I always thought I knew the stretch of Bloor between Saint George and Huron Street like the back of my hand. It was a block I used to frequent in my younger days on hazy late-night escapades to and from The Maddy (IYKYK). So, I was quite surprised to discover the entrance to the Kimpton Saint George hotel had remained hidden from me, just out of sight, for years.
I'd walked by it dozens of times and never noticed. The towering wood doorway, hidden just steps down an alleyway and enshrined by the building's moody black exterior, is a little shy. But, as the door closes behind me, I'm instantly sequestered from Bloor's busy pedestrian traffic.
The Kimpton Saint George: What's the draw?
The hotel sheds its humble appearance the moment I step through the archway. I’m met with the stylish lobby fireplace lounge, curated with cozy couches and plush pillows. Wood arches stretch up to the ceiling and pops of greenery add comforting splashes of colour. The Kimpton is immediately, undeniably cool — I feel like I've just stumbled into the home of an affluent author.
The concierge behind the counter greets me warmly, hands me my room keys, and invites me back downstairs for a complimentary wine social hour between five and six p.m. Of course, I accept (maybe a tad bit too enthusiastically).
It’s my first time at the Kimpton, but I’m well aware my digs for the evening is one of Toronto’s favourite boutique hotels. The international hotel brand's Toronto property is the furthest thing from cold or impersonal, thanks to its numerous collaborations with local businesses and artists (like the luxurious in-room facial from Radford studio).
Their latest endeavour is bound to excite any visiting foodie, or seasoned Toronto gastronomic guru looking to fill their bellies. The hotel recently launched a partnership with Culinary Adventure Co., an award-winning Canadian tour company. Guests of the Kimpton can sign up for a package that includes a delicious adventure around the city's most iconic neighbourhoods after their sleepover at the hotel.
Tomorrow, I’ve got a spot in an expedition through Kensington Market and Chinatown. Up until this point, all of my foodie escapades throughout the city have been self-guided, so I’m curious to see if I’ll learn anything new.
The Kimpton rooms are apartment-style, and as I lug my overnight bag into mine, everything from the interior design to the custom artwork from local artists feels distinctly Toronto. When I go to put away my coat, there’s even a cheeky albino squirrel sculpture clinging to the closet door. My head hits the pillow, and I'm almost immediately dreaming of the culinary delights tomorrow promises to bring.
Culinary Adventure Co.: The tour
The next day, I’m well-rested and hungry. I check out and meet Jenya Zukershtein, the tour operator for the day, under one of Kensington Market’s famous cat statues. It’s a windy afternoon, and she’s bundled up in one of Culinary Adventure Co.'s iconic highlighter-orange jackets. A few other foodies join the group, too.
After some brief introductions, Jenya launches into the history of Kensington Market’s cat statues. She tells us that there are four that the city commissioned artists to create. Nobody is certain of the sculptures' true inspiration, but many believe them to be an ode to the felines who would plunder meat and seafood from the numerous butchers and fishmongers that used to operate in the neighbourhood.
Culinary Adventure Co.
In Toronto, Culinary Adventure Co. offers walking tours of St. Lawrence Market, Riverside, Leslieville, Chinatown, Kensington Market, Roncesvalles Village and Little India.
From there, we head north on Spadina. Jenya leads us to a table at Rol San — unsurprisingly, it’s packed on a Sunday morning, so it’s a tight squeeze to shuffle to our seats. We get to chatting and learning more about our fellow touring foodies (two are travellers visiting from Boston, and two are local food lovers like me) until our meals arrive almost all at once in a furious flurry of plates.
We sip piping hot jasmine tea in between bites of char siu bao, shrimp and pork dim sum and deep-fried squid. I can’t get enough of the stir-fried, broth-soaked snow pea leaves, and nearly abandon my chopsticks to slurp them directly off the plate. There’s so much food that I make a strategic call and save room in my stomach for later — I know we have many more stops on the way.
Hua Sheng supermarket was featured in the 2018 short film “Bao,” and it’s our next stop for a quick snack. Then, on to peek through the front window of King’s Noodle and chow down on crunchy tofu- and veggie-packed spring rolls at Bahn Mi Nguyen Huong Food Co.
Finally, we stroll into Kensington for golden-brown Jamaican patties from Crumbs, and a selection of meat cuts and pickled veggie samples carted out in Sanagan’s Meat Locker. A creamy vegan s’mores dessert at Bunner’s Bake Shop melts in our mouths as the tour concludes.
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As our little group of foodies part ways, we're all grinning ear to ear, clutching our stomachs and chattering about what our favourite stop on the tour was. A wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon, indeed.
Hotel + tour package (includes a one-night hotel reservation and 2 tour tickets) starting at $450; 280 Bloor St W