Windsor Arms Hotel deeply rooted in TIFF history

In the heart of Toronto’s glitzy Yorkville neighbourhood on petite St. Thomas Street sits the grand Windsor Arms Hotel. As the city launches the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, we tip our hats to the property most deeply rooted in the festival’s history.

The birth of the festival of festivals

TIFF got its start in 1976 as a collection of films from other festivals — a “festival of festivals” — and it was at the Windsor Arms that TIFF co-founders Bill Marshall, Henk Van der Kolk and Dusty Cohl devised the concept for the festival in a booth at one of the hotel’s former bars. Did you know Elizabeth Taylor got engaged to Richard Burton here? Other notable past guests include Sandra Bullock, Johnny Depp, Edward Norton, Demi Moore, Clint Eastwood, Jessica Lange and Sean Penn.

Comfy retreat hits a high note

The hotel features 28 suites designed by the hotel’s owner, George Friedmann. The 700-square-foot deluxe suite features a butler’s pantry, oversized bathroom with limestone floors, comfy living room, state-of-the-art sound system, Nespresso maker and Molton Brown amenities. Each suite has had a musical instrument added for guests to enjoy, such as a baby grand piano, harp or guitar.

Serenity now

The Spa at Windsor Arms is a relaxing and serene oasis in the heart of the city. Located on the hotel’s fourth and fifth floors, pampered guests look forward to soaking in the sun on a large terrace offering panoramic views of Toronto. A salt-water pool located on the first level of the spa is the perfect spot to soak after treating yourself to a manicure and massage.

Afternoon tea, anyone?

The Windsor Arms is perhaps most famous for its Afternoon Tea service, which takes place daily in three colourfully decorated rooms. It’s a perfect way to reconnect with old friends over champagne. Guests enjoy piping hot tea, dainty sandwiches, classic scones slathered in devon cream and preserves, mini quiche and plate of sweets.

Foodies rejoice

Local foodie fans rejoiced when acclaimed chef Jean-Pierre Challet recently announced he’d be moving his wildly successful Ici Bistro on Harbord Street to the Windsor Arms kitchen. Highlights from a recent tasting include savoyard tartare featuring gratin dauphinois and la sauvagine fromage, and pan-seared duck magret with linen honey and kumquat chutney.

Andrew Dobson, September 3, 2014