THE QUEEN IS BACK !
On July 10, 2017, the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel ceremoniously reopened and greeted its first guests following several years of planning and 12 months of work. I had the privilege of experiencing my very own staycation a few days after their opening night and got a much needed and deserved break from my mommy duties, and the best part was that there was no plane to catch or border to cross. Just a quick drive downtown and valet parking to boot. Who could ask for anything more!
We (and I mean we as in almost all of Montreal was in attendance) began with an orientation and tour of the hotel and all of its brand new features. I was very impressed by the newly renovated and stunning modern design by Sid Lee. They created a sleek, contemporary, yet cozy and comfortable environment that in turn made you feel like you were in someone’s living room all while appreciating the pieces of art strategically placed all around. Which is an exciting departure from the original architects of the Canadian National Railway Company from 1958. The typically Canadian decor was given a welcome upgrade. But what caught my attention were the new “Queen E” experiences such as the Agora, Rosélys restaurant, Kréma café, Nacarat bar and the Marché Artisans market. More on those lovely places in a bit.
During my time there, I was treated to the reinvented Fairmont Gold experience, which is an exclusive lounge on the 21st floor offering unique views of our beautiful city. The three upper floors of the hotel boast luxurious rooms and suites each with its own ambiance and personalized services. Needless to say I was not disappointed.
Now, let’s talk about the “Queen E” experiences. Let me begin with Rosélys. What a beautiful environment, with an elegant design and big windows letting in lots of natural light. This modern, chic and accessible bistro melding Parisian elegance and English style features market cuisine with varied menu items. According to the time of day and season, the bistro concept comes alive with a menu that changes daily and delicious dishes that can be shared, and the chef, Maxime Delmont, introduces a menu based on fresh, superior-quality ingredients. Their bistronomie is the ideal meeting place for afternoon tea, dinner with friends, business luncheons and of course Sunday brunch.
Another quaint spot is Kréma café. It is the perfect high-end, homemade coffee and tea destination if you need a break or as a quick stop on your way somewhere. The service is warm and friendly with only the finest of ingredients and all of their packaging is recycled and reusable. For those who love high tea, there are reduced versions of English-style tea with magnificent fine-porcelain tea sets. Their central fireplace makes the space extremely inviting with comfy armchairs and a view of downtown, and their barista not only makes delicious beverages but ones that are absolutely Instagram worthy—so don’t head there without your phone in hand.
If you like the 5-à-7 vibe or are a night owl, the Nacarat bar will entice cocktail aficionados with a discerning menu and Glam Rock era decor. There are multiple stations drawing inspiration from their open kitchen concept and the bar has an exceptional view of Montreal’s vibrant street life. Their mixologists pride themselves on their “Liquid Cuisine” and craft out-of-the-ordinary refreshments using both traditional and experimental techniques. They are game for anything and love to improvise and be inspired by their patrons’ requests, right down to the way they serve their drinks. It is the ideal venue to meet up with friends, enjoy a drink before, during and after dinner, or return to after a show at the Bell Centre, which is just a stone’s throw away.
However, what makes the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth stand out from the pack is the Marché Artisans market located in the lobby. It is the first-ever gourmet market in a Canadian hotel and it’s bursting with the latest harvests and newest arrivals coming in fresh from across Montreal and all over the world. This original concept is as much for local residents as for public transit users, and is part gourmet supermarket, part restaurant and eat-in counter. It is ideal for a delicious brunch, mini meetings or for anything on-the-go. And the best part is that you are guaranteed to eat well.
Coming from a bread and pastry background, I thoroughly enjoyed the pastry counter with its artisanal ice cream, crepes, bakery and chocolate station. It was an absolute delight to watch the pastry chefs in their element. You can also tickle your fancy with floral arrangements, fine teas, accessories and cookbooks, and acquire some knowledge with their gourmet advisors and dedicated foodies. Marché Artisans is a bustling network of food and fun, and definitely has something for everyone.
All in all, the word hotel makes you think of tourists and/or vacations, but what the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth has created is much more than a destination for jetsetters and globetrotters—they have made it a destination for Montrealers. The objective of their stunning transformation was to make the establishment even more welcoming and an important contributor to Montreal’s community and social life.
Yes, over the decades the hotel has been graced by the presence of prestigious personalities such as members of the British royal family, movie stars and of course the most memorable of all, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, but the true source of the Fairmont pride comes from being a part of the cherished memories and milestones of Montreal families, and I am thrilled to say that my experience is one I will never forget. And I will most definitely do it again.
Photography by Patricia Brochu