Celebrities and industry pros are back in full force for TIFF. Toronto restaurateurs, hoteliers and event planners are thrilled they are back. TIFF’s CEO Cameron Bailey points to the fest’s economic boost for Toronto and the country as well.
Toronto’s re-energized hospitality sector includes a slew of long-planned, major hotel openings now come to realization from the W Hotel in Yorkville to Canada’s first Ace Hotel.
These new and updated spots for refined cocktails, memorable meals, restful staysand post-screening celebrations are where TIFF attendees and Toronto visitors can reliably chill out and spot A-listers.
“They’re eating out at restaurants, they’re taking taxis, they’re planning events, they’re hosting parties and doing all kinds of things that generate an enormous amount of economic activity in the city and for the country as well,” says Bailey. “Those combined elements really give a boost to Toronto,” he adds.
Although many restaurants shuttered permanently due to pandemic closures, Toronto’s re-energized hospitality sector includes a slew of long-planned, major hotel openings now come to fruition, from the W Hotel in Yorkville to Canada’s first Ace Hotel.
Variety looks at some new and updated spots for refined cocktails, memorable meals, restful stays and post-screening celebrations.
High-rise construction projects are remaking Toronto’s urban core, including the two 45-story towers for the sold-out Nobu Residences and future Nobu Hotel, close to the Lightbox. During the day, navigating construction-clogged King Street West can be a challenge. By design, per Bailey, all major festival venues are within an approximate five-minute walking radius. The only venue that’s off the footprint is the Ontario Place Cinesphere, which will host several exclusive IMAX screenings. “Apart from that, we wanted it to be a walkable festival and for people to bump into each other,” Bailey says. To that end, attendees can easily walk to the recently renovated and newest TIFF venue, the Alexandre Theatre on King Street West. TIFF will also see the return of vendors to Festival Street (a two-block closed section of King Street West) complete with a pop-up beer garden sponsored by Peroni Nastro Azzurro.
Across from TIFF venue Roy Thomson Hall, the 263-room Ritz-Carlton Toronto (181 Wellington St. W, ritzcarlton.com) is fully reopened. Expect specialty TIFF-themed cocktails and menus at Epoch Bar & Kitchen Terrace, the hotel’s scenic indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar open from lunch to post-premiere drinks. Book a table at the leafy landscaped terrace for hearty wood-fired flatbreads and salads that change with the seasons. Off the soaring lobby under crystal chandeliers, the Illy espresso coffee bar has morning fare during TIFF. Toca, the hotel’s Italian trattoria with its climate-controlled cheese room and coveted 22-seat private dining room, will offer festival menus too.
The Ritz is an in-demand stay for studio execs — the upscale quarters are now done in shades of blue and gray and sport soaking tubs, blackout curtains and convenient Nespresso coffee makers. There’s a spiffy perk for Club Level guests: a Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid for short rides.
The St. Regis Hotel Toronto’s (325 Bay St., marriott.com) discreet VIP entrance (off the valet driveway) appeals to visiting TIFF talent and nearby Rogers Centre performers. Revamped suites offer digital light and drape controls, 55-inch LG TVs with streaming, Bluetooth and HDMI direct connect plus plush amenities like Frette robes, to arguably some of the world’s most comfortable beds. Room décor reflects the colors of Lake Ontario with muted grays and blues and white marble finishes. Recover from TIFF nights out at the 31st floor pool in an infinity-edge hot tub.
KING STREET WEST
Chica (barchicatoronto.com), off at 75 Portland St., next to vegetarian brunch spot Shook, is the latest restaurant from Scale Hospitality (Shook and Pink Sky are in the group too). Refined, seasonally changing tapas are Chica’s specialty. Traditional favorites like jamon Iberico and a Spanish-style, layered egg tortilla are presented along with dishes showcasing local produce. The bright summer heirloom tomato salad with mustard greens is irresistible. Paring well is the extensive list of Spanish wines, sherries and vermouth. Chica is open late most nights for those seeking a chill spot with an outdoor patio and low-lit, cozy interior.
The first Canadian outpost of the L.A.-based Madera Group is already a hit.
Casa Madera (550 Wellington St. West, thecasamadera.com), on the ground floor of the 1 Hotel Toronto combines the organic finishes of Tulum, artful lighting and an of-the-moment soiree vibe. A steady beat and roving performers add atmosphere. The sea bass ceviche with a crunch from toasted pipitas is a brilliant opener; house-made tortillas topped with duck confit, grilled shrimp or grilled steak are delicious editions of the taco genre. Coming with a group? Share the Tomahawk steak. Ready to splurge? There’s a $1,500 caviar plus Dom Perignon champagne course. The airy space can easily be turned into private rooms. Walk-ins are welcomed at the 20-seat bar.
Above Toronto, on the 1 Hotel’s top floor is Harriet’s Rooftop. It’s perfect for weekday happy hour and golden hour: sushi and potent cocktails complement the almost 360-degree, dramatic city views. Reservations are a must during TIFF for this can’t miss 21-and-older lounge.
QUEEN STREET WEST
The freshly opened, 123-room Ace Hotel Toronto (51 Camden St./acehotel.com/toronto) continues the brand’s tradition of catering to music and film creatives. The striking architecture inside and out is from Toronto’s Shim-Sutcliffe Architects. Massive, curving concrete columns are the visual highlight; they help anchor the floating bar/lounge inside the lobby. Also within the eye-catching space is Alder, from celebrated Toronto chef Patrick Kriss. Low-rise, wood-and-leather seating in the lobby lounge is a comfortable spot for coffee, cocktails or informal meetings. As in Palm Springs, per Brad Wilson, CEO Ace Hotel Group, expect a tight connection with the film festival.
On the western edge of Queen Street West, the always happening Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St. West, thedrake.ca) launched its Modern Wing in December 2021. The hotel’s 32 new rooms are topped by a two-bedroom, mid-century-modern style Sky Terrace with dramatic cantilevered bedroom — ideal for talent or small gatherings.
DesignAgency is behind the lobby’s playful blend of mid-century-modern furniture pieces set up like a very groovy residential living room, albeit one with bold colors and an intimate eight-seat, full-on bar in the corner. Original contemporary artwork and installations (with Toronto-based artists emphasized) decorate every wall and available space. Dining options range from the indoor/expanded outdoor Drake Café to the above-it-all Sky Yard, with a refreshed menu from executive chef Laura Maxwell.
The Four Seasons Hotel Toronto’s (60 Yorkville Ave., fourseasons.com/Toronto) is a verifiable celeb magnet, with its ultra-quiet, Zen-inspired rooms and suites.
When there’s a moment to refresh, guests head for the shimmering mosaic tile pool under 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 has a festival-time only foot recovery treatment incorporating gentle massage with soothing wraps designed to reduce fatigue. Order from the boozy TIFF limited edition cocktail menu at the hotel’s d|bar and Café Boulud.
The freshly minted 254-room W Toronto (90 Bloor St. East, marriott.com/en-us/hotels/yyzwh-w-toronto) was more than three years in the making. It’s a complete renovation of a former Marriot. Music is central to the W’s culture: a state-of-the-art sound system pumps upstairs at the rooftop Sky Light lounge and there’s a working recording studio off the lobby.
The jewel-tone, art-filled, 6th floor lobby lounge is set in a glass box and is designed for socializing with various seating vignettes. The circular fire pit with plush banquettes is a definite wow. There’s a full bar and DJ set up too. Public School is the hotel’s cheerful daytime eatery overlooking Bloor St., with a separate street-side coffee bar. Rooms are compact and ergonomically thought out with whimsical touches and in-room cocktail making set-ups. It’s mere steps to the Bloor-Yonge metro