Bisha featured in Travel Week

"One night at the ultra-cool Bisha Hotel Toronto"

Friday, January 31, 2020

TORONTO — The first sign of the Bisha not being your run-of-the-mill hotel comes as soon as you open its imposing front doors.

Toronto’s newest and arguably chicest boutique property has a lobby with walls clad entirely in black crushed velvet, made to look even more dramatic when next to a reflective front desk panelled in gold. As this was during the holidays, a massive black wreath hung behind the desk where a receptionist wearing a leather motorcycle jacket perpetually stands. There are no windows, only an entryway that leads to the Mister C Bar Room, which save for one small window and a set of glass doors discreetly tucked away in the corner, is equally dark and dramatic.

When compared to the expansive lobbies of Toronto’s most luxurious hotels, this one is downright miniscule. But its diminutiveness, coupled with the all-dark décor and lack of natural light, only serves to amplify the intimate space.

All this gives the impression of an underground club rather than a full-fledged hotel. You immediately feel like you’ve stumbled upon an exclusive, private society only to find that they’ve granted you VIP access.

Because that is the power of the Bisha Hotel Toronto – it instantly transforms every guest into the coolest version of themselves.

For one night only, I, too, was made to feel cool-like-a-rock-star during a brief stay to celebrate the hotel’s recent anniversary. It’s hard to believe that little over two years have passed since the Bisha exploded onto the Toronto hotel scene in November 2017 with a grand opening spectacle that welcomed over 1,000 guests. Right off the bat it was marketed as different, unique, edgier and bolder than its contemporaries, a vision-come-to-life by lifestyle impresario Charles Khabout of INK Entertainment, which collaborated with long-timer partner Loews Hotels & Co. It boasts a total of 96 luxury guestrooms, a 44th-floor infinity pool, dramatically-designed public spaces by Studio Munge, over 3,000 pieces of art by the likes of Jeff Koons and Alexander McQueen, and an entire 7th floor created by rock music icon Lenny Kravitz.

General Manager Aaron Harrison said it best: “The Bisha hotel is unlike any other hotel in Toronto. We are the finest cosmopolitan destination with world-class entertainment venues under one roof.”

After riding up in an elevator that pumped out a steady stream of house music, I got off on the fifth floor where I was immediately faced with three framed paintings on the wall, each featuring a famous quote. One, once uttered by famed American artist Andy Warhol, read: “In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.”

Judging by how glamourous my room was, it looked like I’d be cashing in on my 15 minutes early here at the Bisha.

Black, gray and white made up the colour scheme of my room, called The Grace, with paint-splattered marble tiles, heavy blackout curtains, a gorgeous, oversized armoire with brass hardware, a glossy art deco bar cart, and perhaps the world’s most seductive shower rounding out the room’s key fixtures. It’s impossible to miss the giant framed Interview magazine cover featuring supermodel Naomi Campbell that adorned one wall, or the complimentary jewel-coloured macarons and bottle of Champagne that sat atop a black lacquered desk by the floor-to-ceiling windows. The two leather-bound queen beds and the sleek vinyl couch looked equally stylish, as did the minibar loaded with Squish candies, nuts and sweet treats featuring Bisha-branded labels that read “You know you want to.”

This was a sexy room, there was no other way to describe it. It would certainly be worthy of Mr. Kravitz.

Despite wanting nothing more than to spend all night in the shower, I decided to head up to the 44th floor for dinner at KOST, the rooftop restaurant and bar. With honey-toned walls, soft lighting, white accents and ample windows, the cozy space is a complete departure from the dark sensuality of the rest of the hotel. Here, the ambiance is convivial and cheerful, perfect for a fun night out with friends or a laidback dinner for two. On this particular night, with my husband seated across from me, I indulged in such delicacies as Fried Calamari and Ricotta Agnolotti, all the while enjoying the incredible views of Toronto’s entertainment district laid out far below me.

Since I was masquerading as the coolest version of myself, I ducked into Mister C Bar Room for an after-dinner drink (when in real life I would’ve headed straight to bed). The dimly-lit, long and narrow space was buzzing with uber-attractive, well dressed people who stood along the marbled bar and sat huddled in emerald-coloured velvet armchairs. A DJ stood in the far back corner, playing an upbeat soundtrack to intimate conversations taking place throughout the room. And though I didn’t stay long, my one cocktail gave me free rein to mingle with the ‘in’ crowd, if not for one night only.

Good food and drink, I quickly found, are very much a central focus at the Bisha as much as art, fashion and design. I couldn’t resist the temptation of in-room dining the next morning, a meal made even more indulgent by such elevated dishes as goat cheese crema-topped avocado toast and an energy bowl made with açai and toasted coconut. Of course, breakfast was accompanied by a silky-smooth cup of Nespresso coffee, courtesy of the in-room Nespresso machine, a welcome yet unsurprising luxury given the hotel’s acute attention to detail and creature comforts.

Though completely sated, there was no way I could leave the hotel without grabbing some treats at its ground-floor Parisian café, French Made. Open seven days a week and looking very much like how a boutique shop on the streets of Montmartre would look, it beckoned from behind its glass display where rows upon rows of edible treasures were neatly kept. I saw an entire Basque cheesecake, vanilla Parisien tarts, pain du chocolate croissants, the ubiquitous macaron, and devilishly-delicious-looking salted caramel cookie sandwiches that bordered on obscene.

On this day, however, I opted for a simple slice of carrot cake and a panini to go, meant as edible reminders of my one night at the Bisha. When the receptionist asked during checkout whether I would return, I, of course, said ‘yes’, if not for the food then for the glamourous digs alone. What girl can resist the urge to play dress-up every now and then, to pretend that life is much more exciting than it really is?

The Bisha and all its allures are simply too hard to resist so, yes, I will be back. But until then I’ll be leaving my ‘cool’ behind for safe keeping.