The Fairmont Royal York Hotel
The Royal York in Toronto has a modern, historic dichotomy which means rooms with really comfy pillows, but furniture that has seen better days, and no fans in the bathroom. At the moment the ratio between old and new seems to be about 6% new to 94% tassels and slightly wonky showerheads. You are paying for consistency (the Fairmont brand) and a sentiment of historic Canadiana. Reading lamps are straight off of grandma's sidetable, though there is a pretty new rooftop garden (with bee hives and grapevines) and a charming young chef.
On our most recent stay, we were in a deluxe suite, but we've also sampled their more run-of-the-mill room. The Royal York roughly adheres to the steamer system: steerage and luxury.
Luxury rooms are high-up, face the lake, have multiple bathrooms, multiple TVs, dressing tables, and space to spread out. Possibly even a china cabinet. (No, really.) If you get the more standard room though expect it to fit a body (yours) and a bed. Almost exactly. You may be resting your suitcase on top of the TV.
High sound transfer between the room and the hall makes the Royal York the sort of hotel where a "romantic evening" is more likely to consist of a neutered talking-about-feelings over sparkling wine and rosepetals than a rambunctious shag.
While the decor's a bit hit-and-miss (even for ex-history majors), the service is top-notch. Everyone we dealt with was helpful, friendly, knowledgeable, pleasant and on-the-ball.
Who stays here? It's a hotel for stodgy politicos who feel more powerful when surrounded by damask; middle-management types wearing their convention badges; and tourists on package deals, who plan to explore Toronto by going to Niagara Falls.
Highly-coiffed white-haired couples dine at EPIC beside families wearing cut-offs and t-shirts. You don't envy the managers and PR trying to pick a tone. The bar makes a lip-smacking Cilantro Lemon Smooth, and after a couple EPIC might feel like it has atmosphere. But when you're sober, it more closely resembles a posh airport restaurant, from the 80s.
Granted, despite my protests, the 80s are back in fashion.But even hipsters in white-rimmed sunglasses are incorporating 80s elements into a new style, while EPIC just seems to have kept the same carpeting. Located off a hallway beside check-in and on the way to the shops makes it feel a little like dining in a mall.
EPIC tries to show off Ontario ingredients, though it is again hit-and-miss. Making use of the rooftop garden, the edible flowers and herbs sneak into the menu. A delicious scallop amuse-bouche was followed by a bland seared tuna and a creme brulee that seemed to have come to the table fairly directly from the fridge. A tour of the rooftop garden (see pictures below) is packaged in with tea time, and even if you don't enjoy tea and/or crumpets, it's worth going for the city view and the too rare chance to go see some rooftop greenery.