There’s something restorative about being coddled and enveloped in the lap of luxury. Doors magically open, dark coffered wood and gleaming marble floors beckon and the soul-soothing hushed tones of a well-trained staff welcome you into a sanctum sanctorum of elegance and sophistication. It’s the rush that comes from entering a venerable five-star hotel and the Cheshire cat satisfaction of dipping your toes into its posh milieu.
Arriving from beneath the colonnaded porte-cochere and swanning into the stately Hay-Adams on a rain-splattered evening, I had the immediate sense that I was entering an exclusive club. The doormen with their broad smiles and neatly tailored uniforms do nothing to dissuade you of that feeling. Cocktails were calling and the Off the Record bar below stairs was the first stop. This secluded spot is a little known bastion of journos, pols and their minions who end their day at the White House and stroll across Lafayette Park to sip and spin the the day’s news – far from the rough and tumble of the Old Executive Office’s press room. Here one is cosseted by the ornate gilded ceiling and comforted by the dozens of framed political caricatures, a priceless collection housed here under the auspices of the Library of Congress.
Cable news blinks updates from strategically placed screens, and on the night we visited a great deal of attention was being paid to the primary election results filtering in. Lately, to reinforce the hotel’s connection to political life, notable political cartoonist Matt Wuerker has been commissioned to design 18 irreverently drawn drink coasters of Washington leaders and politicians. Choose your favorite candidate to cushion your drink.
Keeping a low profile in this cozy, fire engine red room is easy. Wing chairs offer up a view exclusive to one’s table companions, and banquettes, sumptuously upholstered halfway to the ceiling, muffle the sound of negotiations and shared confidences. There is an air of something of consequence about to go down coupled with a calm that mitigates anything that could upend the delicate buzz. It’s positively electrifying in a genteel way.
Once one’s appetite is whet over a drink or two, it’s time to repair to the dining room where all is calm, all is white – linens, that is. You prefer privacy? There are alcoves with a view and all the Chippendale-style chairs have comfortable arms. Settle in for a luxe meal, any time of day.
Since this was my last hurrah before beginning a month-long vegetarian diet, I went big and put my trust in Executive Chef Peter Schaffrath. He should know. He’s been in the hotel’s kitchen turning out sumptuous meals for heads of state and assorted VIPs since 2001.
For appetizers we ordered Maine Lobster Salad enhanced with a tangy lemon curd sauce and trout roe; and Hamachi, a delicate salad of fennel, carrot, American caviar and yuzu. We followed with Black Angus beef tenderloin gilded with foie gras and served with Madeira sauce, and Diver Scallops graced with a coconut lobster sauce. Each dish was sheer perfection – exceptionally prepared and elegantly presented.
To cap it off we had rich chocolate soufflés embellished with a heaping dollop of freshly whipped cream. Be sure to order these as soon as you are seated. Pastry Chef Josh Short changes the flavors from time to time, so I can’t promise chocolate. As of this writing pistachio soufflés are the thing for Spring.
Offerings for Easter and the Cherry Blossom Festival are available now.
Easter Brunch at the Top of the Hay, which offers a bird’s eye view of Lafayette Square with the White House beyond, is lavish. Chilled White Asparagus and Truffle Oil Soup with edamame peas; Baby Romaine Lobster Salad with boiled egg, pickled red onion and basil vinaigrette; Carved Black Angus Beef Tenderloin with Yukon gold and sweet mashed potatoes and Perigourdine sauce; Spinach Tortellini with herb roasted tomatoes and white asparagus; Baked Organic Chicken Breast with oregano and parmesan crust, fava beans, diced heirloom tomato and piquillo pepper sauce, as well as Colorado Lamb Noisettes with Spring vegetables and tarragon lamb jus complemented by either a glass of Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne, a classic Bloody Mary or a Strawberry Orange Mimosa. A dessert buffet created by Pastry Chef Josh Short includes the White Rabbit Carrot Cake; Lemon Bundt Cake with blueberries; Brown Butter Layer Cake with dulce de leche; Mango Coconut Parfait; Bunny Tails BonBons; Rhubarb Cobbler, and many more.
In addition, during the Cherry Blossom Festival, The Lafayette dining room will offer a Japanese-inspired three-course, pre-fixe dinner menu in addition to the featured menu. The deliciousness starts with an amuse-bouche of cherry Kir Royal, followed by first course options such as Spring Vegetable Salad with kabocha squash puree and matcha tea powder, and Yellowfin Tuna Tartar with smoked avocado and quail egg. Entrees include Caramelized Chilean Sea Bass with seaweed salad, pickled radish, miso, and brown butter sauce, as well as Nori Wrapped Black Angus Strip Steak with steamed Japanese eggplant, matsutake mushroom, and plum wine reduction. Dessert is Caramelia Chocolate Panna Cotta with cherry marmalade and griottines.
If staying at the Hay-Adams during the historic festival is your plan, a specially designed package includes a luxuriously appointed guestroom created by renowned interior designer
Tom Pheasant, a chocolate espresso cake with morello cherries, the National Cherry Blossom Festival information packet, and American breakfast for two each day, available through room service or in The Lafayette. This package is available for three nights or more from March 20, 2016 through April 17, 2016. Rates begin at $469 per night for a superior room (excluding taxes) and is based on a minimum three-night stay.
For reservations and information call (202) 638-6600 or visit their website