorf offers an experience not easily forgotten, one that makes you feels as though you're vacationing in New York rather than the heart of Vancouver's east side.
Special to The Globe and Mail