If you're going to drink on a rainy, awful afternoon, the lobby bar of the Fairmont (née the Four Seasons) is an excellent place to do so. Cost precludes visiting too frequently or going too hog-wild when you do, yet it is the perfect setting for a midwinter's midday Irish coffee. The drink pleasantly confuses the system with the giddyap/whoa of caffeine and liquor under its comforting lid of whipped cream; the tasteful upholstered furniture and Corinthian columns make for a respite for both body and mind. (You are also presented a tripartite dish of olives, salted nuts, and fancy chips, none of which go well with Irish coffee but are gratis.) There are no windows to a potentially unpleasant and certainly unpredictable world; the only view is a slice of the Georgian Room, famously and soothingly painted in 11 shades of cream and buttercup.
Furthermore, the entertainment factor is tremendous. It's true: The rich are eccentric. Recently I sat near a distinguished elderly gentleman. He was well outfitted; his scarf, Burberry; his posture, impeccable. He seemed to be in a state of catatonia, staring ahead and never moving, yet his dessert disappeared with alacrity and, at one point, his dapper cap went from by his side to on his head. He was accompanied by a significantly younger woman with snakeskin boots, a patchwork leather jacket of expensive yet visually confounding appearance, and (I kid you not) a very fluffy, genuine-looking coonskin cap. In an Eastern European accent, she loudly sang to him and pressed him to drink his cognac.
The servers circulated, shouting at everyone in the nicest possible way. The rich, it seems, are hard of hearing, whether due to advanced age, the muffling embrace of wealth, or both. At one point, she of the coonskin cap, overjoyed for an indeterminate reason, leapt up to hug her server and then thump him soundly on the chest with both hands. She also kept leaving for long periods of time, with dramatic (and loud) promises to return. The man sat preternaturally still. A fugitive olive dwelt on the carpet near his buffed right shoe.
Of course, if you're going to drink on a rainy, awful evening, the lobby bar of the Fairmont is an excellent place to do that, too. I stopped in for a Singapore sling, a true test of a bartender involving many, many ingredients that, properly combined, replicate the taste of Hawaiian Punch. It's a vacation/alcohol-laden regression to childhood in a glass.
As I entered the lobby, a businesslike gentleman was approaching reception.
"Can I get change here?" he said. "For a lot of money?"
"I have 900 dollars in 20s," the receptionist offered smoothly. Judging from the length of the ensuing interaction, it was not enough. It's true: The rich don't want for problems—their problems are just different.
The Singapore sling was perfect.
Attire for The Terrace bar in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel (411 University St, 621-1700) is "smart casual."