Story by Loretta Di Vita
Pictures by Anisha Patelita
I Want to Live There. For frequent travellers, hotels are usually as unremarkable as airplane food. It’s the rare one that’s memorable for all the right reasons—décor, amenities, novelty, customer service, and the feeling that all your whims were indulged at a snap of the fingers.
But if you’re lucky, you’ll find a hotel which proves itself so unique and full-bodied—the super moon of hôtellerie phenomena, if you will—that it leaves you wanting to move right in. Hôtel William Gray falls into that category.
Owned by hotel and restaurant wizards, Le Groupe Antonopoulos—it’s an amalgam of everything a customer could want. “We observe guests’ cues and try to uncover what makes each one tick,” says François Guay, Hôtel William Gray’s polished general manager, exercising a “no-request-is-impossible” business mantra.
Operational since July 2016, its opening was delayed by almost a year, “after a river was discovered flowing beneath the building and the foundation had to be completely redone at a higher level,” Guay reveals.
The wait was well worth it.
Like a phoenix rising, the striking 7-floor glass infill has sprung from Old Montréal’s cobblestoned ground, fusing two 18th-century historic residences—Maison Edward-William-Gray and Maison Cherrier.
Thanks to a cool $40-million investment, the architectural know-how of Béïque Legault Thuot Architectes, and Camdi design flair, the boutique hotel is luxurious without resorting to…how shall we say?…any braggadocio. Rather, linking heritage with modernism, its décor is executed in a restrained, yet chic, hand. The 127 minimalist guest rooms and a total of 10,000 square feet of event space are the result of mindful editing for maximum modernist impact and efficiency.
If you’re wondering about the origin of the hotel’s name (and you probably are), many moons ago, there existed a living and breathing Edward William Gray—an English expatriate-turned-lawyer-turned-Montréal sheriff-turned-18th century urban hero. The hotel property, now incorporating what used to be his home, is dotted with insider winks to his spectre. For instance, there’s the Maggie Oakes restaurant named for Gray’s wife, and the “Le Cabinet” [the cabinet] conference room recalling his law career.
Togetherness. Interesting brand collaborations have resulted in offshoots of Montréal’s iconic Café Olimpico (yes, that really was Bruce Willis having coffee) and homegrown streetwise clothing boutique Off The Hook (OTH). As Guay says, “the objective was to create an inviting community space which locals, as well as travellers, will share and make vibrant.” And from the looks of things, so far, so good.
Focal points at Maggie Oakes—the onsite, upmarket grill house—have got to be what can only be described as an infinity wine bar, a large glass fridge displaying prime aged meat (a homage to the ham-hock repository the property housed in a past life), and a whimsical organic wall filled with cascading herbs and chili peppers kept pluck-ready by a built-in misting mechanism.
Seriously-likeable Chef Derek Bocking, a “Top Chef” contestant (he came in “somewhere in the middle,” he cracks), changes up creative menus as often as he does his nifty aprons and newsboy tweed caps. Locavores will be happy to know that he sources freshly grown produce from Vankleek Hill Farmers’ Market.
Whim and weather permitting, visitors can take their dining and cocktail-sipping outdoors to the street-level terrace overlooking Place Jacques-Cartier merriment, or onto the glorious rooftop bistro offering sweeping cityscapes and big-dipper-spotting ops.
Raising the Ante on New Luxury.
Nothing’s happenstance about the magic of Hôtel William Gray. “It may not be apparent to the guest, but every single item in our spaces has been deliberated by a team of experts,” explains Joëlle Beaulieu, William Gray’s supremely efficient rooms division director.
Take for example, Nespresso coffee makers, Frette linens, down comforters and pillows by Marie L’Oie, B&O BeoPlay S3 Bluetooth speakers, Italian linen laundry bags, Le Labo Santal-scented toiletries, and Elchim blow dryers. Even the reading material in the communal “living room” was handpicked, Beaulieu points out, to resonate with target guests.
It’s this kind of obsessive pickiness and brand adherence, along with amazing culinary options, plus a Scandinavian spa, gym, marble-framed billiard table, vinyl listening stations, and an outdoor pool that ensure ” the total experience,” as Guay promises—whether it be for families, young professionals, wanderlust-struck travellers, or even super A-listers in the ranks of U2 lead singer, Bono.
Home Away From Home.
Guay, who has an innate sensibility for hospitality, as well as extensive theoretical preparedness and field experience, believes that for the new-age traveller, the ratio of customer satisfaction between conventional, tangible hallmarks of luxury and “homey convenience” has shifted to the latter.
Anyone familiar with storybook heroine, Eloise, knows of her penchant for hotel living, particularly penthouse accommodations, or, in her words, “the tippity-top floor.” O.K., though only a six-year-old, she’d surely approve of Hôtel William Gray’s 975-square-foot “residence” (incidentally, christened by Bono). After all, who wouldn’t want to live there, or in any other of the hotel’s dreamy suites, if even for a short while?