Open Jaw’s Peter Johansen is the first travel writer to tour Ottawa’s newest downtown hotel, which checked in its first reservation guest on 07JAN. Here’s what he found.
Denis Gilles, General Manager of Ottawa’s new dual-branded Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites, shows off his lilac sneakers. They’re just like those his Sales and Marketing Director, LA Palamar, sports. Then he makes his point: “What guest remembers uniforms at a hotel?” he asks. “Ninety-nine percent of guests won’t. But I guarantee a lot of our guests will remember these. They’ll go home and tell their friends about the hotel where they all wear sneakers.”
It’s just one example of the philosophy guiding Hilton’s first downtown Ottawa property, which opened this month after a $50-million refurbishment of the twin towers that once housed the Delta and, more recently, the National hotels.
“We don’t aim to be the best,” Gilles surprisingly says. “That’s a losing game. Today you’re on top, but tomorrow someone else comes along and suddenly you’re off everyone’s radar.”
His more enduring plan: to be the most memorable. “Everyone here, from the sales manager to the dishwasher – we want to create an unforgettable experience for our guests.” And the staff sneakers are one small way of doing that.
Equally memorable: the spectacular look of the property, overseen by Royal Design, a hospitality-focused designer based in Richmond Hill. The airy reception area features a sleek, contemporary look, with spectacular light fixtures, tones of brown and grey (and lilac accents, just like those sneakers), a quiet lobby bar and the Tulip Restaurant, with views of the capital’s iconic Sparks Street. Function rooms, including a private dining room that seats up to 35, are discretely hidden to the sides.
Palamar points out that unlike many dual-branded properties, all guests here share common facilities – from the registration desk and business centre to restaurant and swimming pool, slated to open by March. It takes an eagle eye to determine whether you’re in the Garden Inn or Homewood Suites wing: there’s a subtle colour change in the corridor carpeting.
The restaurant is one of the features made to make memories. It’s under the helm of Executive Chef David Vinoya, whose career has spanned kitchens in both his native Philippines and North America. Most recently he was at Regina’s Double Tree Hotel, where he nabbed that city’s Gold Medal Plate culinary competition in 2017. In Ottawa, his inventive dishes include eggs benedict, whose hollandaise sauce is infused with beetroot, butterfly pea flower, or blue spirulina, and whiting fish in squid ink beer batter.
Garden Inn’s 175 rooms may be geared to leisure customers, but they’re clearly meant to attract corporate clients, too, given the ergonomic chair, four USB ports on each work desk alone (and more at bedside), 47-inch TV, microwave and fridge, and Neutrogena toiletries. Each room measures 300 to 350 square feet, boasts oversized windows, and picks up those ubiquitous lilac accents in both a comfy side chair and artwork.
The 171 rooms under the Homewood Suites flag are larger, with 460 square foot studios and one-bedroom suites at 800 square feet. They’re meant for longer-term stays. Among features are larger washrooms and fully equipped kitchens, including stovetops, that service four diners. Homewood guests enjoy complimentary buffet breakfast and, during weekdays, an evening reception with local craft beer and appetizers.
Both brands offer accessible rooms.
As head honcho Denis Gilles puts it, the property finally offers a downtown option for those who hold Hilton Honors loyalty cards, while shared common facilities will make the property comfortable for repeat guests who may need a simple hotel room on one stay and a fully equipped suite on the next. “Not everyone can offer that kind of flexibility,” he says.
Agency bookings are commissionable at 10%, and introductory rates are now available.