I was drawn to the place first by its location (right off Rittenhouse Square), then by its size and scale (23 rooms, more like a mansion than a hotel), then by its decor and reputation (elegant and award-winning, respectively). I had a busy weekend planned and wasn’t sure how many of the promised luxuries I’d be able to exploit: the 24-hour concierge, evening wine service, “lavish continental breakfast.” But I’d do my best to try.
The exterior reminded me of a New England carriage house, with that gorgeous arched window, and inside, things were just as refined: yellow and cream striped wallpaper and fauteuil chairs in the lobby, and a guest room upstairs that was positively librarylike. On the shelves of the floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases, the upper ones reachable by step-stool, painted duck decoys shared space with global fiction by the likes of Shiva Naipaul. I didn’t have time to read, because dinner reservations followed soon after my check-in, but I did manage to turn on the gas fireplace for a little extra coziness while I showered and dressed.
The next morning, breakfast got off to an awkward start. First, I was pleasantly surprised to read a chalkboard menu promising made-to-order egg dishes and other hot items, available for a charge, in addition to pastries, cereals and fruit. Alas, the chef had suffered a hand injury and wasn’t going to make it in. Worse, the buffet of pastries and the like was plenty picked over. As I ate plain oatmeal and wished that I’d made it downstairs earlier, a fellow guest was more vocal, if polite. In hushed tones, I heard him utter such phrases to a manager as “shouldn’t be out of things at 10 when you’re open until 11” and “included in the room” and “disappointing.” The manager quickly apologized. “If you give me a few minutes, I’ll get you something,” he said.
He was out the door, down the street and back in a flash, holding a basket of warm croissants in three varieties. All was well. I appreciated the chance to push aside the oatmeal and grab something decidedly less nutritious.
With all the eating I had planned, I knew that I needed to get some exercise in, so I asked the concierge whether the hotel works with any local gyms. “As a matter of fact, we do,” she said, pulling out a guest pass for LA Fitness, mere blocks away. But the pass was just an excuse for the not-so-subtle folks from LA Fitness to try to get me to sign up for a membership. (In the middle of a long tour of the facility, I finally impressed on the saleswoman that I was just in town for the weekend and using the pass as a perk from the hotel, at which point things ground to a halt, and a stern manager came over to give me a “just this time” and “against our policy” talking-to. Let’s say that I didn’t respond well.)
When I reported my experience back at the hotel, the croissant-fetching manager didn’t miss a beat. “I’m so sorry that happened to you,” he said. “Obviously, we need to find a different gym to work with.” But the best part was yet to come. The next day, not only was the chef back on the job — where he made me a fine omelet — but the concierge was ready with a suggestion. It wasn’t as close as LA Fitness, but another locally owned gym took guests for $15 a day with no strings attached. Afterward, when I checked out, the clerk showed me that $15 had been taken off my bill — and I hadn’t even had to ask.
There’s more. Much later that day, when I returned to fetch my on-hold bags and sat for almost 90 minutes charging my phone and killing time until my train, another clerk couldn’t let me sit there unattended. He ran downstairs and fetched a tray of tea with all the accouterments — including some cookies. I wasn’t even a guest anymore, yet I couldn’t have felt more pampered.
That’s my kind of service. And if the Rittenhouse managers do teach a class on the topic, I hope that LA Fitness sends some students.
1715 Rittenhouse Square St.
Room rates vary considerably, but on upcoming weekends a standard room starts at $235. Continental breakfast included.