Walk into the basement of the Fourways restaurant and you won't stumble into the hot bustle of the kitchen or get lost in cavernous storerooms. Instead, you'll discover the Bermuda Lounge -- a civilized and hospitable alternative to Washington's sometimes-crazy bar scene.
The lounge was a storeroom in the building's original life as a townhouse mansion built in the 1890s. Today's incarnation is a somewhat pricey and softly lit piano lounge that caters to the city's young executive crowd. Most of its pinstriped or tuxedoed patrons step down after dinner in the swank upstairs restaurant, or they just stop by to sip and sing along with pianist Peter Robinson.
The Bermuda's transformation starts at 5:30 when the kitchen prepares some after- work delicacies -- different every day -- for the homebound executive. "We don't call it happy hour," says restaurant-owner Walter Sommer.
The lounge's sophistication is echoed by its dusty pastels and wall hangings -- photos and prints of yachts, the original Fourways in Bermuda (hence the name) and Sommer's other ventures around the globe.
At 7:30 Robinson starts his nightly stint at the piano, playing a well-rounded repertoire of soft jazz and popular renditions for the dinner crowd. Those who want a less formal alternative to the dining room can choose from the lounge's light menu, which offers a mix of hors d'oeuvres, soups and salads. Some of the impressive offerings printed in French and translated for the less worldly: crevettes printemps (shrimp with light chive sauce and hollandaise); oeufs de caille au caviar a la creme de ciboulet (poached quail eggs with caviar and chive sauce); vichyssoise glac,ee (chilled leek and potato cream soup), and salade d'endives aux pommes et aux noix (fresh endives with apples and nuts).
But around 10, the lounge's two rooms begin to fill and the pace picks up as it takes on a life apart from the upstairs. While some sit at the long cedarwood bar, most opt for the piano room.
Drinks and delicacies are a bit expensive -- two drinks and an appetizer would be about $20. And beware, the kitchen closes early -- 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. THE BERMUDA LOUNGE -- In the Fourways Restaurant, 1701 20th Street NW. Phone 483-3200. Open seven days a week: until 1 Sunday through Thursday, 2 on Friday and Saturday.