Hotel rooms

The lockdown workaround that turns private hotel rooms into mini restaurant bubbles

Three hotels in Old Montreal and their on-site restaurants are using empty rooms to hold private dinners, with guests not needing to stay the night. Diners get a three-hour dining window, a server brings each course to their table, and beds are pulled out (unless guests are staying the night).

With restaurants across the city limited to takeout and delivery until at least January 11 due to a rise in coronavirus cases, some might call it a lockdown loophole, but Dimitri Antonopoulos, co-owner and vice-president of marketing for Experience Old Montreal, the brand behind participating hotels, says that’s not the case. “Hotel rooms are allowed, and room service is allowed. We don’t really see it as a gray area,” he says. As a result, they followed in the footsteps of other hotels, including Quebec’s Auberge St-Antoine with its three-hour, $196 in-suite dining and private greenhouses, and the Chateau Frontenac, although the latter eliminated its catering service only. option in favor of a dinner-and-stay version for the holidays.

Restaurant-style holiday table d’hôte experiences come from Hotel Place d’Armes, provided by its on-site restaurants Brasserie 701 and Kyo Bar Japanese, Hotel Nelligan with its adjoining French bistro Verses, and Hotel William Gray with Maggie Oakes, and are available until January 2. After that, three-course menus will continue to be available on a regular basis.

One group from the same household can dine per evening in each private room, which allows time for the cleaning staff to prepare the room for the next evening’s guests. Guests check in at reception, choose their menu and head to their room. “All protective measures are taken,” says Antonopoulos.

Hotels in Old Montreal seem to be the only places in Montreal promoting private dining without an overnight stay. However, others are creating special room service options, including the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth with its special Artisans Market holiday room service menu and the Ritz-Carlton with its $635 “Ho Ho Home” package for a three-course in-room dining with wine pairings, but at these dinners you have to stay the night.

Hotels offering indoor dining without an overnight stay may leave some restaurateurs with a bitter taste in their mouths, but Burgundy Lion Group’s Toby Lyle isn’t upset. “We’re all pivoting, trying to find creative ways to make money. The hotels suffer as much as us, if not more, because they are not necessarily obliged to close, so they receive less subsidies than us. I have a lot of sympathy for the hotel industry.

Ikanos’ Constant Mentzas feels the same way. “If we start asking ourselves what is right and wrong, I think we will get dizzy,” he says. “Honestly, I don’t think there’s a reason to be mad at someone for trying their best. Everyone must take stock of what they have that works compared to others. These restaurants in hotels mainly work on tourists. There has been no tourism for some time. It’s easy to be annoyed with them now, but you forget what they had to go through this summer. 2021 isn’t looking much better. If they earn a little money on the side, good for them.

He wishes he had thought about partnering with hotels for meals sooner, he adds. Ikanos is now planning a special dinner and stay menu for December 31 with the Hotel St-Sulpice for $625, which includes a menu of hamachi, sea urchin, caviar, lobster, veal, truffle and foie gras.

Four-course holiday meals at Hôtel Place-d’Armes, Nelligan and William Gray start at $85 plus tax. On the menu, salmon gravlax, filet mignon, sushi or cod poached in olive oil and charred lemon from Brasserie 701; with duck confit salad; an aged tomahawk steak for two; and a maple log with pecan crumble, frangipane and vanilla cream cheese mousse from Verses.

However, the hotels’ New Year’s Eve packages include an overnight stay, and their restaurants also offer takeout and delivery, like many others in the city.