Shangri-La Toronto, Downtown: hotel review

The Shangri-La's stellar view over Toronto, crisp white bed linens and room service are all good reasons as to why hotels are an essential service.

What's the draw

While restaurants shuttered months ago, hotels have been welcoming guests all through lockdown — and after the year we had, I'm inclined to agree that staying in crisp white bed linens and ordering room service is very much an essential service. Just one swing through the revolving doors of Shangri-La Toronto and you'll be transported to an idyllic utopia that feels much further away than downtown's University Avenue. If you've ever checked into a hotel room on a trip only to spend about four waking hours in it, now's your chance to really get some bang for your buck, starting with the bed.

A mere hop and a skip from Osgoode subway station, this upscale hotel in the middle of downtown Toronto boasts sleek and contemporary design, while maintaining a warm and welcoming feel. The lobby lounge looks like it could be a set of the latest Bond movie, with a rotating selection of vintage Hollywood costumes and gowns on display.

As you'd expect from this hotel giant, the service and attention to detail at the Shangri-La Toronto is impeccable. And with some of the biggest rooms in the city, which combine modern luxury with traditional Asian décor, calming bamboo decor and heated marble floors, this Toronto staycation is a cut above the rest. With an afternoon tea service, a 9,000-square-foot wellness facility on the fifth floor and a 64-foot pool and a spa, this might just be the definition of treat yo' self.

What to eat

True, the gorgeous Lobby Lounge, usually filled with tinkling piano music, is currently out of commission. But the swish spot's legendary Afternoon Tea can still be enjoyed from the comfort of your room. Order artisanal finger food like poached prawn sandwiches and freshly baked scones with your choice of tea or bubbles and scoff from the comfy confines of your robe (finally, one benefit of isolation). If you're looking for a more active dining experience, classic cocktail classes are available, either in a socially distanced session or via Zoom with Marc Lamontagne, the hotel's food and beverage manager.

If you can't justify a trip to the Shangri-La Toronto, you can still enjoy the spoils of the swanky spot from home. Their famous afternoon tea is available on UberEats or DoorDash, including a Chinese New Year version that comes with a mix of dumplings, bao, seasonal scones, plus matcha and blood orange macarons with yuzu mousse (available until February 26). Pore over Shangri-La Toronto's Lobby Lounge's (formerly BOSK) menu of housemade pasta, burgers, and salads — and don't forget to spring for a bottle from their extensive wine selection, many of which can't be found at the LCBO.

What else? 

The hotel, with its glass exterior and iconic 'Rising' art installation at its entrance, is certainly a vision, but perhaps the jewel in its crown is the view it affords guests. Courtesy of a north-facing bathroom, I was able to watch Toronto go by as I soaked in the dreamy freestanding tub. Pairing views that stretched all the way up University Ave. to Queen's Park with some room service fizz, I pondered if passersby could see me all the way up on the 10th floor — before sinking deeper into the bubbles and deciding that I didn't care all that much after all.

Luckily, I was able to take advantage of the 20-metre pool, which — when the light hits perfectly — almost passed for a tropical swim, under its glass roof and cascading water features. As per COVID regulations, the hot tub, sauna and state-of-the-art health club were out of action during our Toronto staycation, so be sure to check with the hotel before booking to see what's open for your stay.

Average price per night, $440;