It may be one of the most anticipated hotel openings of the year, but I had my reservations.
This is, after all, a time to consider wealth distribution, the European economic crisis and unheard-of household debt in Canada. Would it be the right time for Trump to open a five-star hotel in Toronto? (True, Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto isn't owned, developed or sold by the Donald, but the name is synonymous with brazen ostentation.)
Add to that the fact I'm more eco-luxe than urban excess, and it's plain I haven't been as excited about Trump in Toronto as others. Still, with the countdown clock ticking closer to the Jan. 31 opening date, I agree to a hard-hat tour.
I am entranced at the entrance.
I arrive on foot, not by car, which makes it easy to see the overhead lights illuminating the curving porte cochère. They are giant yet understated, with an attention to detail that speaks more to craftsmanship than flash. The showstopper, though, is the massive mosaic of 500,000 small porcelain, glass, stone and gold tiles that together create a scene that is quintessentially Toronto: people of all different heritages gathered together, easily visible to passersby.
Through a large revolving door we glide into the lobby, which, even while incomplete, is instantly calming. The soaring ceilings and windows, the "champagne and caviar" colour scheme, the gleaming nero assoluto (absolute black) granite from Italy and off-white onyx Carrera marble walls (even the thin slots of the air exchange are carefully cut marble) and the intricate tile work – all instill a sense of style and grace. I feel out of sync in a dark grey pantsuit. The mood is definitely early Hollywood glamour. Next time, I'll wear a dusting of Paco Rabanne talc, a knee-length pencil skirt and a demure silk blouse under my cashmere wool coat.
I may be imagining discreet rendezvous in Suits, the lounge behind the lobby – I'm already picturing myself sipping a cocktail made with the signature cherry-infused vodka as pedestrians glance longingly through the tall windows – but this is a hotel for business too. We're on the corner of Bay and Adelaide streets, and the business of commerce flows all around us.
And, if general manager Mickael Damelincourt has his way, it will be flowing through Trump Toronto too. The architecture and decor are of such precision and old-fashioned solidity that business travellers will feel simultaneously calmed and emboldened (the same theory applies to wearing an impeccably tailored suit). But there's much happening that's invisible to the naked eye.
Security is a paramount concern here, so much so that Mr. Damelincourt is confident stating that Trump Toronto is the most advanced hotel in Canada, and one of the most advanced in North America. The hotel has a staggering 254 cameras, letting security staff monitor every area of the building. The hotel also has a proximity card system that gives staff easy access to back-of-house areas; you won't see doors propped open with cardboard here. And all of the elevators can be individually controlled from a single switchboard, critical when guaranteeing the safety and privacy of top executives and sought-after glitterati.
Such is the nature of business travel that executives coming from the Middle East, Asia and Europe travel with bodyguards – more so now than politicians. Is Trump Toronto ready for a visit from a head of state? "We're ready for the French president," Mr. Damelincourt jokes, "because nobody pays much attention to him. For President Obama..."
Some guests will be less worried about corporate espionage and more concerned with avoiding paparazzi. Discretion is paramount, especially in a city that's home to one of North America's most important film festivals. A second hidden entrance with its own separate elevators was constructed to whisk film stars and other celebrities directly onto the second floor out of the view of autograph-seekers and professional gossipmongers.
Throughout, the attention to detail elevates the hotel experience. The wainscotting, crown moulding and wallpaper in the halls, buttresses after every second door that prevent that unpleasant disappearing-down-the-looking-glass long-corridor sensation, the intricately carved screens, the abundance of sconces and overhead lights, and the vintage-style room numbers on the doors – all create a feeling of arriving home, not at a temporary room with a bed that someone else slept in the night before.
In the end, though, it's all about the rooms. And they don't disappoint. Every detail has been thought of: a stone floor at the entry, a wet/dry bar stocked with local goods (think Mill Street and Spudniks potato chips; in generous proportions too!) and complimentary tea, espresso and glass-bottled water. The seating is inviting (the plush custom sofa is actually a pullout bed), there's a fireplace in every room, the closets are generous, the safe is laptop deep, and an orchid blooms on each window-facing desk.
And the bathrooms! Bright, spacious and intuitively designed, each washroom has a heated marble floor, roomy shower, soaker tub, separate toilet area, blanche noir marble in a leather finish on the vanity (designed to look like a vintage trunk), a seamless television in the bathroom mirror.
Also important: The lighting system actually makes sense (hurray!), and is complemented with numerous secondary lights – accent lamps, crystal wall sconces, chandeliers and even a reading light beside the bedroom chair.
Lighting is critical at Trump Toronto, and the best effect is built-in: Tall, wide windows flood the rooms with natural light, which is easier to come by when you are in the second-tallest building in Canada, at a skyscraping 65 storeys. Even the spa, a 15,000-square-foot escape to open later on the 31st and 32nd floors, will benefit from this repeated architectural theme.
With less than a week to opening day, Trump Toronto is bustling with bristly construction workers glowering with intense concentration, and fresh-faced new employees learning the ins and outs of the hotel philosophy, service expectations and wardrobe requirements (they've been told: "Always wear expensive shoes – people notice").
Even with all the activity, the overall impression is elegance. Trump Toronto is a testament to craftsmanship, and hopes to set a standard for service. We'll know in a few weeks time ... after Pilates and pampering in the spa, a couple of cocktails in that seductive lobby bar, and a restorative farm-fresh meal at breakfast the morning after.
An introductory rate of $395 a night is available through April 30. trumptorontohotel.com