The Drake Hotel is Toronto’s multi-level, multi-purpose rock and roll boutique hotel, and self-proclaimed “hotbed for culture.”
The place has been around in one form or another since 1890, but in 2004 after three long years of rehauling that began in 2001, was resurrected as what it is today, a restaurant, bar, and venue with a rooftop patio and one of the best restaurant burgers in the city.
Historic elements like the grand staircase in the front lobby are incorporated with an industrial yet kitschy feel throughout the hotel, created by the in-house team in collaboration with 3rd Uncle Design.
Rooms range in size from “XS” (150 square feet) to “XL” (385 square feet), but share a similar feel, jewel tones mixing in metals and rich fabrics, and start around $209 a night. Original artwork (such as Francesco Pignatelli’s PHARMACIE) decks out each one.
Each room comes equipped with a baller, artisanal version of a mini bar stocked with more booze than you can shake a stick at, including red wine, small batch vodka and a champagne bucket with mini bottles of bubbly. No two rooms feature the same art: Saira McLaren’s A Meeting.
A free bag of popcorn is provided for munching, and items like cozy robes and a useful umbrella are available for purchase.
The hotel is complemented by a ground-floor restaurant lounge and bar area, known as “Stardust” in the 90s. Luke Painter created the mural above the bar.
The room is a mix of semi-circle booths, high seating and tables and a slightly elevated area with lower tables near a DJ booth, yet another mural by Jason McLean.
In an open kitchen, apres work snacks like maki rolls are prepared within view of diners.
A chicory salad ($15) blends white radicchio with other greens and spicy almonds, accompanied by a pear mostarda and tarragon vinegar.
The Drake Burger is a signature item that’s fairly worth the $20 price tag, made with beef from boutique butcher Cumbrae’s and served with aged cheddar and Russian dressing, all piled on a foundation of thick bacon sandwiched between a milk bun and topped classically with a pickle. Fries on the side complete the picture.
A brussels caesar ($9) is one option for a side, crispy little brussel sprouts served whole with a cashew dressing and crunchy smoked chickpeas that add a little more texture.
The pan seared duck ($29) is another favourite here, served sliced crowned by fatty, crunchy skin. It’s served with a comforting celeriac risotto and snappy charred turnips with parsley vinaigrette.
The Maharaja ($14) is a cocktail made by resident star bartender Sandy de Almeida with Havana Club 7 Year rum, falernum syrup, almond, pineapple and ginger beer given a pretty Angostura float at the end, refreshing with a hint of spice.
Another grandiose staircase (of course, also featuring original art by Shary Boyle, Laurie Simmons and Evan Penny) in the middle of the lounge area leads up to bathrooms, rooms and Sky Yard.
This is the Drake’s all-season patio serving the same menu as downstairs, and one of Toronto’s most popular outdoor hangouts.
All areas of the hotel are constantly engulfed in a swirl of events, from rock shows to yoga classes to DJ sets and en masse weddings.
Thursday nights at 11 soul cover band The Digs play in the lounge for free.
There’s also Drake Cafe off to the side, only open during the day but always serving up Reunion Island coffee as well as Caesars and baked goods made at the Drake Commissary. The restaurant proper is also known for epic hangover-curing breakfasts and brunches.