(This Andaz Ottawa review was updated on August 13, 2021, after a second stay at the property. It reflects realistic expectations of what Ottawa hotels can and should be doing after a year and a half of interrupted availability.)
Finding great Ottawa hotels isn’t the most difficult task. The city houses some of the finest properties in the country and you have a lot of choice when looking for somewhere to stay in Canada’s capital city. As a travelling family, we have stayed in everything from a two-star motel-style lodge to the finest, most luxurious villas you can imagine. And we’ve done so both before and now during the great COVID pandemic of the 21st century.
In fact, after avoiding hotel stays for 17 months — in part because it felt super irresponsible to promote travel in the early days when we were asked to stay put and in part because with so many unknowns, the thought of sharing hallways and elevators with strangers wasn’t appealing — we chose the Andaz to be our first major hotel stay as we stepped back into travelling. We’d stayed once before and trusted the brand, and we’d had such a phenomenal experience the first time around that we wanted to get our fresh memories started somewhere awesome.
Or so we’d hoped.
In my original 2017 Andaz Ottawa review, I felt very confident touting this Ottawa hotel as one of the best hotels we’d ever stayed in. It had actually earned a very rare 5 out of 5 rating and I spend the last five years sharing the original review in Facebook groups, private chats and DMs with followers. I cannot underscore how much we freaking loved this hotel after our first visit.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still good. And I’d stay again. But it’s a far cry from the five-star experience we had last time.
Before you jump all over me with “but the pandemic!” excuses, trust me — I made a lot of concessions keeping in mind that the service and hospitality industries have been put through the ringer and may be having a hard time getting back on their feet. I really did. Had it been just one thing, rather than a series of issues, I probably would have let it go and chalked it up to “but the pandemic!”
But I can’t let it go, because there were a number of concerns throughout our stay. The very last thing I would ever want to do is hurt an industry that’s so near and dear to me, but serving my readers with honesty is more important.
So, let’s begin. As I like to do, let’s start with what the Andaz Ottawa got right.
Ottawa hotels: Andaz Ottawa location
Location, location, location. It’s still fantastic. The Andaz Ottawa is smack in the middle of Ottawa’s wonderful ByWard Market, mere minutes from everything you could want from an Ottawa road trip. Walk to myriad restaurants, cafés, market shops, the Rideau Centre (a fabulous shopping mall) and even art galleries. You won’t need to drive anywhere if you’re there exploring for the weekend.
The location and rooms are the only reason my revised rating didn’t dip much lower. So, onto rooms…
Ottawa hotels: Andaz Ottawa rooms
The rooms are still in great shape, kept scrupulously clean and offer configurations for bigger families or families with older kids who need more space. There are also accessible rooms.
During our first stay, we had a room with two queen beds. That was fine when our kids were little and we could squeeze ourselves into a bed, each with a kid. But those days are long gone and if we want any hope of a good night’s sleep, the kids need to be in their own beds, so it was great to experience connecting rooms at Andaz Ottawa.
They don’t connect in a traditional way with the shared door-in-the-wall. Instead, our king-bed room and the two-queen-bed room beside it could be closed off by an external door. Essentially, we ended up sharing a small hallway and could keep our main doors propped open. You still get two full rooms, just with the added convenience of being a quick shout away.
Now that we’ve stayed in three different rooms at Andaz Ottawa, I can tell they’re all kitted out pretty similarly. We love the modern, clean lines and beautiful brass accents in the washrooms. Design-wise, some of the rooms are on the smaller side (think New York-sized hotel rooms vs. Toronto-sized hotel rooms), though our king-bed room was a spacious corner suite with loads of space to move around. The modern furniture choices and clever placement for table and chairs make the rooms here really livable. They’ve made excellent use of limited space.
The bedding was ridiculously comfortable. The comforters are big enough to share, the linens are high-quality and the pillows divine. I just love a good pillow.
The bathrooms are big, well appointed and beautifully designed:
Ottawa hotels: Andaz Ottawa rooftop
We made it to the rooftop bar this time (Copper Spirits and Sights), since it was winter during our last visit. It’s got lovely views, lots of good seating and feels energetic and somewhere I could spend all night hanging out with girlfriends. The cocktails were fine — nothing anywhere as close to inventive or palate-rich as the cocktails were in feast+revel during our 2017 stay (the restaurant on the main floor). I won’t assume they’re still as great down there either after trying their food this time, but I’ll get to that later. I appreciated the vibe here and will refrain from adding yet another negative down below, so will impart here that I didn’t love the server asking my child if he wanted another pricey mocktail while I was busy chatting with my husband; no, no — you ask the people paying.
Ottawa hotels: Andaz Ottawa prices
Before we move on to the disappointments, price. I’ve seen Andaz Ottawa priced as little as $179 a night on Expedia for a standard room and I believe ours were around $250 each — not bad considering it was a long weekend in the summer. And, frankly, even with most of my expectations dashed, it’s still a good price considering the location, rooms, bedding and high season.
Finally, for those with four-legged friends, there used to be a $100 charge that allowed Muffy to join you at the Andaz Ottawa complete with dog-friendly amenities, like a doggy bed, doggy bowls, and doggy cookies…but you might want to double check that’s still happening.
Ottawa hotels: the worst parts of Andaz Ottawa
This part sucks. Because we went back expecting to feel the same distinctive touches and unique perks that made the Andaz Ottawa so memorable in the first place.
Andaz Ottawa rooms
During our first stay, everything in the in-room mini-bar (except alcohol) was free. And this was no chintzy mini-bar, either. We’re talking world-famous Hummingbird chocolate, artisan potato chips, interesting beverages, sparkling water. The works. And you just helped yourself and it was replenished each day of your stay. This is gone. In its place were two bottles of still water. The small bottles. Womp womp.
There’s little storage space if you want to unpack a family of four into one room. This wasn’t enough of a deterrent for me to take away from the hotel’s original 5/5 rating, though, but it needed to be mentioned then and now. There are two spots where a suitcase can sit open, and in the closet there were two small drawers into which one person travelling for one or two nights can unpack. But that’s it.
But I digress, because these were the least of our problems during visit No. 2.
Andaz Ottawa check-in
One of the best things about our first stay was the check-in process. Honestly, we talked about it to anyone who would listen for years. (Yes, this was pre-pandemic, but I’ma share anyway.) After stopping right in front of the hotel’s main doors, the valet collected our keys and helped whisk our baggage into the lobby. We’d barely given the front desk clerk our names before we were offered complimentary beverages to satiate us during check-in. The kids each ordered a hot chocolate (with marshmallows), while I had a nice Carbernet-Merlot and Big B enjoyed a local craft beer. This set the tone for our stay.
This time, however, only one of our rooms was ready when we checked in. It was a bit early, and I wasn’t expecting to go to our room, so it was a nice surprise, but check-in didn’t have any nice touches. There was no one to offer a luggage cart, no warm “welcome back” sentiments and certainly no welcome drinks. Look, I get you can’t have people in face masks drinking in the lobby while others are checking in, but you could add a couple of drinks to the room and still keep this perk. It would actually encourage people to go up to the rooftop and they’d probably spend more money.
Fast forward to 4 p.m. (it may have been more like 4:15 but it was definitely after 4ish), and we returned to the hotel to find a massive lineup of people trying to check in. It took ages to find out that our second room was still not, in fact, ready. Speaking to some other guests, they’d been waiting around the lobby for two hours for their room — and hadn’t even been offered so much as a coffee on the house. I overheard someone at the front desk tell another guest who was complaining about this wait that the hotel had been full the night before. Well, ummm…I guess y’all need more housekeeping staff to turn the rooms around faster. Because getting a room at 5 p.m. is unacceptable by any standards.
During check-in, we were told that in the morning there would be a continental breakfast just beside the lobby. Naturally, I assumed she mentioned it because it was included as a grab-and-go perk of staying at the Andaz Ottawa. It wouldn’t have surprised me since during our last visit there was always something scrumptious there for the taking, like a lavish hot chocolate bar or homemade cookies. But, NOPE. When we went down the next morning, the counter was bare. I asked the person working behind the “to go” breakfast bar if we needed to order the continental breakfast to go and was met with confusion. After explaining what we’d been told during check-in, the person said that some rooms come with continental breakfast and we should check at the front desk. So I did. And, guess what? No continental breakfast for us. So some extra training is definitely needed for front desk staff.
Andaz Ottawa food
But, no bother. We remembered how unbelievable the pastries were when we bought them from this very same spot five years earlier, so shelling out $7 for a breakfast sandwich and $4 for an almond croissant plus another $4-5 for fancy coffees wasn’t an issue.
Until it was.
Y’all, I didn’t even take photos I was so shook. The breakfast sandwich was barely warm and didn’t even look as appetizing as a McMuffin. But my kid was starving and ate it anyway, all the while wishing aloud that he had gotten two breakfast sammies from Starbucks for the same price. And it wasn’t even his money! My other kid’s bagel seemed like something out of a mass-produced grocery store bag and was paired with one — ONE! — tiny Philadelphia cream cheese packet. She was also starving and sucked it up but said it wasn’t at all fresh.
When we opened our almond croissants with all the hope in the world, I just couldn’t imagine how any kitchen wouldn’t be mortified to send something like this out to guests. They didn’t look like croissants, and certainly not almond croissants. They looked like an old, bland, beige omelette. But I took a bite anyway, because I was also so, so hungry by this point. Stale, flavourless, blech. I should have taken a photo, I know. But you have to understand that shock stops one’s brain from doing certain things, and instead I took the croissants back down and asked if they were made in-house and when. Staff confirmed they were made in-house and claimed they were made the night before. There is no way these were even 24 hours old, let alone 12 or less. They tasted days old and lacked anything that makes a croissant a croissant. They gave us our money back for those and I wished that the entire morning ordeal between the continental breakfast snafoo and getting on and off elevators to go down, up and back down again hadn’t taken so long and made my kids so ravenous that they just dealt with what they got, because we really deserved a refund on the whole dang thing. The coffees aren’t worth mentioning; we didn’t eat or get our morning java from the hotel again. All such a huge disappointment.
I will reserve further judgment on dining at Andaz Ottawa in its in-house restaurant, feast+revel, since it’s currently closed. Five years ago, we’d had one of most memorable meals of our lives — but based on what that shared kitchen was pushing out for breakfast, I’m definitely not going to suggest anyone dine there when it reopens unless I try it again myself.
Andaz Ottawa elevators
I mentioned the elevator speed above. Oh my God. So slow and one was either on service or broken at some point every day of our stay. Once, Big B chose to walk up 12 flights of stairs instead of brave the line for the elevators. If all three had been going consistently through our stay, I would have left this part out because with health protocols, I expected to wait for elevators. But not like this.
Andaz Ottawa parking
There’s no valet due to COVID, which shouldn’t be a big deal because there’s a parking lot right beside the hotel, right? Except it’s first come, first served — for all guests. So if it’s full, you’re SOL. People were parked in spaces that weren’t even designated parking spaces and it was an absolute madhouse. If you get a spot, do not — I repeat do NOT — leave in the middle of the day and expect to come back to a free spot. Keep it and hold it dear throughout your stay.
Andaz Ottawa hotel staff
In round one of this Andaz Ottawa review, the Andaz employees earned rave remarks. Like “everyone was outstanding!” and “So friendly, so helpful!” and “I was super impressed from beginning to end. Big B and I said over and over during our weekend there that although it may not technically be a five-star property, it sure operated like one.”
I know it’s not easy to connect with people wearing face masks, and I don’t expect everyone living through a pandemic to operate at boisterous Energizer Bunny level either, but gone was the bend-over-backwards service we received in 2017. It was decidedly colder and more transactional. That said, I’m not letting this affect my new rating and won’t until we stay again post-COVID. That said, there are a lot of pretty great Ottawa hotels out there and the Andaz Ottawa needs to find what makes it special again to stand out enough to warrant a new visit.
Ottawa hotels: Andaz Ottawa — the new (but not improved) rating
In my original review, I noted that this hotel could compete with the likes of the Langham and Waldorf Astoria. Sadly, that’s not a claim I can make anymore. I hope the team reads this review and does some soul searching to find its way back to awesome.
DISCLAIMER: These stays were provided to facilitate this review. Opinions are clearly my own!