WINGING IT: the Drake Hotel in Toronto expands and takes on boldness with its expansion

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Guests of the Drake Hotel typically don’t use words like calm and contemplative to describe the hip and highly creative boutique destination in West Toronto.

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These are not typical times, however.

So it was, with the latest pandemic lockdown imposed by the booming government, our Saturday night stay in the recently opened modern wing of the Drake – an extension that includes a new lobby and 32 rooms plus a chic suite on the roof, all attached to the original hotel – was a decidedly silent affair.

Without the option of a traditional sit-down food and drink service (until at least January 26), the Drake – and the West Queen West neighborhood in general – had an almost silent quality about it this weekend. particularly, with only a few guests seen flowing into the generally bustling property.

Trust us when we say it won’t always be that way.

Anyone who has ever stepped inside the Drake – originally Small’s Hotel in 1890, the current owner opened it as Drake in 2004 – understands that it’s kind of a vibe to see and to see, an action-packed center with creative energy constantly swirling through the air.

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The Modern Wing is a seriously expansive extension that instantly elevates that buzz factor and we suggest it just might be the hottest new accommodation offering in this city.

And, no, he doesn’t belong to a certain rapper from Toronto.

The furniture in the lobby of the Drake Hotel is a mix of tailor-made and vintage.  IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN
The furniture in the lobby of the Drake Hotel is a mix of tailor-made and vintage. IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN

ART FOR ALL

Drake’s properties have always been rich in artistic offerings, and the Modern Wing, which opened on December 1, takes it one step further. Aside from the interesting assemblage of furniture – a mix of bespoke and vintage to formulate a sort of living room vibe with a cozy fireplace – what really is eye-catching upon entering the inviting new lobby are the diverse works of art, all commissioned for the Duck. The work can be found all over the Modern Wing and comes primarily from Canadians, with 75% local talent and the rest international.

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Ecuadorian and Canadian Jasmine Cardenas' Broken Telephone art is on display throughout the fifth floor and the Drake Rooftop Suite.  IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN
Ecuadorian and Canadian Jasmine Cardenas’ Broken Telephone art is on display throughout the fifth floor and the Drake Rooftop Suite. IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN

Educational panels are located next to each room, including Ecuadorian-Canadian Jasmine Cardenas’ Broken Telephone project throughout the fifth floor and the rooftop suite. The Hamilton-based artist’s project carries a theme of nostalgia and the series is “rooted in collecting personal memories”, while the forms “explore the process of making and the ways we remember memories.”

Toronto artist Luke van H’s Garden series, located on the fourth floor, is a stunning and intriguing fictional garden paired with a found and real glove covered in epoxy.

Toronto artist Luke van H's Garden series can be found on the fourth floor, including the King Rooms.  IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN
Toronto artist Luke van H’s Garden series can be found on the fourth floor, including the King Rooms. IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN

The main lobby projects are presented over a two-year cycle.

CREATIVE COMFORT

Complementing the 19 established rooms in the Classic Wing, the 32 rooms in the new building vary in size (from 135 to 255 square feet) and style, offering visitors plenty of options with amenities throughout the wing that include a concierge 24 hours a day, a central courtyard visible from each floor, exclusive Malin + Goetz toiletries, safe, custom furniture and free WiFi.

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Turkish bathrobes are a nice touch.  IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN
Turkish bathrobes are a nice touch. IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN

We were sort of deemed worthy of staying in the Rooftop Suite, which will attract a niche clientele. The suite was designed with touring musicians and luminaries in mind, and the space would be perfect for a special occasion such as a small wedding, ideally during the warmer months, when guests can fully enjoy the immense terrace overlooking Queen Street W. to the south and the cityscape to the east.

The huge rooftop terrace is empty in the middle of winter, but packed with possibilities for the summer months.  IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN
The huge rooftop terrace is empty in the middle of winter, but packed with possibilities for the summer months. IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN

The 1,000-square-foot apartment in the Sky features two bedrooms, two bathrooms (and the wing’s only deep soaking tub), a kitchenette with a wet bar, and a living room. The art-deco wall tiles in both bathrooms are showstoppers while the floor-to-ceiling windows could never get old.

The Rooftop Suite has two bedrooms, living room, kitchenette, and bar - and just about anything you could dream of.  IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN
The Rooftop Suite has two bedrooms, living room, kitchenette, and bar – and just about anything you could dream of. IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN

The exterior of the suite is clad in polished stainless steel, making it stand out in the sun from the sidewalk below.

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All rooms have a well-stocked bar and a snack bar with many local products.

The tiles inside the two bathrooms in the rooftop suite are stunning.  IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN
The tiles inside the two bathrooms in the rooftop suite are stunning. IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN

A GOURMET DELICATE

Part of what draws people to the Drake Community Center is its exciting food and drink scene.

The hotel’s executive chef, Laura Maxwell, prepares fantastic dishes based on a local, sustainable approach and from the ground up. For our in-room dining experience, we had gem baby salads to start, followed by excellent main courses of roasted chicken and veg and steak fries. We finished with a delicious carrot cake and a flourless chocolate brownie for dessert.

Drake's Executive Chef Laura Maxwell's Little Gem Salad is delicious.  IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN
Drake’s Executive Chef Laura Maxwell’s Little Gem Salad is delicious. IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN

With the restrictions lifted, one can easily imagine the Drake Lounge, reimagined Sky Yard, a brand new lobby bar overlooking the street and a lively cafe and allowing the entire property to return to its vibrant atmosphere.

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The Drake Underground, a wonderfully small concert hall that has hosted Beck, MIA and Billy Elish, will also reopen in accordance with government regulations.

The reimagined Sky Yard bar is sure to be a popular hangout.  IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN
The reimagined Sky Yard bar is sure to be a popular hangout. IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN

While many rooms are teeming with intrigue and a kaleidoscope of color, the common areas shine equally bright on Drake’s properties, which are also in Prince Edward County.

A view of the roof of the suite inside, from the outside.  IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN
A view of the roof of the suite inside, from the outside. IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN

JUST DEET

– The new modern wing of the Drake Hotel is located at 1150 Queen Street West in Toronto and houses a 32-room expansion over five floors.

– As of February 1, a full vaccination will be required for all employees and guests, with proof of vaccination required at check-in and to enter all premises of the establishment.

– Design collaborations with Diamond Schmitt Architects, DesignAgency, John Tong, in-house team of Joyce Lo and Carlo Colacci, art curation by Drake visual arts curator Ashley Mulvihill, re-imagining of The Sky Yard and original lobby by CompanyCompany.

– Customers can pre-book parking spaces. Availability is limited.

– To book or for more information, visit thedrake.ca.

ishantz@postmedia.com
twitter.com/IanShantz

A queen bedroom inside the modern wing features various pops of color.  IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN
A queen bedroom inside the modern wing features various pops of color. IAN SHANTZ / TORONTO SUN

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