Celebrities and industry professionals are back in force for TIFF. Toronto’s restaurateurs, hoteliers and event planners are thrilled to be back. TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey points to the festival’s economic boost for Toronto and the country as well.
Toronto’s revitalized hotel sector includes a host of major, long-planned hotel openings now coming to fruition, from the W Hotel in Yorkville to the first Ace Hotel in Canada.
These new and updated venues for fine cocktails, memorable dining, restful stays and post-screening celebrations are where TIFF attendees and visitors to Toronto can relax in confidence and spot the stars.
“They eat out, they take taxis, they plan events, they throw parties and do all kinds of things that generate enormous economic activity in the city and for the country as well,” says Bailey. really give a boost to Toronto,” he adds.
Although many restaurants have permanently closed due to pandemic closures, Toronto’s revitalized hotel sector includes a slew of long-planned major hotel openings now coming to fruition, from the W Hotel in Yorkville to the first Canada’s Ace hotel.
Variety takes a look at new, updated spots for fine cocktails, memorable meals, restful stays, and post-screening celebrations.
High-rise construction projects are reshaping Toronto’s urban core, including the two 45-story towers for sold-out Nobu Residences and the future Nobu Hotel near the Lightbox. During the day, navigating King Street West congested with construction can be a challenge. By design, according to Bailey, all of the main festival sites are within a radius of about five minutes on foot. The only venue outside the footprint is the Cinesphere at Ontario Place, which will host several exclusive IMAX screenings. “Other than that, we wanted it to be a walkable festival and people to pass each other,” says Bailey. To that end, attendees can easily walk to the newly renovated and newest TIFF venue, the Alexander Theater on King Street West. TIFF will also see the return of vendors to Festival Street (a closed two-block section of King Street West) with a beer garden sponsored by Peroni Nastro Azzurro.
Across from the TIFF Roy Thomson Hall venue, the 263-room Ritz-Carlton Toronto (181 Wellington St. W, ritzcarlton.com) is fully reopened. Expect cocktails and special TIFF-themed menus at the Epoch Bar & Kitchen Terrace, the hotel’s quaint indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar open from lunch through drinks after the premiere. Book a table on the landscaped, leafy terrace for hearty wood-fired flatbreads and salads that change with the seasons. Off the lobby under crystal chandeliers, the Illy espresso cafe and bar offers morning fare during TIFF. Toca, the hotel’s Italian trattoria with its air-conditioned cheese room and coveted 22-seat private dining room, will also offer festival menus.
The Ritz is a popular stay for studio executives — upscale quarters are now done up in shades of blue and gray and sports tubs, blackout curtains, and handy Nespresso coffeemakers. There’s a jaw-dropping perk for Club Level customers: a Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid for short trips.
The discreet VIP entrance to the St. Regis Hotel Toronto (325 Bay St., marriott.com) (next to the valet driveway) attracts talent from TIFF and artists from the nearby Rogers Centre. The revamped suites offer digital light and drape controls, 55-inch LG TVs with streaming, Bluetooth, and direct HDMI connection plus plush amenities like Frette bathrobes, arguably some of the most comfortable beds in the world. Room decor reflects the colors of Lake Ontario with muted grays and blues and white marble finishes. Recover from TIFF parties at the 31st floor pool in an infinity hot tub.
KING STREET WEST
Chica (barchicatoronto.com), at 75 Portland St., next to Shook Vegetarian Brunch, is Scale Hospitality’s newest restaurant (Shook and Pink Sky are also part of the group). Refined, seasonal tapas are Chica’s specialty. Traditional dishes like jamon Iberico and a Spanish-style layered egg tortilla are featured alongside side dishes showcasing local produce. Summer heirloom tomato salad with mustard greens is irresistible. The long list of Spanish wines, sherry and vermouth is well matched. Chica is open late most nights for those looking for a relaxing spot with an outdoor patio and a cozy, low-light interior.
Madera Group’s first Canadian outpost based in Los Angeles is already a success.
Casa Madera (550 Wellington St. West, thecasamadera.com), on the ground floor of 1 Hotel Toronto, combines Tulum’s organic finishes, clever lighting and an on-trend party vibe. A steady beat and roving performers add ambiance. The sea bass ceviche with a crunch of grilled pipitas is a brilliant opener; homemade tortillas topped with duck confit, grilled shrimp or grilled steak are delicious twists on the taco genre. Are you coming as a group? Share the Tomahawk steak. Ready to splurge? There’s a course of $1,500 caviar and Dom Pérignon champagne. The airy space can easily be transformed into private bedrooms. Walk-in customers are welcome at the 20-seat bar.
High above Toronto, on the top floor of 1 Hotel is Harriet’s Rooftop. It’s perfect for happy hour and golden hour on weekdays: sushi and strong cocktails complement the spectacular, almost 360-degree views of the city. Reservations are essential during TIFF for this must-attend show for ages 21 and up.
QUEEN STREET WEST
The newly opened 123-room Ace Hotel Toronto (51 Camden St./acehotel.com/toronto) continues the brand’s tradition of serving music and film creatives. The striking architecture inside and out is by Shim-Sutcliffe Architects of Toronto. The massive, curved concrete columns are the visual highlight; they help anchor the floating bar/lounge inside the lobby. Alder, by famed Toronto chef Patrick Kriss, is also in this eye-catching space. The low wood and leather seating in the Lobby Lounge is a comfortable spot for coffee, cocktails, or informal meetings. As in Palm Springs, according to Brad Wilson, CEO of Ace Hotel Group, expect a strong connection to the film festival.
At the western end of Queen Street West, the always-bustling Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St. West, thedrake.ca) launched its modern wing in December 2021. The hotel’s 32 new rooms are topped with a master bedroom. two mid-century bedrooms. Modern style Sky Terrace with a dramatic cantilevered bedroom – ideal for talent or small gatherings.
DesignAgency is behind the lobby’s playful mix of mid-century modern furniture set up like a very groovy residential living room, but with bright colors and an intimate eight-seat bar in the corner. Original contemporary artwork and installations (emphasizing Toronto-based artists) adorn every wall and available space. Dining options range from the expanded indoor/outdoor Drake Café to the Sky Yard, with an updated menu from Executive Chef Laura Maxwell.
The Four Seasons Hotel Toronto (60 Yorkville Ave., fourseasons.com/Toronto) is a real celebrity magnet, with its ultra-quiet Zen-inspired rooms and suites.
When there’s a moment to cool off, guests head to the shimmering mosaic-tiled pool under the skylights, the centerpiece of the 30,000-square-foot pool, spa, and gym (good enough for recent guests and champions Serena and Venus Williams). During TIFF, the spa offers a festival-only foot recovery treatment, including a gentle massage with soothing wraps designed to reduce fatigue. Order from the limited-edition, boozy TIFF cocktail menu at the hotel’s d|bar and Café Boulud.
The new 254-room W Toronto (90 Bloor St. East, marriott.com/en-us/hotels/yyzwh-w-toronto) took more than three years to build. It is a complete renovation of an old Marriot. Music is central to the W’s culture: a state-of-the-art sound system pumps upstairs in the rooftop Sky Light Lounge, and there’s a functioning recording studio off the lobby.
The 6th-floor lobby lounge, filled with artwork, is housed in a glass box and designed for socializing with various seating vignettes. The circular fire pit with plush banquettes is a real wow. There’s also a full bar and DJ. The Public School is the hotel’s cheerful restaurant overlooking Bloor Street, with a separate cafe-bar on the street side. Rooms are compact and ergonomically designed with whimsical touches and in-room cocktail-making facilities. It’s a short walk to the Bloor-Yonge subway
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