Parq Vancouver Hotel and Casino: A Vancouver Game Changer
VANCOUVER – The Parq Vancouver complex has only been open a year, but it’s already left an indelible mark on this city.
Parq Vancouver is a major development in downtown Vancouver, just a few steps from False Creek and adjacent to BC Place Stadium; home of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team and first-rate concerts. It’s a game-changing complex that consists of the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver and The DOUGLAS, a Marriott Autograph Collection property. There’s also a glittering, subdued casino, the only one in downtown Vancouver, a massive convention centre with the city’s largest hotel ballroom, a terrific spa, eight top-notch restaurants and a 30,000 square foot rooftop garden with towering pines, native shrubs and a pretty fountain.
It’s almost a city in and of itself. I recently spent two nights at the hotel, checking out the casino and the restaurants, experiencing the spa and generally wandering about getting a brief feel for the place.
Both of our nights were at The DOUGLAS, a beautiful hotel with a thousand and one great touches that remind visitors they’re definitely in British Columbia. Perhaps the most notable feature is in the lobby, where they’ve taken a huge Douglas Fir tree and cut it into sections, laying it lengthwise inside panes of glass at the check-in counter.
Our room was quite good-sized and decorated in shades of gold, soft beige and grey, with an exposed concrete ceiling I quite liked. We also had a superb rain-shower in a bathroom that had glass walls and a nice view of the city (don’t worry, you can close things up for modesty purposes), as well as Aesop bath products in refillable, environmentally-friendly containers. All rooms have espresso coffee makers and free bottled water.
There were two USB ports on each side of our bed so we could charge our phones overnight, and the desk in our room had a wooden box with note paper and two pencils. The entire Parq Vancouver project is LEED certified gold for its environmental programs.
The Parq Vancouver property is on native land, so they’ve gone out of their way to provide elements that harken to nature and native customs, including the rooftop park.
The sixth floor lobby bar/restaurant at The DOUGLAS, called D/6, is quite extensive and lovingly decorated. There’s even a bookcase that you can push open a la James Bond, revealing a private space in the back for small gatherings that would be well away from the paparazzi. The bar area spills out onto a partly covered patio that’s adjacent to the rooftop park, with glass panels that can be closed so the light comes in but not the cool or rainy winter weather.
It was warm and lovely on the patio when my wife went there for lunch, snacking on a terrific lemon chicken salad with fresh greens, avocado and toasted chickpeas, as well as a nice turkey panini with cranberry jam. Waitresses were decked out in shrink-wrap black dresses for a very Vegas kind of look you might not expect in laid-back Vancouver. It’s a sleek cocktail bar at night, with lovingly crafted drinks and a sexy vibe.
Suites at both hotels are remarkable. At The DOUGLAS, we viewed a two-story suite with a grand piano on the lower level and a spiral staircase, as well as a fabulous terrace.
At the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver next door, there’s more of a residential feel, but still plenty of great, artsy touches and soft, woodsy colours not to mention huge windows. One of the suites we toured had gorgeous views of BC Place and False Creek, with tiny boats darting to and fro on the water.
“Classy luxury is the general concept,” one Parq worker told me. “Kind of a ‘nature meets city’ feel.”
I’d say The DOUGLAS has a bit more edge and a more youthful vibe, while the JW Marriott perhaps attracts a slightly older crowd. One manager we met described The DOUGLAS as Johnny Depp, while the JW Marriott is more Meryl Streep.
Food is a huge part of travel these days, and Parq Vancouver has gone out of its way to make sure their restaurants are of the highest quality. Victor, which is at the JW Marriott and is run by renowned chef Kim Canteenwalla, is a truly tremendous restaurant that features ocean-wise seafood and fresh herbs harvested just a few feet away.
At dinner I opt for the Porterhouse steak, which is as tender and flavourful a cut of meat as I’ve ever had. We also had super-sweet, tender crab cakes, with tons of fresh Dungeness crab held together only with an egg and a tiny dusting of panko crumbs on top for crunch. The dynamite roll sushi was explosively good, with tempura shrimp, avocado and mango for a touch of sweet. The Hokkaido Scallops also are tremendous, with snow peas and bits of fig. And don’t miss the waffle mac and cheese. If it’s nice you can try the patio, which runs alongside the rooftop park.
For breakfast the next day we check out Honey Salt, also in the JW Marriott. It’s a wonderful, bright and sunny place, with fruit jars and knick-knacks spread around the room for a homey feel. The menu is quite varied; with influences of Quebec, the Southern U.S. (chicken and waffles) and India, to mention a few. The avocado toast comes with watermelon radishes, tiny, sweet, red peppers and a few hot Serrano chilies. My galette was a deconstructed quiche of sorts, with eggs, gruyere cheese, ham and spinach on a marvellous puff pastry. Other Honey Salt options include potato latkes, brisket hash, muesli, a BC smoked salmon board and strawberry French Toast.
There are five other restaurants I didn’t get to try, including Mrkt East (an elegant dining spot based on a Singapore night market) and BC kitchen, billed as the city’s best sports bar.
The spa at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver is terrific, with a nice relaxation room overlooking False Creek and several types of TWG Tea. I had a truly wondrous massage, a “jet lag” treatment that included a light exfoliation with gritty bits to stimulate my blood flow, followed by a relaxing massage of my back, feet, legs, arms, hands, fingers, neck and scalp.
There’s also an enormous gym with all kinds of new, high-end workout equipment and a rooftop hot tub and relaxation area.
I’m not much of a gambler, but the public relations folks at Parq Vancouver offered to give my wife and I a casino lesson. I didn’t know what to expect but they had a very nice young man named Ishrad explain the ins and outs of baccarat, a game I knew absolutely nothing about. After perhaps 10 minutes, we had a pretty good idea how it worked and played a few games.
The casino folks take good care of their customers, with private rooms if they like, plus free snacks and drinks and even slippers. The main bar on the second level of the casino has lovely drinks, including a wine selection of whiskies. There’s even a direct passage from the casino into BC Place (and vice versa, of course).
The convention space is huge, with modern, flexible meeting rooms and breakout rooms with floor-to-ceiling window. There’s 60,000 square feet of space in all, including Vancouver’s largest hotel ballroom (15,604 square feet).
All in all, one outstanding resort/hotel complex with something for just about everyone.
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