The Drake Hotel - self-proclaimed as the city's "Hot Bed For Culture" - is a modern boutique hotel and one-stop experience that makes both nightlife lovers and design nerds soil their trousers.
After its February 2004 renovation and reopening - and consequent backlash from the gentrification police - the slick hotel has now become the unofficial hub of the West Queen West district... the "de rigueur" replacement for Queen West proper.
With clientele as vast as the chi-chi set in the Dining Room and Sky Yard, the pomade-heavy suburbanites in the Lounge, the music scenesters in the Underground, and the newspaper-reading locals in the Cafe, it meets the needs of the neighbourhood, city dwellers, and tourists alike.
No matter where you sit on the Drake debate, there's no disputing the hotel has brought some definite spice and international acclaim to the neighbourhood.
With a designated curator and graphic designer on board, the place sizzles visually, right down to the menus and room pass cards.In fact, it's hard to believe the place is over 100 years old. With New York-style loft furniture, slick bathroom sinks, boundary-pushing art pieces (including Ross Bonfanti's Concreatures, hidden on the third floor), the place embodies contemporary chic.
Though the rooms are smaller than your average hotel, the real estate is used wisely, with an attention to detail that make it a delight to explore. The Malin+Goetz creams and cleansing products are definitely a nice bonus, as are the extras like the iPod docking alarm clock, an in-room safe, and a treats tray that hits every pop culture junkie's heart.
Of course, grandma wouldn't be too thrilled about the see-through showers and the extensive pleasure catalogue (replete with vibrators, feathers, and erotic DVDs), but no matter: this funky place ain't meant for grandma.
Travellers needing a full night's rest should grab a room away from Queen West, along
Beaconsfield. In the back rooms, I barely heard a peep, even though the hoochies were out in their full "O-M-G!" squealing, clip-clopping regalia.
Going hungry isn't really an option here. With four different locations to chow down, you can pretty much stuff your face during your entire stay. Though the mains served in the Dining Room, Raw Bar, Lounge, Cafe, and Sky Yard cost a little more than an average night demands, the starving artist menus are a pleaser, as long as you're willing to eat a little earlier than usual.
Real cheapskates can rejoice at the Taco and Tequila Shack, upstairs in the Sky Yard, where a meaty takeaway taco can be yours for a few measly dollars. Can't beat that.
For those who crave activity but are too lazy to make an effort, there's plenty to keep a traveller out of trouble (or in it, if you prefer). If the Sky Yard's rooftop "Drive-In" movie series and marshmallow roasting sessions don't do it for you, the Underground usually has something going on, including the popular Elvis Mondays music night and art/music evening Quick Fix.
My personal favourite "extra"? The Drake General Store - the unofficial "tuck shop" with a rotating cast of spendy nostalgic wares, featuring cool retro stationery, pickled vegetables, pop culture figurines, and an independent clothing section.
The staff members are good looking AND pretty nice - a combination that always leaves me suspect. But here, it seems kinda legit, and I actually believe they mean it.
Even as a visitor waiting for friends in the lobby, I've received the same attention as a real paying guest would. Either the staff are truly great actors or they're really proud to work
here. Either way, kudos.
However, all bets are off late night in the lounge and early morning in the cafe, when staff attention simmers a bit. For the most part, though, once you enter their doors, you're there to be taken care of.