Toronto’s Legendary Library Bar Returns with An Updated Look

Photo credit: @kennedypollard_

By Rosanna Caira

TORONTO ― After being closed for almost two years, the Fairmont Royal York’s Library Bar has re-opened featuring a new look and a chic vibe. Toronto’s renowned cocktail den has a rich legacy for hosting world leaders, titans and beloved entertainers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Tony Bennett. 

The recent transformation, unveiled last week at a media preview, positions the iconic bar for the next golden age in cocktail culture. “Library Bar is the undercurrent of Toronto’s storied lineage,” says Edwin Frizzell, regional vice president, Accor Central Canada, and GM of the Fairmont Royal York. “Overlooking Union Station, this is the bar that first greets travellers from all over Canada and around the world. For decades, Library Bar has cultivated such loyal patronage thanks to the thoughtful colleagues who have nurtured the heart and soul of this bar. As we usher in a new era for Library Bar — and indeed for Fairmont Royal York — this is a cocktail den that allures guests in its decadent mosaic of unrivaled history, the mystery of who you might meet, and a design identity that pours into poetically crafted cocktails,” said Frizzell. 

Speaking to a group of media who attended last week’s preview, Frizzell said “This is a momentous occasion for our industry. We’ve been through an incredible 20 months and I’m so delighted to be opening something, not closing it down for a change. And we’re back… This bar is the evolution of the transformation of this hotel over the last several years…this is one of the most beautiful hotels in the Fairmont network and certainly the grande dame of Toronto.”

As a twist to the Library Bar’s signature cocktail, the Birdbath Martini, Rus Yessenov, director of Beverage, collaborated with Niagara-region master distillers to create QUILL, a one-of-a-kind gin and vodka unique to the Canadian market. The  beverage menu underlines Yessenov’s signature style of using imported delicacies to delight palates, highlighting curated spirits from around the globe.

The menu, created by JW Foster, executive chef, Fairmont Royal York, re-imagines classic signature dishes foraged from Ontario’s rich farmland. According to the affable chef, “The menu is a nod to the hotel’s first high-society parties and timeless classics that warm the soul. As we open in the winter season, we’ve crafted a dining experience that pairs well with cozying up by the bay windows and watching the passersby on Front St as the snow falls. It’s nostalgic, it’s classic — it’s Library Bar.”

With a nod to the hotel’s storied lineage as a Canadian landmark for railcar travel, Ken Lam, principal, Navigate Design, has envisioned a modern interpretation of classic features that define the Art Deco era,  where elements are revived to create a fashion-forward ambiance of the roaring 1920s. Vibrant  pops of colour decorate black and white patterns to anchor the space, complemented by layered  textures of onyx, leather, velvet and fringe adorn a curated collection of European renaissance  paintings and contemporary Canadian art and literature. 

A stunning portrait of George H. Locke presides over the room and serves as a focal point.  Locke was the first chief librarian of Toronto, who hand selected every book that was in the Royal York when it opened in June 1929. His books are still in the hotel today.

“The new character of Library Bar marks the completion of Fairmont Royal York’s most extensive renovation project in its long-admired history. We are thrilled to welcome guests back to the legendary icon of Toronto’s flourishing financial district,” said Paul Campbell, Royal York Project Lead at KingSett Capital, Fairmont Royal York ownership group. 

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