Last weekend, Jessy and I planned a rather spontaneous staycation at The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal, one of the city’s most iconic hotels and an experience we’ve been looking to try out ever since moving here.
It had been more than five months since the last time I had stayed at a hotel, and after a few gruelling months at work this summer, I felt that a luxury staycation was just what the doctor had ordered, so I booked a one-night stay at the Ritz-Carlton for Sunday evening.
As a Category 7 property, a free night award here would’ve cost 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points at the standard rate, which I didn’t feel was worthwhile compared to the cheapest cash rate I found of $330, so I went ahead and paid for my stay. I’d be able to recoup some of the costs with a “Spend US$200, Get US$50” Amex Offer on one of my Amex US cards, as well as Marriott’s current global promotion that gives you 2,500 bonus points per paid stay.
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It was only after completing my booking did I realize that the Montreal location is in fact the world’s oldest continually operating Ritz-Carlton hotel, having opened its doors in 1912 (a New York location had opened earlier in 1911, but closed in the 1950s), adding another layer of intrigue to my stay.
In This Post
- Location & Arrival
- Junior Suite with Fireplace
- Other Facilities
The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal – Location & Arrival
Known as the “Grande Dame of Sherbrooke Street”, the Ritz-Carlton is situated precisely at the corner of Sherbrooke St and Drummond St in Downtown Montreal. Location-wise, it’s extremely central, steps away from both the bustling shops of Sainte-Catherine St as well as the trendy restaurants of Crescent St.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is within a three-minute walk, while other attractions like the Notre-Dame Basilica and the Old Port are further away but still within reasonable walking distances.
The hotel building dominates the city block, exuding an air of refinement with its grandiose stature. While the hotel’s interiors underwent a $200 million round of renovations in 2016, its exterior mostly preserves the original glamour of the 1910s, accompanied by a few modern glass-and-steel extensions along its southern and eastern wings.
Despite its iconic standing as one of Montreal’s best hotels, the Ritz-Carlton’s entrance is rather unassuming, overhung by a glass and wrought-iron marquise. Even the original hotel’s logo is proudly on display, preserving the intricate “R”-shaped lion design as opposed to the more stylized lion-and-crown logo that adorns most other Ritz-Carlton hotels around the world.
Entering this hotel might feel like taking a step back through history; however, there was a very prominent reminder of our 2020 reality in the form of the blocked-off revolving doors and the guided walking paths along the ground. Precautionary measures relating to COVID-19 were well-respected at this hotel, beginning as soon as you enter the premises.
The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal – Check-in
Following the guided path, I turned to my left to complete check-in. I had arrived around 1pm in the afternoon, which was earlier than the published check-in time of 3pm, but was pleased to hear that my Junior Suite was already cleaned and inspected, ready for my use.
(It’s interesting to note that the chat function on the Marriott Bonvoy app had been turned off for this hotel, which thwarted my usual attempts to “suite-talk” my way to the best hotel upgrades as a Titanium Elite member. However, I had actually called the hotel to put in a request for some of the higher-end suites, only to be told that they weren’t available due to the COVID-19-related policy of blocking off each room for one night in-between guests. That sounded a bit like a convenient excuse to me, since the suites were in fact still bookable online, but hey, you can’t win them all!)
I also inquired about breakfast benefits as a Titanium Elite member, but unfortunately, Ritz-Carltons are not obligated to provide breakfast to elite members under Marriott Bonvoy, and this hotel was no exception. Moreover, due to the current situation, breakfast wasn’t being served at all in the hotel’s Maison Boulud restaurant, but only via room service instead.
With that, the front desk associate handed me my keys for Room 522 and wished me an enjoyable staycation, and I headed to the elevators to make my way up to the fifth floor.
The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal – Junior Suite with Fireplace
With plush carpets and alluringly dim lighting, the Ritz-Carlton’s guest room hallways carry an undeniable ostentatiousness about them, and I had a massive grin on my face as I stepped into a hotel hallway for the first time in almost six months.
Another reason for my massive grin? Well, even though my Junior Suite wasn’t the biggest, it was still positioned at the very end of the hallway, which is always a good feeling.
The Junior Suite essentially consists of one large room that contains the king-sized bed, desk, and fireplace. A spacious foyer with hardwood floors welcomes you inside.
The king bed was comfortable in the extreme, and a large part of our staycation was spent languishing around within its cloud-like sheets. Take note of the throw pillows with the hotel’s unique “R”-shaped lion logo emblazoned on it, serving as a reminder for the historic address at which you have the fortune of resting your head for the evening.
I was also a fan of the patterned wallpaper that acts as a backdrop to the room, adding a striking design to what might otherwise be a slightly drab-looking room.
At the foot of the bed was a beautiful fabric bench, with a side table adjacent to it. Shortly after I arrived, I headed out to grab some lunch, and when I returned I was delighted to discover a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine waiting for me as my welcome gift.
Opposite the bed was a glass table that served the dual purposes of dining and working, equipped with ample USB and power outlets for charging.
Then, in the corner of the room was this Junior Suite’s best feature: a gorgeous marble fireplace, which also happened to do an excellent job of warming up the room.
In order to appease me while letting me know that the higher-end suites were not available, the front desk associate had said that there were four Junior Suites on each floor, but mine was the only one that came with a fireplace. And indeed, it was a feature that Jessy and I really appreciated as we soaked in its warmth while sipping our drinks throughout the evening.
The room was fitted with electronic controls as part of the recent round of renovations, allowing you to tweak the lighting, blackout shades, and privacy blinds using a series of touch panels scattered around the room.
There weren’t too many city views from our fifth-floor windows (and I don’t imagine there would be from the higher floors either, given the limited height of the building), but we did get a nice view of the Ritz-Carlton’s interior gardens and its distinctive water feature.
Heading back through the foyer, we’ll stop by the pantry, which is stocked with a Nespresso machine and coffee pods, a box of Sloane teas, and several types of glassware.
However, since these are different times we’re living in, every piece of glassware was sealed in its own airtight plastic wrap, and the boxes for teas and Nespressos were both sealed with a sticker marking them as “Disinfected.
Moreover, the usual minibar selection was not available either, with guests invited to call in-room services to request items instead. As someone who never consumes from the minibar without going out and replace the item the next day (so as to not be billed the extortionate minibar pricing), I can’t say this affected my stay too much.
That brings us the Junior Suite’s bathroom, which consists of double sinks, an oversized bathtub, and individual compartments for the shower and toilet.
After such a long hiatus away from hotels, I can’t tell you how disproportionately happy I was to see the Ritz-Carlton’s Asprey-branded toiletries again.
While I was very impressed with the bathtub’s size, which was more than large enough for two occupants, I should note that the drain stopper was clogged, and the bathtub could only drain at a painfully slow pace.
Those of you who read my hotel reviews regularly will know that I’m a real sucker for the Ritz-Carlton’s marble bathrooms, and while this one didn’t live up to the same heights as, say, The Ritz-Carlton, Almaty, it was definitely a much-needed relief to feel the blast of the rain shower amidst such opulent surroundings.
Finally, the toilet. Now, usually, I wouldn’t bother commenting hotel toilets, but this was the only time I recall coming across a Japanese-style bidet in a North American hotel. What a luxury it is to be “welcomed” by the toilet every time, as it automatically lifts its cover as you approach!
A few more touches of decadence, like the heated towel racks and the plush bathrobes and slippers, tied everything together.
Finally, the Junior Suite offers a large wallet for hanging up your garments and storing your belongings. It’s a testament to how much I’ve missed staying at hotels that I actually unfolded the ironing board, removed my shirt, ironed it, and then put it back on – just because I don’t happen to have an ironing board at home!
Overall, even though I would’ve loved to try out one of the larger suites at this historic hotel, I must say the Junior Suite was very well-appointed, and between the warmth of its fireplace and the luxurious touches in every corner, we couldn’t have asked for more to make our staycation as comfortable and enjoyable as can be.
The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal – Dining
Of course, part of the reason I ironed my shirt was also because we had a dinner reservation at Maison Boulud, the hotel’s signature restaurant, that evening.
Having eaten at Chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurants in both Beijing and Toronto, I knew I had to try out his Montreal location sooner or later, and what would be a better occasion than during a staycation upstairs at the Ritz?
However, I should’ve had the foresight to call ahead and make a reservation on the terrace by the gardens, because even though the restaurant sets aside a few tables per night for hotel guests, there was only indoor dining available by the time I inquired. Maison Boulud is one of Montreal’s most popular restaurants, of course, so make sure to book ahead!
I found Maison Boulud’s dinner menu to be more limited than Cafe Boulud in Toronto (you can find their current menus on the Maison Boulud website), but perhaps that speaks to the elevated quality of French fine-dining in Boulud’s “Maison” compared to the brasserie-style dishes served up in his “Cafe”.
Anyway, after already polishing off a bottle of sparkling wine before dinner, Jessy and I didn’t feel particularly hungry, so we simply each ordered a main course. I opted for the house grind burger with smoked pork belly and Douanier cheese, while Jessy ordered the farm-roasted chicken with pepper and chorizo.
Overall, I think my burger won out, as the beef and smoked pork belly combined into a glut of greasy goodness. I will say that Jessy and I weren’t absolutely blown away by the food, which is similar to how we felt after trying Cafe Boulud in Toronto, but we’re still glad we visited based on Chef Boulud’s reputation alone.
I also stopped by Maison Boulud’s outdoor seating the following day just to take a look, and I thought that it’d be a lovely place to enjoy a summer brunch or an evening 5-à-7 (as the Quebecers like to say) here by the gardens.
The restaurant also offers a sun room, which seems like it’d be a lovely spot to hang out during the winters when the snow is falling outside. I could totally envision an indulgent winter stay here at the Ritz-Carlton, beginning every day with breakfast and coffee here in Maison Boulud’s cozy greenhouse before heading out for the day – a solid reason to return to this hotel in the future, for sure.
The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal – Breakfast
Alas, there’d be no cozy greenhouse breakfast on this stay, or any breakfast in the restaurant for that matter.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Ritz-Carlton is only offering in-room breakfast service at the moment, which left me with the question of whether to order in-room breakfast at inflated prices or simply head across the street and buy some sous-vide eggs using my stash of Starbucks gift cards.
In the end, a staycation is meant to be a bit of a splurge anyway, so we ordered the Eggs Benedict with salmon for $24 and the French Toast for $18.
Both were delivered to our room right on time the next morning, and even though the items were pricey, the portions were at least at good size, and the food quality very high.
The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal – Other Facilities
The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal has no shortage of facilities to keep you pampered throughout your stay. In fact, as soon as you enter the lobby from the front doors, you’ll be able to tell why this place had set the standard for luxury in Canada way back in 1912.
Directly in front of the entrance is the Palm Court, the hotel’s lobby lounge, where high tea is traditionally served in the afternoons. However, due to social distancing restrictions at the moment, the Palm Court’s dining operations (including lunch and afternoon tea) have been moved into the ballroom further back instead, and this space simply serves as the bar.
And what a stunning bar it is, the full-length bar shelves standing tall against a backlit marble background, adorned with individual bottles of Dom Perignon. If that doesn’t scream posh old-money vibes, I don’t know what does.
I also took some time to wander through the “makeshift” Palm Court dining space in the ballroom, where all the seats were appropriately distanced away from one another in the middle of this grandiose space.
The ballroom also leads into the hotel’s interior gardens, which is a rare pocket of zen in the middle of the bustling city.
On the basement floor, you’ll find the Ritz-Carlton’s spa and gym. However, I was disappointed to find out that the gym was unfortunately still closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, so I didn’t get a chance to check it out.
No staycation is complete, however, without a dip in the pool, and in that regard the Ritz-Carlton didn’t disappoint. The hotel’s rooftop pool is open from 12pm to 8pm, and we invited some of Jessy’s friends to join us in the afternoon, thanks to our late checkout benefits.
While the pool is relatively small, it prides itself on being a saltwater pool such that you won’t smell of chlorine afterwards, and its views of the city aren’t bad either.
There were also pool chairs scattered around both an indoor and an outdoor terrace; I didn’t really understand the purpose of the former, whereas the latter made for a great spot to hang out with a few beers in the afternoon while getting your tan on, weather permitting.
Jessy and I had a wonderful staycation at The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal, and I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to try out such a historic property within the Ritz-Carlton portfolio and also within the ranks of Canadian luxury hotels in general.
Indeed, between its well-appointed European-style rooms and suites, its big-name signature restaurant, its stunning bar, and its highly service-oriented staff members (for example, without exception, the front desk associates would always greet us every time we walked by), this hotel delivers a level of luxury that can few other hotels in Canada can match. If you’re looking to experience one of the best hotels that Montreal has to offer on your next visit, the Ritz-Carlton is the place to be.
I hear that it’s neck-and-neck between the Ritz and the Four Seasons in terms of Montreal’s outright best hotel, so I’d like to give the Four Seasons a try sometime in order to compare; however, I’m certain I’ll be returning to the Ritz at some point in the future when I’m passing through Montreal with a temptation for the extravagant.