Anything can be discreetly delivered to your room at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto — as long as it’s legal. (Photo: Courtesy of The Windsor Arms)
There is a hotel in Toronto where you can be a guest and never have to see another soul. You won’t have to worry about being decent to greet room service, nor will you have to make small talk with the stranger who delivers dry cleaning to your bedroom.
Meet: The butler’s pantry.
The two-way cupboard — complete with shelves, a hanging rod, and a hidden bottom shelf — is the size of a door and is concealed in the walls outside each of the 28 suites at The Windsor Arms. The boutique hotel — which serves as an A-list stomping ground during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) every September — pulls out all the stops to cater to its year-round VIP clientele and for owner George Friedmann, the butler’s pantry is his most-prized amenity.
The butler’s pantry allows full service to the guest without ever having to be seen by the staff. (Photo: Courtesy of The Windsor Arms)
“I still have never seen anything like it,” says Friedmann, who got the idea after he startled a maid by answering a hotel door in his underwear in the middle of the night. “I was in bed that night thinking, ‘This is idiotic that I have to get dressed just to get pillows.’ It’s the simplest thing that we do, but it’s probably one of the most valued.”
With double-door access from inside the suite and outside in the hallway, the staff can leave any item the guest desires inside the pantry for retrieval at a later convenience. “We’ve had some unusual requests,” Friedmann admits, recalling deliveries of guitars and enough Jell-O to fill a bathtub. “We’re in Toronto so you can get almost anything — as long as it’s legal,” he adds. “There’s nothing that’s ever said ‘no’ to.”
You can stay in your suite and get whatever you want from the outside world without ever having to see the outside world. (Photo: Courtesy of The Windsor Arms)
Tucked away on Thomas Street and just steps away from Toronto’s answer to Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, the Windsor Arms remains a favorite haunt for jet-setting celebrities, industry clientele, and anyone seeking a luxurious home-away-from-home. For the 40th anniversary of TIFF this year, it will welcome a revolving door of film heavyweights for multiple invitation-only receptions, including the Rand Luxury Lounge for buzzed-about films “Mr. Right” and “Anomalisa,” the annual Hollywood Suite brunch, and In Style’s yearly star-studded bash. But when people like Elton John, Cher, and Andrea Bocelli frequent your hotel, catering to guests with the highest of standards is nothing new.
“Everyone is focused on TIFF because there is a higher concentration of celebrities in the city,” Friedmann says. “But the other 300-plus days of the year are just as important to us.”
The Windsor Arms will host the Rand Luxury Lounge during TIFF, where VIP guests will be wooed by champagne and high-end brands like Levaero Aviation. (Photo: Courtesy of The Windsor Arms)
So while it might be difficult to book a suite during the annual 10-day film festival, you don’t have to be Julia Roberts to experience the hands-on staff and VIP amenities year-round. The one- and two-bedroom suites (which start at $415 per night and go up to $1,656) all come with the butler’s pantry, a musical instrument, and their own independent heating and cooling system. “They function as a house,” he says. “You don’t know who’s sleeping down the hall from you.”
The “average” person won’t need to evade the paparazzi with the hotel’s secret entrance and exits, but he or she can certainly reap other Hollywood-style perks, like dinner with a private chef in the hotel restaurant’s kitchen or a cryotherapy treatment in the newly upgraded spa.
During TIFF, the hotel holds reservations for people involved in the film festival, but guests can dine, sleep, and stay like the celebrities do every other week of the year. (Photo: Courtesy of The Windsor Arms)
As Friedmann puts it, running a high-end hotel is about seamless service, intimacy, and being discreet about getting guests what they want, when they want it: “How many times have you impatiently waited to shower so you could receive your morning coffee? Life is complicated enough, it’s about making things simple.”
So the next time you want to travel like a celebrity, nurse a hangover (or recent operation), or hide away with the person you love, head to Canada and don’t answer the door.
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