I’ve always known Ernest Hemingway has good taste when it comes to travel. From Venice, to Havana, Pamplona to Paris, he knows where to go – and over the past decade, I’ve slowly made my way around the world following his favourite haunts. Naturally, then, when in Toronto, I was thrilled to learn that he stayed at the famous Omni King Edward Hotel, Toronto’s first luxury hotel which opened in 1903. I spent a fabulous weekend here in late November, just as the Christmas celebrations were opening up, and Toronto was in full festive glory. Welcomed by the ginormous Christmas tree upon arrival, filled to the brim with the tastiest breakfasts, and made to feel right at home in an expansive, spacious suite, this hotel was an excellent recommendation of his to follow. Hemingway isn’t the only one in the know about this hotel, though. Notable guests include the Beatles, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Mark Twain, Rudolph Valentino, Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, and Britney. It was originally designed by Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb and Toronto architect E.J. Lennox, and is styled in manner of an old-world European space with modern furnishings and amenities. It is, in homage to its majestic name, majestic in size, with 300 rooms and 27,000 sq. feet of meeting space, two restaurants, and a luscious Spa, Mokara, for those that really want to indulge.
My partner and I arrived on a cold and snowy Thursday evening, late at night after I landed from a long haul flight from London. I was exhausted, hungry, and sleep deprived, but we managed to make our way in a rapid fire 20-minute car ride from the airport to the hotel, where we found easy and accessible parking (a rarity in a bustling city) right next to the hotel. Check-in was a breeze, with concierge ensuring our bags made it to our room straight away and service being the smooth and seamless experience I needed after 24 hours of traveling.
In spirit of the ginormous Christmas tree and general size of the hotel, our suite on the 9th floor was equally huge. Larger than my own apartment back in Vancouver, this expansive space included a huge bedroom, living room large enough to through a substantial house party in, mini bar area, and bathroom big enough for two. Decorated in an elegant yet homely aesthetic, it felt like home as soon as we walked in, and very much so after a good night’s sleep with blackout curtains and perfect silence.
Breakfast at the Omni King Edward Hotel is a brilliant way to start the day. A far cry from the messy self-serving buffets of so many hotels, this is a sit down affair with absolutely spectacular service, delicious food and calming, restful atmosphere. The dining room is large but still a reasonably homely size and the tables seemed to be perpetually full, proving its popularity. The breakfast menu featured everything from fruits and grains, like Chef’s Home-style Swiss Bircher Muesli Parfait and Avocado Toast with Confit Tomatoes and Seedlings, to a egg-centric part of the menu called ‘Egg-Cetera’, offering all sorts of egg variations like Vegan Breakfast Hash with Tofu Scramble, Wilted Greens, Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions and Potatoes, and Brioche French Toast with Caramelized Bananas, and Caramel Drizzle, or Traditional Eggs Benedict with Canadian Peameal Bacon. There is a Bakery section that brings a Viennoiserie Basket, and Toasted Artisan Bread, a Continental section with all the traditional breakfast items from Europe, and also a Tried and True section offering classics. On our first morning, my partner and I shared the Buttermilk Pancakes served with Maple Syrup, and Three Egg Omelette with Mushroom, Onions, Spinach, and Slow Cooked Ham. Of course we had coffee, and fresh juice too. Both options were delicious, though the egg omelette was so good I had to order it again the following day whilst he had the Eggs Benedict. Service was truly stellar – both servers on both days managed to make us laugh despite my being sleep-deprived and jetlagged, and it was fast, kind, and truly a warming start to the day.
On the second day, we decided to hit the fitness centre after breakfast. Pretty empty and leaving lots of room for us to do a workout, the space had Precor cardio equipment, personal televisions, free weights, weight machines, and a stretching and yoga area. There was also a QI Hair Salon next to the hotel that offers experienced stylists (if I’d had more time I would have swung by), and the Mokara Spa was very tempting. So tempting, in fact, that I booked in for a 60 minute deep tissue massage. Calming, zen, and with the tastiest treats on arrival in the waiting area, I experienced one of the best massages of my life. Taking up over 6,000 sq. feet, and with 7 treatment rooms, the Mokara Spa offers everything from nail appointments to body treatments, facials, and massages. Absolutely blissed out after my massage, I dragged myself back to the room in my robe feeling very, very, very relaxed and at home.
That evening we visited the evening bar, the Consort Bar, a dimly lit date-night appropriate abode for cocktail hour and enjoyed some excellent cocktails before heading out for dinner – though we could easily have had an excellent dinner at the hotel too, no doubt. Afternoon tea is also famous at the Omni King Edward hotel (naturally, given its majestic nature) and there was a delightful library area on the ground floor by the Christmas Tree that we spent some time relaxing in before checking out. I truly wished we’d had more time to fully enjoy all the amenities. I would have gladly returned to the Spa for more treatments, sorted my hair out, and had a few more good nights sleep in the spacious bedroom. The hotel was exactly what I needed after a hectic few weeks in London and long trip to Toronto. I’m so glad I discovered it, and even more glad to have a trusty place to stay in Toronto.
The Omni King Edward Hotel
37 King St East
ON M5C 1E9