The Best Hot Spots in Toronto
An insider's guide to where to go, who's staying where and what to eat, as recommended by TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey.
For years, attending the Toronto International Film Festival meant making a mad dash from one location to another. The Four Seasons and the Park Hyatt were the twin bastions of celebrity central in trendy, uptown Yorkville. The galas took place kilometers away at Roy Thomson Hall. Party locales seemed to be picked by dartboard. But with last year's opening of TIFF's new headquarters, the Bell Lightbox, the action has moved downtown. Here's an up-to-date guide to the festival's new geography, the choice hotels, the key theaters and TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey's own dining recommendations.
► HOT HOTELS
1 Fairmont Royal York | 100 Front St.
The grande dame of Toronto hotels -- it opened in 1929 -- has gotten a new lease on life. Helen Mirren and Bruce Willis staged a shootout there for their movie Red. At last year's fest, guest Martin Sheen joined picketing hotel workers on the sidewalk outside. This year, movie companies from Paramount to Fox Searchlight to Relativity will make it their headquarters.
2 Hotel Le Germain | 30 Mercer St.
One of the city's premier boutique hotels, it also welcomes dogs. WME and UTA's indie film teams will operate out of Le Germain's chicly appointed suites.
3 Hyatt Regency Toronto | 370 King St. West
Just to the west of the TIFF Lightbox, it houses the hospitality suites for press and industry types and is popular with buyers. The Weinstein Co.'s sales force will be there, and Stuart Ford's IM Global has claimed the presidential suite.
4 InterContinental Toronto Center | 225 Front St. West
In the shadow of the CN Tower, the hotel will be publicity central during the fest, with DDA, Indie PR, MPRM and Ginsberg/Libby setting up shop.
5. Ritz-Carlton Toronto | 181 Wellington St. West
Literally the newest kid on the block, the luxe hotel opened its doors, just across from Roy Thomson Hall, in February. The ICM team quickly booked rooms for its stay.
6 Soho Metropolitan | 318 Wellington St.
FilmNation, Glen Basner's production and sales company, has opted for this boutique hotel, which offers complimentary Lexus LS460 car service.
7 Thompson Toronto | 550 Wellington St. West
Sleek, shiny and new, it opened last year. CAA's indie agents like the place. And it's also become a go-to party spot. Fox Searchlight, which packed the house last year to celebrate Black Swan and 127 Hours, is returning for another blowout this year.
► KEY VENUES
8 Roy Thomson Hall | 60 Simcoe St.
A concert hall -- home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra -- its distinctive, curved facade has become a local landmark. The festival kicks off here Sept. 8 with the world premiere of From the Sky Down, Davis Guggenheim's documentary about U2. (It's the first time a doc has opened the fest.) And from then on, there'll be a permanent red carpet laid in front of its doors as one gala follows another for movies like Rodrigo Garcia's Albert Nobbs, starring Glenn Close, Jim Field Smith's Butter, starring Jennifer Garner, and Bennett Miller's Moneyball, with Brad Pitt playing baseball GM Billy Beane.
9 Scotiabank Theatre | 259 Richmond St. West
Film festivals aren't all black-tie premieres. The bulk of the fest's 339 films will play at theaters like this Cineplex-owned multiplex. There, press, industry and regular moviegoers queue up for movie after another, living on the theater's food court staples like Pizza Pizza, New York Fries and Yogun Fruz.
10 Soho House | 11 Duncan St.
A special 'pop-up' version of the international members-only club will open an outpost in Toronto for the duration of the fest. And it's sure to attract the A-list. George Clooney's crew from The Ides of March is heading there for a pre-screening reception. David Cronenberg and the cast of A Dangerous Method are expected to party there following the screening of their film. Another post-screening fete is planned for Your Sister's Sister, starring Emily Blunt. And further events are on tap for the Ryan Gosling starrer Drive, Albert Nobbs and A Deep Blue Sea.
11 TIFF Bell Lightbox | 350 King St. West
TIFF's new home -- the paint was still wet when it opened for last year's festival -- houses five cinemas as well as the O&B Canteen, for food on the run, and Luma restaurant, for more leisurely dining. The Lightbox will host various official festival functions like TIFF topper Piers Handling's announcement of the winners of the Emerging Filmmakers Competition.
► DINING TIPS FROM CAMERON BAILEY
The Best New Spots
Out-of-towners often ask for a 'Canadian' restaurant. Since nothing defines Toronto cuisine like Italian food cooked by a Tamil kitchen, it's a complicated question. If you want high-end Canadian, Toca in the Ritz-Carlton uses locally sourced ingredients combined in amazing fashion. There's also the cozy, glossy Scarpetta in the Thompson hotel, which just opened for last year's festival.
The Best Places for a Business Meeting
Luma restaurant in our own TIFF Bell Lightbox. Great menu, great wine list (including some from Francis Ford Coppola) and a private dining room for either post-screening negotiations or boldface canoodling. The staff has served the likes of Tim Burton and David Cronenberg; they know what film people want. Also Deq, the terrace bar at the new Ritz-Carlton. It feels like a private enclave. With a comprehensive bar and brilliant turkey sliders, it may be where you want to end the night.
12 Bistro 990 (990 Bay St.) has probably seen more movie-driven lunches and dinners than anyplace else in the city. It's still serving excellent French food in an atmosphere of warmth and discretion. The restaurant at the 13 Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St. West) is the festival home base for the younger, hipper crowd. This year, they're planning a 1940s Los Angeles Chinatown vibe.
The Best Ethnic Restaurants
Lai Wah Heen in the Metropolitan Hotel is a superb Chinese restaurant; Hong Kong director Johnnie To has hosted dinners there. 14 Harlem Underground (745 Queen St. West) is where Toronto's downtown, artsy black crowd meets. One branch of 15 Terroni (720 Queen St. West) has cornered the city's hipster Italian market.