Jim Dudley is today’s ultimate hotel ambassador. He retired from commodoring Vancouver Yacht Club and his long-time friend Steve Halliday (also in his lifetime element, back in ops as hotel boss), said why not come and drive the hotel’s Bentley, and that is what he does, and adores it. The ride to the hotel was, as a result, far too short… we pulled into the carriage entrance and I was helped out of the car by a guy in a black suit and fedora with an orange feather, and went up 11 steps to the lobby. Surely this is little changed since Hotel Georgia opened in 1927 as the first Western International outside the USA? The original clock still ticks. The hotel re-opened 15 July 2011 at 1108 precisely, and at that hour, every day, Michael Buble’s Georgia on my Mind resonates through the lobby. These days there is also original, 21st century, art, and white orchids, and chic women in grey suits and pearls.
A Dutch woman in grey suit and pearls escorted me up in one of 3 classic style elevators, activated by pressure-pad room keys. She showed me to 1208 and I marched straight into a bedroom, with a pair of double beds, and began to make myself at home. There is another bedroom, she said hesitantly. There is indeed. This is the premium suite, 250 sq m dedicated to Lord Stanley, 1841-1908 (Frederick Stanley, Eton and Sandhurst, later Lord Stanley of Preston and 6th Governor General of Canada before inheriting the Earldom of Derby – he is best known now for Vancouver’s Stanley Park, ice hockey’s Stanley Cup and, now, for this suite).
Its main bedroom, designed by Alessandro Munge, is a tiered theatre. From the caramel and stone-coloured carpet, one tier takes the eye to the top of 4 stone-coloured cushions on a stone sofa. Behind this rises the top of the operative part of the bed, a fluff of white Pratesi linen with a black and stone zigzag throw. The next tier is standing day pillows, some a dark and white chocolate leaf pattern, others white linens with Rosewood embroidered on them. The eye goes yet further up, to the 2.5m-tall wood-outlined top of the milk chocolate buttoned-leather bedhead. And if you go right to the gods, from the plain white 3.5m-high ceiling there are ecru silk curtains flanking both windows. Wall fabrics, by the way, are silk and other fabric-looks, ecru or taupe. Leading off the bedroom is the main bathroom, with dark marbled floor and walls of the big, glass-fronted shower. There are 2 separate vanity units, with oval Kohler sinks. Toiletries are Ohné, by Mrs Hunt’s Lady Primrose, in big pump-action containers. Towels and bathrobes are Rosewood’s own, made in China (bother, in walking round this room with my Apple, to make notes, I bump my shin on one of the 4 metal protruberances at the corners of the solid coffee table, and thus add a deep cherry red not only to my leg but to the overall colour scheme).
Back in my main salon, there is less of a tiered effect, and colouring is more ecru, stone and dark wood (the big square coffee table has more of these metal-extending legs but now I am more careful). There is an oval tiger-wood table, with 6 dark-leather chairs and an oval, vertical-drop chandelier over. There is a stone mantelshelf with log-look working fire, and colour here is the deep teal and soft nasturtium of a vaguely-amoebic circular oil in a big square acrylic frame. I have a half-bath, and a kitchen with Nespresso, a glass-fronted non-automatic minibar, with cold beers and a 375ml Prospect Chardonnay – red wine, and adult-sized spirits bottles are in cupboards above. Snacks include gluten-free Granola Bars and 100% Biologique Prana sea-salted cashews. I check the room service menu: breakfast starts at 0500, and day-log sandwiches, served with BC blueberries and black pepper fries, include Elvis Presley’s fried peanut butter and banana sandwich (add C$3, for bacon). The room service menu, by the way, is easy to find – from the customers’ viewpoint, I still maintain it is easiest to have everything in one encompassing Guide to Services, and this is a splendid ecru leather ring binder affair, highlighted with classic black and white photos of such past guests as Marlene Dietrich, who checked in with 40 cases. The guide, however, has eliminated a Restaurants section, though Hawksworth Restaurant, under H, gives no opening hours.
Sense spa is a tall haven of ivory paint, including moulded doors, and slate-type flooring. Décor in the room Jaclyn led me to was limited to the stone-and-caramel cashmere-type blanket on the bed. I was having an ultimate facial but somehow, once she had put whatever on it (the face) it seemed like 99% of my 80 minutes was spent massaging and cosseting each of my hands, and feet, in exact turn. She loves this spa, and its space: her last job was at sea, with Steiner, and she shared a cabin – the size of this treatment room, she said – with 2 others and you could not even turn round in the bathroom.
Later, as the sun begins to set, I head up to my terrace. Up 30 dark wood steps, past a gallery of past memorabilia, I find myself in this 70 sq m space, with a hot tub and barbeque and dining for 4, with a sign that says 118 is the maximum legal number. I decide to join a mere 2 others, in the 110-seat Hawksworth, the restaurant. Now here is a case of a ‘restaurant with rooms’ where actually the restaurant, run by David Hawksworth in conjunction with hotel owners Delta, is run 100% for locals rather than a hotel guest. The long champagne-coloured area, fronting, and with an opening from, Georgia Street, is divided into 3. You enter the bar and go on to one and then through to another dining room. All areas are choc-a-bloc, with locals in an assortment of anything-goes dress. They are into this restaurant, knowing other diners, and knowing they will get, say, their choice of tenderloin with smoked marrow and vegetables, but with spicy chimmichurri (the hotel guest who wants a simple steak has a problem, Houston). Annabel orders a house cocktail, Hotel Georgia, which can be traced back to around 1945 (a coupe holds Plymouth gin, orgeat, lemon juice, orange blossom water and egg white). I ask for Pinot and the sommelier chooses Cloudline, from Oregon. I choose a daily special, of salmon salad, which is an artistic display of minimal quantity. My main is slow-cooked halibut, 2 medallions wrapped in chorizo paste. I could barely see the stated artichoke, basil, tomato preserve but there was lots of saffron emulsion below and thank goodness I brazenly asked for carbs, anything (we got a metal basket of delicious real breads, sadly not replenished, and an enormous puddle of equally delicious olive oil).
Back in my temporary room, night turndown has left a card with a photo of Elvis (‘Music should be something that makes you gotta move, inside or outside’). The temperature has been turned down from my previous 22 to 18. I open a window, its full 15cm permitted. I dream that husband is about to play tennis with Mr Sherwood and then he (husband, not JS) calls me for my 0500 wakeup. I head to the gym, to find a charming young man cleaning the floors. The gym is a casserole of brands, Cybex runners, Precor ellipticals, Technogym bikes and so on. Does this mean one technician can service all brands? I find my way through to the pool, at this hour devoid of kids, or anyone. It is gorgeous, 20m and wide enough for 4 to lap, easily. Highlights are the perfect-temperature, salt water and, at the base of the pool, 8 quadrilateral glass panels, lit from below in a constantly-changing day-glo sequence which also reflect down below to the hotel’s porte cochère – clever idea, of local architects Endall Elliott Associates. Above the pool, the white ceiling seems sky-high. There are stacks of peach-coloured towels, I wrap one around me and head back home, and shower.
I am also alone, but for server Fernando and the buzz in the kitchen I can see in the distance, at Hawksworth, breakfast time. I can now fully appreciate the beauty of this, the centre of the 3 areas. Ahead of me, also, is the glass-walled wine cellar. Walls to my left and right, with openings through to more-restaurant, on my left, and the bar, to my right, are champagne coloured, with moulding. I am on a champagne banquette by the window, and a selection of back cushions means I can sit on one, for extra height. The composite table has a glass holder with an all-greens posy. I have a real coffee mug, on a saucer. I listen to Ella Fitzgerald, or similar, and check a menu that is perfect for the complicated breakfast eater (you know, the eggs Benedict with apple sauce kind of thing) but I find toast, under Sides. I order a small, really fresh juice (2 sizes are offered), multigrain and sourdough toasts, which come, linen-wrapped, in a wire basket, and coffee, served in a thermal pot. A wood tray holds butters and 2 open preserves.
On my way out I see a complimentary coffee station in a gallery above the main lobby. There is a box of tealeaves.com designer teabags, and a samovar holds coffee that actually has more taste than the restaurant’s. Robert Redford, behind dark glasses but looking as good as ever (has he also had a facial?) is on his way out. I must also be gone. I write a couple of notes on the hotel’s copper-colour-backed paper, and leave, to make way for Lord Stanley’s next occupant, Singapore-based Tony Hii, md of owners, Delta Land Development. As I leave, ladies in pearls warmly ask if I have enjoyed my stay. The doorman has his fedora nicely at an angle, and the 1927 clock is exact, to the minute.
from The Gostelow Report – article exclusive online to CPP-LUXURY.COM
Mary Gostelow www.girlahead.com
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