The Holman Grand Hotel
123 Grafton St., Charlottetown; 1-877-455-4726; theholmangrand.com; 80 rooms from $200 a night. A member of the Green Hotels Association.
Charlottetown's first new hotel in 25 years opened this summer by paying homage to the capital's history – it set up shop in an old Holman's department store. Every adult Prince Edward Islander remembers the Holman name. With branches in Charlottetown and Summerside, Holman's was the first retailer on the island, serving customers across the province for more than 125 years until it closed in 1985.
The Charlottetown location, directly across the street from Province House (birthplace of Canada), now has a new identity as a smart, modern 80-room boutique hotel. The architects retained and restored the original late-Victorian three-storey storefront and added seven more storeys that surround a large atrium. They even kept the same Holman's logo. Most rooms have outstanding views of the city and Charlottetown Harbour, and the back of the hotel leads directly to a major shopping mall. An underground walkway allows guests to reach the lobby of Confederation Centre of the Arts without stepping outside.
The designers wanted the interior to reflect PEI's natural history and that theme is immediately evident in the bright, spacious lobby. The "Island Contemporary" look emphasizes shades of green for the land, blue for the ocean and a rusty red for the province's famous soil. Dune grasses are etched on many of the glass panels and a series of stunning landscape photos by John Sylvester have been placed throughout the hotel.
The entire hotel is energy efficient with geothermal heating and air conditioning using groundwater to extract cold and heat, supplemented by a district heating system in Charlottetown that gets its energy from waste. However, we found the in-room thermostats tricky to use and, if you like to sleep in a really cool room, you're out of luck. The thermostat won't go below 18 C.
European touches, with added luxury, are immediately evident in the spacious and well-appointed rooms and suites. A room key card must be put in a slot to activate the lights. Toilets are water-conserving models. Twenty rooms have large soaker tubs and the rest have large tiled showers with spa-style soaker heads. The bathroom countertop is granite and stocked with Aveda toiletries.
All rooms have refrigerators (not mini-bars) and Keurig single-cup coffeemakers. Many of them also include a microwave and sink.
All the beds (king and queen with blond wood headboards) have soft pillow-top mattresses that are surprisingly comfortable and easy on the back. Clock radios include iPod and iPhone docks. Wall mounted TVs are 46-inch LCD and many rooms have a two-sided gas fireplace. The floors are all engineered hardwood with silencing pads underneath.
The Penthouse on Level 10, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a wraparound exterior terrace, can be used as a single giant suite or divided into four separate rooms. There are also two wheelchair-accessible rooms.
The staff tends to be young and eager with a sincere desire to please. Many are graduates of the local Holland College hospitality program. General manager John Cudmore says the hotel has a high staff-to-guest ratio and puts an emphasis on personalized service. We had a couple of minor problems with our room and they were corrected with great efficiency.
FOOD AND DRINK
Calgary's Redwater Rustic Grill chain makes its first appearance east of Alberta at the Holman Grand. With the emphasis on "fresh and local" simply prepared food (including low-salt and gluten-free), the restaurant is already a hit with both locals and visitors. About 80 per cent of the menu is the same as in Calgary (prime Angus beef, of course), but 20 per cent is pure island (fresh oysters, mussels and other seafood are a given). Prices are modest, ranging from $10 for bison meatballs or herb, garlic and white wine steamed mussels to $35 for beef tenderloin.
The restaurant's wine list carries about 125 labels (including several excellent PEI wines) and the local, very tasty, Gahan Island Red Amber ale on tap.
For a small full-service hotel, the Holman Grand is remarkably well equipped. The lower-level pool and gym are well designed and inviting. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel and there are several rooms for meetings.
The Holman Grand Hotel brings a modern, sophisticated touch to an ideal downtown location with easy access to restaurants, shopping and the arts. In recent years, sleepy Charlottetown has become a hot spot for quality cuisine, international wine and food events (like "Fall Flavours") and outstanding entertainment that belies its modest size. The Holman Grand is a welcome addition.
Special to The Globe and Mail