Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Neighborly Tour; the W Hotel

Fritz Hahn over at the Washington Post recently provided readers with a fantastic and in-depth tour of the W Hotel. Just check out the views from the future W Rooftop Bar!

Let it be known; the W Hotel opens in 28 days (July 8th)

W Moves Next Door to the White House

Until I walked out onto the rooftop that used to be the Hotel Washington's Sky Bar -- and will soon be the W Hotel's Rooftop Bar -- I had forgotten what a magnificent view it has. The White House is just a stone's throw away (though throwing stones would probably get you in trouble with the Secret Service). The Washington Monument towers overhead. There's the Jefferson Memorial, the Mall, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air Force Memorial -- it's like being inside a Washington postcard.

And now you get to have a mai tai while you take it all in. And not just any mai tai, but one created by Sasha Petraske, the cocktail genius behind New York's Milk & Honey, Little Branch and several others, including the brand-new Dutch Kills. This is, well, the cocktail equivalent of Jean-Georges Vongerichten opening a D.C. outpost, which is also happening in the W.

When the W opens on July 8, here's what you can expect:

The hotel's ornate high-ceilinged lobby will be home to the Living Room Bar, a space that retains the Hotel Washington's gorgeous antique chandeliers and really shows off its marble floors. A blocky square bar that looks like a lacquered jewel box sits at one end of the room, which will be filled with chaise lounges and other seating for about 150. At night, the chandeliers -- which were saved from the Hotel Washington -- glow blue and purple, thanks to LED lights.

Those extended ceilings allow for a mezzanine level, where tables overlook at the action taking place throughout the lobby. There will be table service, so no one trips up the spiral staircase while carrying a cocktail. (You'll probably notice that the Hotel Washington's historic check-in desk is still located in its original lobby position. What you might not see is that there's a banquette and tables hidden behind it.)

An elevator speeds customers to the rooftop bar, which has very different indoor and outdoor sections. Inside, the modern, one-room main bar has just 66 seats. Large windows soar almost to the 20-foot ceilings and offer views of Pennsylvania Avenue. (The best spots in the house will probably not be at the low counter that runs along the bar, but at the circular tables for two that line the southern-facing windows.)

And then there's the outdoor deck. Some may remember the cramped conditions that Hotel Washington offered -- plastic picnic chairs and tables jammed on top of each other. Not anymore. Adding about four feet to the awning-style ceiling helps. Capping the seats at 104 is a good move, too, so you can have some privacy at your table as you gaze over at the East Wing.

The bar has a funky grass-style covering to match the prospective menu: seasonal drinks and a selection of tapas and light snacks. (No decision has been made about whether or not the rooftop will allow smoking.)

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