The Anndore House in Toronto is an amazing find. It’s lightly luxe, loaded with character, brilliantly located and moderately priced, relative to its big-banner neighbours.
A total regeneration of a mid-20th-century building, this quirky, retro boutique hotel is a new insiders’ getaway with a laid-back, residential air. It’s on a leafy street where you awaken to birds singing. That’s almost a miracle one block from the frenetic corner of Yonge and Bloor Sts. near the astonishing condo combustion of Yorkville, where the latest shimmering skyscraper, One Bloor, rises 75 storeys.
And Constantine, the new in-house restaurant, is already a smash hit for its wave of Mediterranean flavours, the quality of its ingredients and the captivating spectacle of the brigade of chefs working in its open kitchen.
Anndore and Constantine are within blocks of the Royal Ontario Museum, the University of Toronto, the Church-Wellesley Village and a fashionable shopping stretch of Bloor St. called the Mink Mile.
“We offer a distinctly local experience,” said Anndore’s general manager Anthony Campaniaris. “Our guests can step outside to Toronto’s finest lifestyle offerings.”
And there’s an app for that. The Anndore’s app multitasks — it’s a city concierge, a door key and digital controller for room temperature and lights, all in six languages.
The talented team of Elaine Cecconi and Anna Simone designed a playful take on the Anndore House’s 1950s roots, so the charm of old meets the functionality of new.
“We are youthful and friendly... not white glove or pretentious"
- General Manager, Anthony Campaniaris
The 113 stylish guest rooms and suites are hip and comfortable. Adorable, retro flashbacks include photos of pin-up girls à la Betty Grable by artist Merve Özaslan and 33-rpm turntables spinning vinyl by the likes of Sergio Mendes, the Moody Blues and Tom Jones. Here is a tech perk: the record player is bluetooth-compatible so you can tune in your own playlists.
The guest room coffee corner has an adorable mid-century red kettle, for use with the new-fangled instant coffee by Alpine Start. Is this like the distressing, old Sanka? No way. This is dark-roast Arabica and delish.
“We are youthful and friendly,” Campaniaris said, “not white glove or pretentious. We want guests to feel as though they are in their own apartments or at a friend’s place.”
Nonetheless, each room has comforts and conveniences such as bathrobes, leather club chairs, rain showers, flat-screen TVs and charging outlets.
The Anndore House’s decor is industrial-cool — unbleached wood furniture, brick walls painted white and metallic electrical circuitry. The closets are open and the bathrooms are decked out in vintage-patterned mosaics. White shutters and opaque shades have replaced heavy drapery, and kilim rugs add colour to concrete-lookalike floors.
Culinary director Craig Harding and executive chef Rob LeClair have created a sensation at the Anndore House’s restaurant. It’s a casually sophisticated spot that takes the fresh and flavourful ingredients of the Mediterranean to a new level of gastronomy.
Here at Constantine, bulgar, eggplant, fennel, lentils and labneh have sex appeal. Pomegranates pop and kale kills.
Standout dishes for lunch and/or dinner inspired by Italy, Lebanon, Israel, Greece and Spain include lamb pizza with merguez; cavatelli pasta with saffron and braised short-ribs; grilled Cornish hen with pine nuts; lamb burgers topped with harissa aioli; and gnocchi with charred tomato, eggplant and whipped ricotta. The evening menu adds a dry-aged ribeye, roast rabbit, Fogo Island cod and lamb ribs.
Constantine is equally tantalizing for breakfast, which features eggs, yes, but also avocado toast, feta frittata, toast with pistachio spread and lemon-ricotta pancakes.
On the design front, Studio Munge created Constantine’s sensual lounges and dining spaces in velvet jewel tones, but I think the main room built around the open kitchen is the highlight. It’s an ode to the sun-bleached Aegean Islands in pale wood, linen and creamy marble, with a collection of translucent white alabaster vases, worthy of ancient Crete, all built around the open kitchen.
I perched at Constantine’s Chef’s Bar facing the cooking action, and I was mesmerized by the spectacle of up to nine chefs grilling meat and fish, stoking the wood-fire oven, tossing pasta and mixing vegetables.
This is not a show to be missed.
The Toronto Blue Jays have launched a new children’s program. Kids 14 and under are invited to enjoy entertaining activities during Jr. Jays Sundays (and three Saturdays). If you cannot make it to the Rogers Centre, some Jays’ games stream live on Facebook (mlb.com/bluejays).
The progressive Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada (MOCA) will reopen in September in expanded premises. The inaugural exhibit, Believe, will feature 15 Canadian and international artists.
If you go:
The Anndore House: 833-745-8370, theanndorehouse.com; 15 Charles St. E., Toronto, Ont.
Price: Prices are approximate and fluctuate. Rooms, $299-$500; suites, $399-$699, including Wi-Fi, concierge, vinyl library, cruiser bicycles, in-room spring water by Flow, coffee by Alpine Start, fitness centre at KX Yorkville. Extra: valet parking, $45.
Constantine: 647-475-4436, constantineto.com; breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekend brunch.
Toronto Tourism: 416- 203-2500, seetorontonow.com; Ontario Tourism: Live chats at ontariotravel.net
Special to the Montreal Gazette by Rochelle Lash