By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 11, 2010; F02
For location, you can't do better than the Dupont Hotel. Washington's Dupont Circle is surrounded by lots of hotels, but this is the only one on the circle itself, putting you just steps away from restaurants, shops, a pharmacy and a Metro stop, not to mention the soothing green of the park at the circle's heart.
The plain white building was formerly the unassuming Jury's Washington Hotel, and its bar a casual Irish pub named Biddy Mulligan's, where I would never have thought to order anything but beer. But after a $52 million renovation by the Doyle Collection last year, the 327-room hotel has gone from dowdy to posh.
The lobby now boasts a sleek decor with marble floors, a fireplace, a dark wood reception desk and orchid arrangements. The lobby lounge has cushioned chairs and tiny white tables that look more trendy than efficient. And at Bar Dupont, cocktails or wine seem like more appropriate drink choices than ale.
Though everything in the public spaces feels open, bright and airy, this was not the case in the room I'd been assigned on a recent visit. A musty smell struck me as soon as I opened the door. Calling guest services, I was transferred to another department, where the woman who finally answered after several rings said she'd call back in five minutes. Instead, an employee appeared at my door and handed me a key to another room just down the hall.
I was in luck. This second room was bigger (though I was charged the same rate of $169 as for the first room), with a view onto the circle instead of the neighboring building. The bed had a beige leather headboard with reading lamps on each side. Instead of curtains there were wooden shutters, which came in handy in the late afternoon when the sun was shining brightly. My favorite feature was the cream leather chaise longue by the window. It was a prime spot for television viewing, and since I don't have a flat-screen TV at home, I found myself spending way too much time channel-surfing.
Then there was the mini bar. Not my favorite. Each item had its own compartment, and curious to see what was in one of them, I pulled the flap to find a small can of cashews. I didn't really want them, but as I tried to close the flap, I spotted a tiny sign saying that pulling a flap incurs a nonrefundable charge. I'd just spent $8.50 (plus tax).
Kicking myself, I headed down to the Bar Dupont's lovely outdoor patio. Unfortunately, all the tables with umbrellas were taken, as were the couches. My friend Diana and I had to settle for a table in the sun. The temperature was in the mid-90s, and we lasted just one round of drinks (and one bowl of free popcorn, which didn't make up for the cashew debacle) before calling it quits.
A couple of hours later, after a nap in my room, I returned to the patio with two other friends. This time, we scored spots on one of the couches. It was still hot out, but at least there was a nice breeze. When it came time for dinner, I had to decide whether I wanted to move to the upscale Cafe Dupont, with menu items such as $23 duck leg confit. Not wanting to give up my spot on the couch, I opted for bar food. But this was no ordinary bar food. My $14 "modern day club" sandwich came with turkey, Boston lettuce, chorizo, avocado and sun-dried tomato egg mayonnaise. I can't say that it was the best club sandwich I've ever had, but I had to give the chef points for creativity.
The next morning, after a run in the small but well-equipped basement gym, I ordered room service. The granola and yogurt parfait with berries was fresh and tasty, but along with coffee and a glass of orange juice, the bill came to $32. From my chaise longue, I could look down at the nearby Starbucks. I would have been better off eating there.