CHECK IN: Hotel Review: Hotel Birks, Montreal
From about 350 Canadian dollars, or about $262.
Sometimes referred to as the Tiffany of Canada — it even has robin’s-egg-blue boxes — the Canadian jeweler Birks sold its four-story Beaux-Arts headquarters to the Montreal hotel operator Le St. Martin in 2016. A meticulous renovation added two glass-enclosed floors, restored original decorative flourishes, carved out 132 high-ceilinged rooms, and installed a soaring lobby and airy brasserie. The Montreal designer Nicole Vekemans outfitted the property in a palette of whites, grays and taupes, with inlaid floors and accents of gleaming metal and burnished wood. Objets d’art, like sleek gold sculptures near a marble fireplace, dot the main floor. While it imparts zero sense of place — the mood’s more Mitteleuropa than Montreal — the hotel’s bling-y opulence does create a plush cocoon. Birks maintains a retail presence, linked to the lobby through tall glass doors; at 7,500 square feet, the store is about a third the original’s size.
On paper, Hotel Birks’s location in Montreal’s commercial center makes an ideal perch. Anchoring the west side of Phillips Square, a pocket park named for a Montreal industrialist, the hotel abuts Sainte-Catherine Street, a main shopping drag; across the street, you’ll find both the Metro and Montreal’s Underground City. Old Montreal is a 15-minute walk south; strolling east to the Quartier des Spectacles entertainment district takes five minutes. In reality, though, Phillips Square is undergoing a major restoration, and getting to the hotel by car can involve epic detours. A City of Montreal spokeswoman said the work wouldn’t wrap up until 2021. Infrastructure repairs along Sainte-Catherine Street have also intensified the sclerotic nightmare of downtown traffic. At no point in the reservations process did Hotel Birks warn me about the obstacle course to the front door.
ImageThe majestically columned Restaurant Henri has a lively elevated bar.CreditStudio Point de Vue/Alexandre Parent
Visiting in frigid February meant off-season rates. I booked a deluxe view room, with east-facing windows over Phillips Square and ample natural light. The gray-carpeted room melded modern and classic. A sweeping, studded white leather headboard created a striking frame for the king bed. Dark wood side tables held lamps with O-shaped chrome bases, along with a squat JBL radio/docking station. Feather duvets and crisp sheets made the firm mattress exceptionally welcoming. Embedded in a wall of Italian marble, a rectangular, glass-enclosed gas fireplace faced the bed; above the fireplace, a 55-inch LG high-definition TV tilted at an ideal angle for bedtime viewing. A sturdy dresser and half-moon writing desk, in polished dark wood with brass handles, felt discordant among the room’s clean lines and pale palette. Few outlets near the desk meant unplugging a lamp to charge my laptop or phone. Smooth jazz from the hallway Muzak infiltrated my room; I cranked up the TV to block it.