Toronto's Hazelton balances trendiness and tranquility

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From the moment proper but friendly door staff welcome guests to the Hazelton Hotel in Toronto, there's no doubt they have arrived at a state of posh elegance.

For starters, the understated lobby is devoid of the maddening, overpopulated crush often encountered at other ritzy properties or the somnolent ambience that can pass for refinement at cloistered boutique digs.

Quickly relieved of luggage, guests are escorted to registration, located off the Hazelton's lobby in a separate outpost free from prying eyes or inquisitive ears. Service is discreet and effective, as it should be where luxury is the keynote.

Opened last June amid much fanfare as the first of five new top-tier hotels on tap for Toronto, the Hazelton has established a high bar for luxury, against which both prospective and well-established competitors will likely be judged.

The hotel is a nine-story, terraced structure with a layered red brick-and-limestone podium. It sits squarely in the tony and trendy neighborhood of Yorkville, home to garden cafes; exclusive retailers, including Prada, Gucci and Cartier; and attractions such as the Royal Ontario Museum, the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art and the quirky Bata Shoe Museum.

Down-low on the digs

Clothed in soothing earth tones, accommodations (65 guest rooms and 12 suites) average an expansive 620 square feet, with nine-foot ceilings. Done up in zebrawood lacquered veneer finish, rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows and mirrors; French doors, which in many units open to a balcony; electronically controlled interior lighting; motorized curtains operated from a bedside console; and a private dressing area. Entertainment centers feature a 42-inch, flat-screen plasma TV; a DVD player; and a state-of-the-art sound system.

Another nice touch: The Hazelton dispenses with tacky "do not disturb" doorknob tags. With the push of a button, an electronic notification system sends the instructions directly to housekeeping.

Then there are the bathrooms. Clad in dark-green marble slabs -- not tiles  -- each has a heated floor, a deep soaking tub, a separate "rain" shower, heated towel racks and an LCD TV that, when turned on, appears like an apparition on the surface of the mirror. It is quite a spectacular, if not spooky, experience.

Wired and wireless high-speed Internet is available in rooms, as are two-line speaker telephones with computer/fax data ports, iPod docking stations, 300-thread-count linens, Bulgari amenities and laptop-recharging safes. Use of a 25-seat screening room is available to guests, as is free limousine service to downtown locations.

The hotel's spa and fitness center offers four treatment rooms, two steam rooms, a manicure/pedicure room, a private elevator to a mosaic-tiled lap pool, Technogym fitness equipment and personal trainers and message therapists.

On-site restaurant One is run by Mark McEwan, formerly the executive chef at the Sutton Place Hotel and chef/proprietor of two other notable Toronto restaurants, North 44 and Bymark. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, One also offers outdoor patio service in season.

Rates run from $405 to $5,000 per night. A 600-square-foot deluxe room goes for $475; a 620-square-foot luxury room, $525; and an 810-square-foot executive suite, $850. For more information, visit www.thehazeltonhotel.com.

To contact reporter Joe Rosen, send e-mail to [email protected].

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