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Vancouver Boundby Beth Weitzman and Elina Fuhrman | Hawai'i magazine | September 6, 2012
Vancouver, British Columbia, exudes a fresh energy that is addictive after just one visit. Little wonder why—aside from its robust cinematic scene (many Hollywood movies and TV shows are filmed in the waterfront city), this buzzing metropolis attracts visitors worldwide with gastronomy that easily competes with the best in the United States, posh accommodations and an abundance of natural beauty (mountains, oceans, lakes, rivers, beaches and an extensive trail system). For a memorable experience…
Opening last summer to rave reviews, the Rosewood Hotel Georgia achieved its goal of reinventing a classic, and then some. Smack-dab in the center of downtown Vancouver, just blocks away from the waterfront and Stanley Park and mere steps from the city’s best dining, shopping, theater and art, it occupies a landmark location.
In true Rosewood style, a comfortably elegant atmosphere welcomes guests as if they were coming home—expect top-notch “can-do” service from the moment you are greeted at the door. While refined, this property, like its Rosewood siblings, offers luxury without pretense—somewhat surprising, given the hotel’s legacy. Destined for fame when it first opened in 1927, the grand retreat was a star from day one, boasting a who’s who of clients including the likes of Elvis Presley, Nat “King” Cole, Katharine Hepburn and British royalty.
Today, 85 years later, Rosewood Hotel Georgia perfectly juxtaposes heritage with modern hospitality. Restoration efforts reveal a reverence for Old World craftsmanship and that which remains from its heyday—dial-style floor indicators over the elevator doors being one of the original elements still standing—and updates to the property’s structure, furnishings, technology and offerings.
Improbably, this co-existence works beautifully and stretches throughout the hotel. Take the lobby, where rich mahogany joins luxe furnishings and jaw-dropping modern art. Rosewood Hotel Georgia is home to one the largest private collections of Canadian art in the entire country. Here, contemporary works pop up in both likely and unexpected places, acting as a gateway to imagination and reflecting Vancouver’s cultural diversity. The collection not only complements the hotel’s long and layered history, but also brings it full-throttle into the 21st century. Successfully introducing this contrast of past and present is, well, something of an art unto itself.
The fully restored Hotel Georgia boasts 156 elegantly appointed guest accommodations, including the premier Lord Stanley Suite and Rosewood Suite, both ultra-luxe with two bedrooms, exclusive rooftop terraces with city skyline views, private plunge pools and gardens. Guests of the Rosewood Suite also may enjoy access to an adjacent suite. If desired, voilà! A three-bedroom space is born.
The suite life continues even in the “room” classification. Designed with a residential feel in mind, all guest rooms are contemporary yet comfortable. Italian Rivolta Carmignani bed linens dress a cozy mattress, while calming décor by way of a light blue, ivory and chocolate color palette allows sleek furnishings to take center stage. Also bringing the drama are spa-inspired bathrooms featuring marble floors, glass-enclosed showers, dual sinks and vanities. And on the smaller but not forgotten front, a Nespresso coffee maker and complimentary Wi-Fi, plus many more amenities, are in every room. For guests who dream of calling the Hotel Georgia home, wake to this reality: The property’s separate 48-story residential tower is slated for completion this year.
After a day of sightseeing or shopping in Vancouver, unwind by taking a swim in the 52-foot indoor saltwater lap pool, or work up a sweat in Hotel Georgia’s state-of-the-art fitness center. Afterward, allow the therapists at Sense, a Rosewood Spa, to whisk away lingering stress. This plush facility encompasses a chill relaxation area (ask for a heated neck pillow), locker rooms and well-appointed treatment rooms. Spa therapies, like the signature 50-minute Georgian Revival Massage, are plentiful.
Rejuvenation extends to nightlife at the hotel, where there’s plenty of entertainment on-site. For eats, pull up a seat at Hawksworth Restaurant, a touted culinary concept by renowned chef David Hawksworth (details in the dining section below). Or enjoy classic cocktails and casual fare at the 1927 Lobby Lounge. Come spring, the ultra-chic Reflections, the hotel’s open-air lounge in the inner courtyard on the fourth floor, will open for the season, inviting guests to throw back original drinks, nosh on light fare and bask in the venue’s tranquil vibe. Infinity water features, a central fire pit, oversized teak couches, illuminating lanterns and upbeat music all add to its appeal. In the mix later this year is Prohibition lounge, which will offer vintage sips and evening entertainment in a warm environment.
The dining scene in Vancouver is just as sizzling. Hot chefs are setting it ablaze with trendy eateries that pop up regularly and menus heavily swayed by the city’s international influences and natural environment. For starters, look straight to the aforementioned culinary marvel Hawksworth Restaurant. Conceived and helmed by one of Vancouver’s most touted chefs, the concept gorgeously reflects Vancouver’s cultural diversity. The venue’s swanky décor and envied art collection are well worth the accolades they continue to receive, but contemporary Canadian cuisine is the real showstopper here—think savory dishes made from top-quality, carefully sourced ingredients, including only the very best regional produce. Hawksworth’s team uses an array of culinary techniques to create phenomenal flavors and presentation, showcasing his true culinary genius.
Hawksworth’s seasonally influenced menu is expansive. Delicious appetizers not only taste great, but they also look like art (no joke!). The foie gras parfait green apple walnut brioche melts in your mouth, as do the 48-hour beef short ribs with black pepper jam, honeydew, green papaya, peanut and Thai basil, and yellowfin tuna ceviche avocado with crispy amaranth, pecan and cilantro. Every entrée is sheer brilliance. Meat lovers, try the slow-cooked lamb shank cauliflower with crispy okra, pomegranate and mughal curry. Seafood aficionados should order the Nova Scotia sea bass with sidestripe shrimp, crunchy artichoke, mandarin and sherry, or the pan-roasted Pacific sablefish with maitake, chayote and tom yum broth—simply delish. Be sure to save room for one of the many meal-topping sweet treats.
Accompanying the main dining room, designed by Canada’s award-winning team Munge & Leung, are three other distinct spaces. The Bar & Lounge mixes artisan pre-Prohibition cocktails using fresh juices, herbs and house-made bitters, as well as a selection of wines and craft beers; the glamorous, glossy Pearl Room offers an opulent setting (banquette for two, please); the Jazz Age-inspired York Room yields a view of one of the Vancouver Art Gallery fountains, features a dramatic glass chandelier and can accommodate larger parties of up to 60 for a seated dinner or 110 for a standing reception; and the Art Room, fittingly, features a custom art installation by local artist Rodney Graham.
While you could fill every night of the week by dining at Hawksworth, if you opt to hit the town, these savory finds will serve you well. At Chambar (562 Beatty St., Gastown, chambar.com), Belgian chef/owner Nico Schuermans and his wife, Karri, mix up traditional Belgian standards, like mussels and fries, with Moroccan flavors and a sprinkling of entrées like lamb tajine and couscous, making the high-end eatery a standout. Upscale steak house Black + Blue (1032 Alberni St., Downtown, blackandblue.ca) is new on the scene but already has established itself as the place for a sexy soirée. The three-level restaurant is the hottest see-and-be-seen spot in town, serving a large selection of prime cuts of steak (Wagyu, U.S. and Canadian prime), as well as fish and shellfish. For a different kind of dining experience you won’t find at home, check out Hapa Izakaya (1479 Robson St., hapaizakaya.com), a Japanese-style lounge with modern décor and cool energy. Chic, cozy and perfect for date nights, the restaurant serves Tokyo-inspired tapas with a variety of Asian flavors. Meet a friend for a cocktail at the Lobby Lounge and Terrace (located at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, 1038 Canada Place, fairmont.com/pacificrim) before or after dinner at the hotel’s luxurious pan-Asian bistro, Oru. The inventive menu and open kitchen with two chef tables make Oru a gathering spot for sophisticated foodies who marvel at its authentic dishes and refined flavors. Lobby is a posh spot as well, with a floor-to-ceiling fireplace, Fazioli piano and live music six nights a week, plus Saturday afternoons.
Thanks to amazing wines, craft beers and bartenders who rock it all night, Vancouver is full of amazing night spots. The swanky Pierre’s Champagne Lounge (1035 Mainland St., Yaletown) is the city’s hardest to find and most exclusive. Hosting Hollywood celebrities, sports stars and millionaires, the sexy bar has one of the best Champagne and wine lists, smooth DJ sounds, and an intimate space. A recent addition to the scene, The Diamond (6 Powell St., Gastown, di6mond.com) is a classic bar that doesn’t just serve drinks to the stiletto-heeled night revelers, but also teaches them how to mix cocktails to impress their friends. Another Gastown gem is Guilt and Co. (1 Alexander St., guiltandcompany.com), a tavern with live improv music shows, great food and tasty cocktails. The owners call the bar an “experiment” because drinks are made on the premises from Guilt’s own bitters, tinctures and garnishes. No pretense here—the atmosphere is relaxed and chill.
This cosmopolitan Canadian coastal city is dotted with local designer talent and international style, funky shops and sophisticated homegrown labels. Most Vancouver visitors know about its famous Robson Street which has something for everyone, but tiny areas like Gastown and Kitsilano are increasingly making headlines as standout shopping districts for the hippest, trendsetting fashions. At The Block (350 W. Cordova St., Gastown, theblock.ca), you can buy everything from hard-to-find international labels to local designers like Jean Okada and Dace. A popular place for Vancouver’s most stylish ladies is Mandula (206 Carrall St., Gastown, mandula.com), a store stocking organic hemp creations by Hungary-born designer Hajnalka Mandula. She calls her line “boldly unusual and eminently wearable,” and everyone who shops the boutique agrees. The rich textures, luxurious feel and attention to detail of her handwoven pieces make them sophisticated treats.
If you’re looking for the kind of footwear that will knock somebody’s socks off, head to Gravity Pope (2205 W. Fourth Ave., Kitsilano, gravitypope.com). The stunning, Parisian-style boutique, complete with marble tables and Louis XIV armchairs, proudly displays its nearly 2,000 shoe styles and makes shopping highly indulgent.
One of the best ways to explore Vancouver is by bicycle. Rent one at Stanley Park Cycle (768 Denman St., stanleyparkcycle.com) and ride along the park, the waterfront, by the railroad tracks into Chinatown and through the cobblestone streets of Gastown. Stop for gelato at Bella Gelateria (1001 W. Cordova St., Gastown, bellagelateria.com), the much-talked-about parlor popular with practically everyone. It serves as a thoroughfare for foodies and celebs alike. All flavors are made from scratch and from mostly organic ingredients. Continue into downtown and its central thoroughfare, the upscale Burrard Street. The street will take you across the water into Kitsilano, where you can shop its hip boutiques and dine at cute cafés and lively restaurants. To make your biking trip extra special, head across the Granville Street Bridge and onto Granville Island (granvilleisland.com), a peninsula physically connected to the city. It is most famous for being a center for great cuisine and a haven for arts and culture.
One last thing: Be sure to watch the sunset before riding back into town.