Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lap of luxury

A night at the Trump Hotel Toronto

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Anyone who has listened to Donald Trump knows he's never met a superlative he wasn't happy to utter, true or not. He's always yapping about the biggest, the best, the most luxurious and when it comes to the newest Trump hotel to join his roster, they might actually be true.

The Trump International Hotel Toronto, in the heart of the Bay Street financial district, is a beauty. And it's clear the moment you walk into the lobby that no expense has been spared. It's small compared with the other luxe properties in the city such as the Ritz-Carlton or the Fairmont Royal York, but it's a gorgeous mélange of light and dark, gleaming marble crystal and glass.

Sometimes that combination can be austere and clinical, but here is a warmth that comes from the abundance of natural light, velvet curtains and sumptuous textures. The decor palette is inspired by champagne and caviar. Behind the front desk is a large cherry blossom installation, made from Czech crystal and illuminated softly with LED lights.

The cherry blossom, an Asian symbol of the renewal of life, is echoed throughout the hotel from guest rooms to restaurant. A black Murano glass chandelier leads the way to the bank of elevators that go to the guest rooms and suites (261 in total), Quartz Crystal Spa and Stock restaurant.

The service has an Asian feel. The moment I step up to the desk, I'm offered a lavender-scented, moistened cloth to wipe off the grime from my journey. If you've ever been to the Far East, you know items such as business cards are handed over using two hands. When I get my room key, it's given to me like that. I like the formality of it. It's a classy touch. I'm less sure about the bellmen wearing white gloves. I can't stop thinking about Hamburger Helper TV commercials with the talking white glove.

My room is a deluxe king and it's just as posh as the lobby. The cherry motif is present above the headboard and there are real potted orchids on the desk at the window. (One of Trump's edicts is that desks should never face the wall.) The bed is fluffy, marshmallow-like, and the Italian sheets demand you strip off your pyjamas to feel the 500-thread count against your skin.

There's a clock radio on the nightstand that charges iPads and iPhones, plus a pullout shelf, handy for glasses, books, water and the gorgeous chocolate truffle that comes with turndown service. Lights and drapes are controlled on a single panel on the wall.

The bathroom goes heavy on white marble. The floors are heated, one of the nicest perks available in the hotel world. And there's a soaker tub, a separate rain shower and a TV embedded into the bathroom mirror so you won't miss a minute of the latest episode of The Apprentice.

The bathroom vanity is modelled after a steamer trunk with square handles and sleek finish. The toiletries, Trump brand naturally, are generously sized.

The attention to little touches is good -- and bad. The hallways are clad in acoustic tiles so sound doesn't travel and there are chandeliers, tasteful grey/aubergine carpeting and pretty room number plaques. But I found there's no shampoo in the bathroom and the switch on the hair dryer is broken. And an initial email that came at the time of my hotel booking addresses me as "Mr."

But these are early days at the Trump. I visited during its soft opening where the bugs and hiccups are ironed out.

On the culinary front, it's all good news. Though I didn't stay to drink or eat at Suits, the small martini bar just off the main lobby, I did poke my head in to see the lineup of vodka -- 40 varieties in all -- behind the bar. The signature cocktail is a martini made with cherry blossom-infused vodka.

Stock on the 31st floor is a mixed crowd -- gaggles of girlfriends, dudes in suits and hipsters in stilettos and designer duds -- poring over the wine list (4,000 in stock) and sipping cocktails at the front of the house, serious diners in the back.

The menu designed by executive chef Todd Clarmo won't win points for ingenuity.

It's straight up with few twists. Beef is front and centre (topped with a Wagyu steak at $100-plus), but there are options such as pasta with lobster. The waiter brings a basket of bread right away once the orders are off to the kitchen. A long banquette stretches down one side of the room and Louis XIV-style chairs add Old World charm.

Only a clean plate remained from the sizable portion of tender short ribs sitting atop creamy polenta, mopped up with bread to the last bit. Pasta was served al dente with poker chip-sized lobster chunks.

A trip to the chocolate trolley, stocked with sweet treats from David Chow out of his chocolate "laboratory," didn't net any takers, not out of a lack of appeal, but due simply from a lack of stomach space. The prices are up there, but what would you expect here?

That applies too to the valet parking at $50 per night. Competitors such as the Four Seasons and the Royal York ring in at $42. But neither of them offers a mosaic by Ontario artist Stephen Andrews along the wall of the entrance to the parking lot. It took 11 artisans more than three months to install half a million tiles, including some covered in $20,000 worth of gold leaf.

Two days after I checked out, an email arrived with the subject line "A message from Donald Trump." The Donald wanted to know how I enjoyed my stay.

Since you asked, I truly enjoyed it, but there will be annual reviews to make sure the hotel keeps up its blue-chip performance.

-- Postmedia News

IF YOU GO

Rates: Starting at $395 a night. For more information and to book: Trumphotelcollection.com, 1-855-709-285

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 11, 2012 D3

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