July Talk at the Drake Hotel

A couple of months ago, Taylor and I’d decided to go see July Talk play at the Drake on Boxing Day, part of the Drake’s What’s in the Box music festival (5 days, 5 bands, 5 bucks). We’ve only been a *little* obsessed with July Talk around these parts since Tay first saw them at the NXNE festival in the summer. If you haven’t heard their self-titled album yet, do yourself a favor and buy yourself a copy. Seriously.

Even Clara has gotten in on the July Talk action, belting out lyrics like these, (from My Guns and Ammunition), whenever she hears them playing:

When I think about you
My whole world falls through

I’d been racking my brain, trying to think of an amazing Christmas gift in return for my Christmas gift from Taylor which I received while in New York.

I still haven’t blogged about said gift, and I still will, but let’s just say that he booked me in with a personal shopper who took me to a number of private sample sales at designer studios in the garment district.

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I’m not exaggerating when I say it was one of the best days of my life.

I knew I couldn’t get him a comparable gift but then I thought some more about July Talk playing at the Drake and how much he’s been enjoying going out to live music. And how the Drake is known for their excellent sushi, which we really enjoy. And their hotel rooms, which are so well reviewed.

What’s the gift for the person that already has everything? Turns out its a night at the Drake. With July Talk (of course).

I booked our stay directly through the manager at the Drake and on Christmas morning, Taylor opened up a box of clues.

A toy sushi set:

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A bottle of champagne. Some mini bottles of vodka, to represent our night of cocktails. A new shirt. A pair of men’s flannel pajamas (the top for me, the bottoms for him). A travel shaving kit and a travel skin care set. His favorite morning tea. And finally, a book of paper dolls (or a Paper Girl) with the tour listing for July Talk tucked inside and the Drake date highlighted.

My review of the Drake was published on Trip Advisor and is as follows:

Check-in
I booked our stay directly through the hotel’s manager Jonathan and he was at the desk when I arrived to check-in. When I introduced myself and mentioned our email exchanges he greeted me warmly, and came around the desk to give me a hug that not only made me feel very welcome and at ease, but convinced me that our stay was going to be an impressive one. Jonathan and his staff did not disappoint.

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The Hotel
The room we stayed in was certainly on the small size but what the rooms lack in size, they make up for with an extremely efficient use of space and charming character that’s rightly earned the Drake hotel a spot on the World’s Coolest Hotel List. My personal favorites were the handsewn doll, the exposed brick wall, the preloaded iPod, the plate of cookies with the turn down service, the hoodie bathrobes and the accompanying cans of soda in stamped brown paper bags paired with the appropriate liquor bottles (ie gin and tonic, rum and coke, rye and ginger). It’s the little touches like these that make you understand how well thought out the Drake is, and how elegantly executed. The room’s efficiency is nothing short of genius and with the bathroom being an extension of the room rather than a seperate space, frosted glass on the walls of the toilet affords you enough privacy. Although the shower is clear glass and visible from the rest of the room, you can get the privacy you may require by sliding the door to the toilet all the way open so it obscures the shower. The luggage shelves installed high up along one length of the room is practical, convenient and very smart but the Drake also offers luggage storage for those requiring it. Also worth noting is how well the Drake has done in separating the rooms from the rest of the building – there was very little noise to be heard in our room and despite being on Queen West, we slept fairly soundly until the street began to come alive around 9am the next morning.

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The Restaurant
I’d consider Taylor and I very good judges of restaurant quality food, having eaten at some very highly rated restaurants in NYC and Las Vegas and the Drake restaurant did not disappoint. We shared a number of sushi dishes and were surprisingly pleased with not only the quality and freshness of the food presented to us, but also impressed by the innovative use of ingredients that made the dishes unique to the Drake. Our meal included the Scorcher (salmon sashimi), spicy tuna maki, red rice maki, and the BBQ pork belly nigiri. It was hard to not order more and, in fact, we sacrificed dessert for a second order of the red rice maki (made with sweet potato and full of flavour).

The Underground
The staff in the club downstairs was expecting us, and knowing that we were guests of the hotel, welcomed us to “our basement”. His description was fairly accurate as it didn’t take long to feel like we were hanging out in a friends basement, if not ours, with the exception of the fully stocked bar making it very easy to order any cocktail , and the incredible talent that performs in their venue on a regular basis. We were there for July Talk, who were insanely good and singer/guitarist Peter Dreimanis hung out in the bar early in the evening and graciously accepted our offer to buy him a drink.

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When we headed upstairs after the show to our room we were VERY glad we were staying the night, since we were in the midst of our first snowfall:

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The Cafe/Breakfast
I’d read on TripAdvisor that some people considered the Cafe to be rather grungy and think they’ve probably missed the point that Drake is trying to make. Authentic and charming, the Cafe was playing the Judy Garland show in black and white on a television in the corner (followed by Miracle on 34th) and the staff were not only smartly dressed but warm, friendly and professional. We had access to the brunch menu and ordered eggs Benedict and waffles and chicken (both well thought out dishes and successful in their execution) and despite being more than full, I couldn’t help but eye the blueberry scones and clotted cream at a neighbouring table. I envy the people that live and work in the vicinity of the Drake and can pop into the Cafe for their regular morning coffee or a burger and fries after work (that will be the next menu item I try).

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Overall
Taylor, who can be hard to impress, summed up our experience very accurately when he said that if he owned or was running a place like the Drake he wouldn’t do a single thing differently. World-class first stay and won’t be our last. Many thanks to Jonathan and the rest of the staff for their excellent, professional but genuinely warm hospitality. Spot on and well done, Drake.

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