Feature for Comfort Cuisines





“I want my guests to walk away and say that the food is really yummy." -
Chef Nick Oltarsh of Lobby at Hotel Twelve

By Heather Sperling
May 2007

Walk into the restaurant of any boutique hotel near you – chances are, the white tablecloths and lone pianist of hotel dining’s days of yore are nowhere to be found. They’ve been replaced by dark wood bistro tables or sleek, low banquettes, and familiar electro-lounge music played from an iPod – most often the chef’s. Dishes arrive not under domes, but on plates made for sharing, the presentation rustic as opposed to towered. Even room service has changed: at Lobby at Hotel Twelve in Atlanta all room service is pre-packed in to-go boxes, then reheated in each room’s personal kitchen. From menu and service to décor and pricing, the focus is on bringing modern style in both food and design to a genre that, in recent years, was not renowned for its cool.

The cuisine is one of comfort, but not in a down-home way – culinarily it gives a nod to both the familiar regional classics and the traditional French background from which most hotel food came. The design is consciously cosmopolitan, be it rustic or mod. The bottom line is always comfort, where the common thread between the like-minded locations appearing across the country.

Dishes draw from a range of flavors and techniques, but are always familiar and accessible. The focal point at Lobby is an open kitchen that divides the space in two and serves a rustic, homey menu of wood oven pizzas and entrees meant for sharing. Wave in the W Lakeshore Chicago has a list of hot and cold small plates 21-deep and is, in Chef Kristine Subido’s words, “unpretentious and friendly service and food – not too fussy or fabricated.” Chef Tom Fleming of Central 214, next to the Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar, writes menus with a classical bent that are “approachable for everyone who walks in the door of my restaurant” – but his shrimp cocktail, tossed in a brandy tomato sauce and plated with fried potatoes, avocado and basil, looks nothing like the once de rigueur glass of ice, tails and sauce.

The Kimpton Group is often credited with originating the idea of the stand-alone (“adjacent,” in Kimpton-lingo) restaurant with full hotel duties. The Palomar in Dallas is a perfect example of the Kimpton structure: independently-operated restaurants that share a wall with the hotel property, but have their own management team and street entrance, which aids in encouraging non-hotel guests to come in. A similar deal structure exists with Lobby at Hotel Twelve, owned by the Novare Group, a local real estate development firm, but managed by restaurateur Bob Amick’s Concentrics Hospitality (Concentrics was hired to consult on the development of the concept from lease to opening day, and continues to manage the restaurant on a contractual basis.).

A major aim of boutique-style hotels is to be more than just a room. And as dining out rises in the ranks of national pastimes, hotels need their restaurants to be real destinations. So it’s no surprise that this style of hotel dining outlet has been met with success across the country – it’s transformed stodgy, impersonal hotel dining into a hip but comfortable experience.

ˆ back to top

Grilled Rack of Lamb with Chickpea Puree and Merguez Cassoulet
Chef Kristine Subido of Wave – Chicago, IL
Watercress and Endive Salad
Chef Tom Fleming of Central 214 – Dallas, TX
Carolina Rock Shrimp Cocktail “Louis Style”
Chef Tom Fleming of Central 214 – Dallas, TX
Beets with Pistachios
Chef Nick Oltarsh of Lobby at Twelve – Atlanta, GA
Spicy Roasted Carrots
Chef Nick Oltarsh of Lobby at Twelve – Atlanta, GA
Roasted Winter Vegetables with Bacon
Chef Nick Oltarsh of Lobby at Twelve – Atlanta, GA