You can feel like a queen at the Hotel Saskatchewan.
In fact, all sorts of royalty, including Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and Camilla and even Mick Jagger, the King of Rock, have stayed at this elegant old beauty right in the center of Regina, the prairie province’s capital and largest city.
The hotel, opened in 1927 at a cost of $2 million, was the fourteenth in the series of grand accommodations the Canadian Pacific Railroad built across Canada to house their railway guests (they also built the Fairmont, the Empress, and other heritage hotels). With its marble thresholds, terrazzo floors, and arched windows, the hotel became Regina’s second tallest building (the Legislative Building being the only taller structure) and an instant success with travelers.
Building this grand hotel just a few years after a tornado devastated downtown Regina was quite an undertaking. The entire hotel was built in only 11 months with 1,000 men working 24 hours a day at the height of the building activity. Since CP also built steam ships, they were all about self-sufficiency. They built the Hotel Saskatchewan with its own steam generator for heat and fire protection, its own well, and they even made their own ice.
The Tyndall stone that created the front was distinctive for its inlay of ancient fossils. While the original lobby was marble, the surface often proved too slippery for guests and had to be mopped 14 times per day. The stone was replaced with carpeting in 1982 after a devastating fire gutted the ballroom and the entire hotel underwent a major renovation.
The renovation restored many of the original treasures, including beautiful chandeliers and molding on the convention floor. Even the 10-floor brass postal system still works.
My suite, the Pavillion, was one of the Deluxe Suites and came equipped with a large living room furnished with two couches, chairs, a good-sized writing desk, flat screen TV, and mini-refrigerator. My bedroom featured a comfy king bed with a warm, featherweight duvet, luxury linens, plenty of pillows of various sizes and thicknesses, a flat screen television, and in-room pod coffee maker. In the bathroom, there was a bath/shower combo, a nice compliment of toiletries, hair dryer, and plenty of over-sized, fluffy towels. It also had free high-speed internet and, despite overlooking busy Victoria Street and Victoria Park, it was blessedly quiet.
The hotel offers 197 guest rooms, 27 Deluxe Suites and Luxury Suites (with additional dining room), and an impressive Royal Suite. The Royal Suite is where the royal family and celebrities like Justin Bieber stay. It’s a massive space (1,574 sq. feet) with a 300-year-old antique poster bed, living room, dining room, dining bar, and kitchenette with its own set of Wedgwood china. The large bathroom comes with a jetted tub, heated towel racks, and separate shower. The Royal Suite is also the only room in the hotel with windows that open.
The hotel’s décor and furnishings are classic and elegant and range from feminine floral to understated tailored looks. In the lobby and the Monarch Lounge, massive crystal chandeliers, custom made specifically for the hotel, sparkle. The Monarch Lounge is a comfortable, clubby room with small tables, couches, and overstuffed chairs where guests can enjoy tea or coffee, light meals or snacks, or a drink from the fully stocked bar. In the Victoria Tea Room, a private dining room, there’s a large chandelier made especially for that room, and it’s a place where guests can enjoy afternoon tea.
Downstairs is the Crown Club Fitness Centre, a large space with all the latest cardio and weight training machines with flat screen TVs. They also offer a co-ed steam room, small sauna, and hot spa. There’s a day spa onsite offering a full range of spa treatments from manicure to massage.
Hotel Saskatchewan guests don’t have to go far to enjoy terrific food either. Under Executive Chef Milton Rebello’s creative and capable leadership, the hotel serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the regal Cortlandt Dining Room. Dinner selections include such favorites as lobster ravioli, almond crusted steelhead, Chateaubriand, rack of lamb, and orange glazed duck breast with duck confit risotto.
This reviewer didn’t have the privilege of eating dinner at the hotel (though next time I surely will). However, I did enjoy a breakfast medley that included such delights as eggs Benedict with smoked trout and duck egg, Saskatoonberry pancakes, and a banana bread French toast “dessert” with chocolate covered bacon that made me swoon.
It’s not surprising that Chef Rebello recently won the Gold Medal Plates Award at the 2012 Gold Medal Plates competition in Regina, SK. He has a strong resume that includes cooking in India, the Middle East, the U.S., and even on cruise ships.In Canada, he’s cooked for heritage hotels like Coast, Fairmont, and the Westin.
For more casual dining or for just a drink, there’s the Monarch Lounge, a comfortable, light-filled room that invites guests to pause a while. I spent a few hours in the Monarch enjoying an afternoon drink, the free WIFI, and a bit of people watching. If high tea is more your style, book yourself into the Victoria Tea Room Friday, Saturday, or Sunday from 2:30-4 p.m.
Real bottom line: When in Saskatchewan, you can’t do better than staying at the Hotel Saskatchewan. With elegant surroundings, top-drawer service, and food to match, you’ll be treated like royalty and your stay will make you feel like a queen (or king). – Review by Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor