• Monday, September 17, 2018
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Travel

A Montreal hotel so modern that room service is by robot

  • THE NEW YORK TIMES

    In a photo provided by Adrien Williams, the Hotel Monville in Montreal. The ultra-modern hotel features a stark and efficient design and the first robot room service in Canada.

  • THE NEW YORK TIMES

    In a photo provided by Adrien Williams, the lobby at the Hotel Monville in Montreal. The ultra-modern hotel features a stark and efficient design and the first robot room service in Canada.

  • THE NEW YORK TIMES

    In a photo provided by Adrien Williams, a robot that services guests at the Hotel Monville in Montreal. The ultra-modern hotel features a stark and efficient design and the first robot room service in Canada.

  • THE NEW YORK TIMES

    In a photo provided by Adrien Williams, a room at the Hotel Monville in Montreal. The ultra-modern hotel features a stark and efficient design and the first robot room service in Canada.

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(Check In)

Hotel Monville; 1041 Rue de Bleury, Montreal; hotelmonville.com

Rates

From about 188 Canadian dollars (about $143).

Basics

A vertical checkerboard that touts itself as “Canada’s most innovative hotel,” Hotel Monville opened in March near Montreal’s mammoth convention center. Stark and streamlined, the Monville emphasizes connectivity over coddling. Pod-size rooms are dominated by 50-inch web-enabled smart TV systems; guests check in at lobby kiosks; room service comes via robot. The first hotel by quirky Montreal architects ACDF, the aggressively modern property feels like a departure for owner Nathaniel Fraiberger, whose intimate Gault introduced boutique hospitality to Old Montreal 16 years ago.

Location

Even locals don’t recognize the Monville’s corner, once home to a rundown haunted-house attraction. Condo construction surrounds the hotel, and Rue de Bleury has blossomed into an under-the-radar Restaurant Row, with hot spots like locavore bistro Monsieur and Peruvian-Japanese mashup Tiradito. It’s a supremely strategic location within walking distance of Old Montreal, the Palais des Congres convention center and the Quartier des Spectacles entertainment zone. The city’s $10 express airport bus stops a block north on Rene-Levesque Boulevard, the Place-D’Armes metro station is five minutes away on foot, and Montreal’s minuscule Chinatown borders the block.

The Room

Rooms are not designed for hanging out. Somewhere between minimalist and monastic, my 220-square-foot room included a king-size bed — standard here — and an elongated nightstand that doubled as a work desk. Amid black laminate and natural wood, the lone decorative touch came from a pink acrylic throw draped over a gray-upholstered Scandinavian chair. Lack of overhead lighting made reading tough; strong bedside fixtures helped. Though I’d paid extra for a high floor — the hotel promises views from every room — the uninspiring vista included an adjacent condo’s swimming pool. Rooms are devoid of art, but dried paint on my dirty floor-to-ceiling window added an unintentional abstract effect. The room’s thermostat regulated temperature precisely, but glowed bright red when heating, suggesting either a system error or an emergency (it was neither).

The Bathroom

“Bathroom” is a stretch. Just inside the hotel room, a black granite sink faces a toilet and shower stall. A sliding door offers minimal privacy; I felt grateful to be traveling solo. The enclosed space got so cramped that I drenched the floor no matter how carefully I toweled off. Tiny tubes of zesty Goldenrod-and-Citrus bath amenities come from Oneka, a Quebec “estate grown organic botanicals” purveyor.

Amenities

The Monville’s vaunted tech capabilities fell flat during my stay. The day I arrived, a promised text message about my room’s readiness never came. The television, souped-up as a guest-experience nerve center, would reboot whenever I tried to order room service or channel-surf. When I checked myself out upon departure, an attendant had to reset the temperamental iMac kiosk. Minimal in-room amenities include a Nespresso Pixie machine, a small safe and an empty minifridge, all stacked on black shelves beside the door. The Monville’s public areas feel more generous. Designed for socializing, the soaring lobby revolves around a circular marble bar and laptop-ready communal tables. A bright, 1,300-square-foot gym boasts shiny new Matrix cardio equipment and ample free weights. A sprawling rooftop terrace with wraparound views, unfinished during my stay, will offer bar service, snacks and social events like yoga classes.

Dining

The Monville’s robot room service, the first in Canada, became my favorite part of the stay. A cross between R2-D2 and a Roomba, the robot — covered in colorful cartoon controls — rolls silently from kitchen to guest rooms and back. Seven minutes after I chose from an online menu of cold snacks, a phone call signaled my order’s arrival. Basking in the robot’s colored lights, I followed touch-screen prompts and pulled a neatly folded white paper bag from a pop-up compartment. Simple and fresh, my fruit cup and plain yogurt with chia seeds cost a fair $10 — no tip or service charged required. The robot trundled off happily regardless.

For hot meals, the lobby’s Gourmet Monville offers fluffy frittatas and rich porridge at breakfast, burgers and sandwiches later on; locally sourced provisions include Lester’s smoked meat and Quebec eggs, along with Champêtre cheese from Repentigny, Quebec, on a classic poutine.

Bottom Line

A cute robot can’t quite overcome the Monville’s chilly vibe and stark rooms. Business travelers might appreciate its efficiency, but Montreal’s got cozier options in similar price points.

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