Our friends always ask for new recommendations for hotels in Montreal, and we usually have to demur and suggest checking the current deals on the city tourism web site. (That's how we've gotten the best rates for years.) But after touring a hidden gem that's often overlooked, we have to rave about the renovated Hotel de l'Institut. It's the hotel of the provincial hotel and tourism school, where students take a three-year course with separate hotel management and culinary tracks. The culinary students work in the kitchen under a French chef and wait tables at the school's smart fine-dining room with a contemporary bistro-style menu based on Quebec products. The hotel students work at the front desk and in management behind the scenes.
The 42 rooms re-opened in June after a makeover from traditional to sleekly modern. All but two rooms have small outdoor terraces, and every room has a work area with desk and wifi. Book now for summer weekends to get a south-facing room with a fantastic view of the fireworks at La Ronde during the International Fireworks Festival (June-August). The lively Plateau location is terrific at any time: It's just a short walk up rue St-Denis to the densest collection of good restaurants in the city, and the Sherbrooke Metro stop is beneath the hotel if you feel the need to zip down to Old Montreal.
Hotel de l'Institut, 3535 Rue St-Denis, Montreal. Tel: 514-282-5120 or 800-361-5111, ext. 5120, www.ithq.qc.ca. Weekend specials currently start at $129 (Canadian) per night for single occupancy, $144 for double occupancy. The Gourmet Package is also a good deal, with overnight for two, dinner with wine, and breakfast for $275.
– Patricia Harris and David Lyon
Patricia Harris and David Lyon are working on Food Lovers' Guide to Montreal, to be published spring 2011 by Globe Pequot Press.
Photo by David Lyon for the Boston Globe