Just a glimpse of the St. Regis's lobby will take a guest's breath away. The carved ceiling, painted in gilded hues, is reminiscent of the grandeur of an Italian Renaissance palace. Louis XV-style chandeliers cast their soft light over the lush room, furnished with ornate Empire furniture covered in tapestry fabric. The regal setting invites guests to linger over their newspapers.
President Calvin Coolidge cut the ribbon inaugurating the hotel on Oct. 1, 1926. Just a few blocks from the White House, the hotel was built by Washington entrepreneur Harry Wardman. Turkish architect Mihran Mesrobian designed the hotel to resemble the gilded palazzos of Milan. The hotel was designated a Washington historical landmark in 1964 and was further honored as a National Historical Place in 1991.
Details are what set the St. Regis apart. One thoughtful detail is the handy umbrella you'll find in the closet, in case it rains during your stay. Standard rooms are on the small side but elegantly furnished with tasseled, two-tiered curtains and embossed ivory wallpaper. Floral love seats match thick bedcovers; antique desks are tucked into discreet alcoves; and TVs are hidden away in mirrored armoires. Prints of the chateau at Fontainbleau provide the finishing touch to the rooms. The marble bathrooms are well lit and include such niceties as cotton balls and mouthwash. Make sure to slip your head into the Crystal Ballroom to take a gander at the original hand-stenciled wood ceilings.
-- Angela Walker
Nightlife review: The Bar at the St. Regis
While other bars are trying to get younger and cooler, the St. Regis Hotel is going the opposite direction with its St. Regis Bar. The country house-style Library Lounge was tarted up in 2008 for the opening of adjoining restaurant Adour: Think black walls, purple sectionals and a drink menu focused on “molecular mixology.” For those of us who went there to drink the best Sidecar in the District, it was like watching a longtime friend try to dress 20 years younger after a tough divorce. But the modern edge was mostly removed -- sorry, “redesigned” -- right before the inauguration. The new look draws its inspiration from the hotel’s origins in 1926: The curve of the marble bartop is echoed in the high-backed bar stools, and a reopened doorway allows views of the lobby’s colorful carved wood ceiling. It’s not all retro -- check out the extended gas-burning fireplace or the chandelier decorated with a rough pyramid of Swarovski crystals -- but overall effect is timeless.
Surprise, surprise: There’s a pre-Prohibition cocktail menu starring a Sidecar, an Old-Fashioned and a French 75. Everything is simple, delicious and made with higher-end spirits. As at many cocktail bars these days, these cocktails are served with giant, crystal-clear blocks of ice. The staff boasts that it’ll take an hour for that rock to melt into my Manhattan.
The St. Regis remains one of the priciest cocktail destinations in town: Drinks start at $15, and a flight of three Irish whiskeys, including the 38-year-old Knappogue Castle, costs $32. But sitting at one of the Chesterfield chairs, with sunlight streaming through the domed windows, a $15 Sidecar feels like an affordable luxury.
-- Fritz Hahn (Friday, Feb. 22, 2013)