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Chef David Hawksworth's menu is peppered with humour - foie gras parfait with foie gras candy floss, anyone? (Martin Tessler)
Chef David Hawksworth's menu is peppered with humour - foie gras parfait with foie gras candy floss, anyone? (Martin Tessler)

Vancouver's restored Hotel Georgia: grace, beauty and a killer restaurant Add to ...

Rosewood Hotel Georgia

801 W. Georgia St., Vancouver, rosewoodhotelgeorgia.com; 155 rooms from $375 a night (with an opening special of $192.70 until Aug. 15). No eco-rating.

If the recent visit of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge raised the curtain on a new era of understated elegance in Canada, then Vancouver's newest luxury hotel is set to steal the spotlight. The venerable Hotel Georgia, a storied downtown property once frequented by both real and Hollywood royals, reopened this month after a spectacular $120-million facelift.

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Between 1927, when it opened, and the late 1970s, the Georgia operated in a cloud of stardust, earning a reputation as the place to kindle romance or seal a deal. But the gracious old inn was out of step with the flash-and-dash 1980s and, like an aging starlet, became suddenly invisible to the new A-listers. By the time the doors closed in 2006, the once-glamorous hotel was little more than a grubby beer parlour with tired rooms attached. Dallas-based Rosewood Hotels took on the formidable challenge of restoring the Georgian Revival edifice to its former glory. During the 2010 Olympics, the renovation was shrouded in a giant Canadian flag, and when the wrapping came off this spring, the city received a gift of its own history.

Design

From ballroom to bedroom, the refurbished hotel eschews bling and lets the building's inherently good bone structure speak for itself. While firmly rooted in a more gracious era – think Fred Astaire-meets-Don Draper – there is nothing oppressively “vintage” about the place. Throughout, colourful, contemporary pieces by Canadian artists such as Douglas Coupland and Jack Shadbolt balance an abundance of mahogany panelling and retro architectural details such as elaborately carved columns, crystal chandeliers, gilt mouldings, polished brass railings and a curved grand staircase.

Amenities

Chief among the hotel's amenities is its location: smack in the heart of Vancouver, opposite the Vancouver Art Gallery and within a few short blocks of the Canada Line, the convention centre and Robson Street. The 1927 Lobby Lounge, with cozy corners screened by peek-a-boo ironwork and a bartender named Joe who knows his cocktails, is already attracting a loyal after-work crowd. (Two additional lounges are set to open soon: Reflections, in late August; and Prohibition, later this year.)

On the fourth floor, the serene Senses spa offers a complete range of high-end services. The adjacent fitness room includes professional-calibre equipment by TechnoGym and Cybex, and an indoor saltwater lap pool incorporates dramatic light panels that cycle through an allegedly therapeutic colour scheme.

The elegantly restored Spanish Ballroom is a sentimental favourite for generations of Vancouverites who celebrated assorted rites of passage there. Already booked well into the fall, it promises to again become a preferred location for chic wedding and corporate receptions.

Rooms

The hotel closed with 315 rooms and reopened with just 155. (The changes were beyond cosmetic; BC Hydro conferred PowerSmart status on the hotel in recognition of its overall energy-conservation efforts.) Even base-rate rooms feature ample storage, large bathrooms with generously sized showers and tubs, and thoughtful amenities such as plush robes, a Nespresso coffee maker and free Wi-Fi. The décor is refined, the finishes rich, the palette creamy. Except for the extravagant penthouse suites, views are hard to come by in this uber-urban setting; if it's important to you, ask for a room overlooking the art gallery or Reflections, the outdoor terrace.

Service

When you're paying luxury prices, you should expect nothing less. While it's still early days, hotel staff should be commended for expertly walking the fine line between helpful and haughty, respectfully welcoming looky-loos (even offering tours) without compromising the experience of paying guests.

Food

Hotel eateries are generally a disappointing species in Canada. Overhyped and overpriced, their mainstream offerings are often best left to time-pressed travellers with generous per diems. And then there is Hawksworth.

While technically independent of the Rosewood property, Vancouver's newest “it” restaurant shares the Hotel Georgia's main entry – and its vision of sublime hospitality. Chef David Hawksworth, a champion of clean-tasting regional fare who made his mark at WEST, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in three distinctively decorated rooms.

Hawksworth is pre-eminent among Canadian chefs for masterfully balancing intensely concentrated flavours while still maintaining a sense of humour – to whit, his foie gras parfait embellished with foie gras candy floss. You do not need to dine at Hawksworth to enjoy the hotel, nor stay at the hotel to appreciate the restaurant. But each experience complements – and ultimately elevates – the other.

The hotel kitchen looks after room service, event catering and light meals in the lounges – but with the recent departure of Chef Ned Bell, the food and beverage team may be playing catch-up. The only thing that needed improvement during a recent stay was the expensive and mediocre in-room breakfast.

Verdict

By virtue of pedigree alone, the Rosewood Hotel Georgia automatically claims a place alongside Vancouver's leading luxury hotels – notably the Fairmont Pacific Rim and the Shangri-La. Like Granville Island, this once-forlorn property has been given a new heart and mission. Don't wait for a special occasion.


 

 

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