Thursday, July 11, 2013

Inn at Little Washington - The Inn

A zillion words have been written about the Inn at Little Washington's incredible restaurant (and we'll be adding a few too many words about our experience soon), but not as many that detail the experience of being an overnight guest at the Inn. 

For a celebratory weekend, I booked a surprise trip for B to the Inn for a one night stay and dinner.  We paired it with a hiking day trip to Shenandoah for an unforgettable weekend.  We left DC in the morning and took our time with the drive out to Washington, VA.  I figured we could show up well before check-in time and wander around the town.  Turns out that it takes about 3.5 minutes to walk around the whole "town."  It's really nothing more than the Inn, a few art galleries and little bed and breakfasts.  We ended up grabbing a bite to eat at a roadside cafe a few miles past the Inn and heading to check-in early.

From the minute we pulled up to the Inn, I knew it would be quite a treat.  The staff met us at the car, welcomed us by name, and whisked our bags away.  We had a welcome cocktail in our hands in about five seconds flat and were led into the tea room for afternoon tea.  Our host, Cameron, is the Inn's tea and cheese guru and has a personality as quirky and fun as the Inn's decor.  He brought us each a pot of tea and selection of sweet and savory goodies from the kitchen.  We sat back in the overstuffed chairs and marveled at the over-the-top room that would make a Louis proud.  Everything about the Inn is wacky and wonderful.

After tea, we were led up to our room. During the Inn's remodel, each room was designed and named for an iconic food personality.  Our room, the Jean-Georges Vongerichten room, overlooked the front of the Inn.

We enjoyed the handwritten welcome note from Chef Patrick O'Connell and the basket of fruit and baked goods that awaited us. The room was cozy and comfortable in a country way.  It was plenty spacious too, with a separate sitting area and balcony.  The fluffy robes and bath products were also top notch.

We'll save dinner for another post, but breakfast (included with the stay) deserves mention. This is not your ordinary hotel breakfast with stale bagels and bad OJ.  It is a breakfast befitting the Inn's five star culinary reputation.  We were seated facing the sunny patio in a comfy side-by-side table.  This is the one time that sitting on the same side of a table is perfectly acceptable.  Otherwise, it's just weird.

They brought out a selection of fresh juices and pastries, granola and fruit.  Though still full from the epic marathon meal the night before, we managed to put away every delicious morsel.

As we packed up the car to leave the Inn, they presented us with bottled water for the drive home and a tin of hard candies.  We've stayed at some pretty cool places around the world, but have never seen so many personal and thoughtful touches as we did at the Inn.  It was over-the-top fantastic in every way.

Second Thoughts From B

Part upper-crust French country cottage, part Willy Wonka's culinary wonderland, the Inn at Little Washington hardly seems like the product of humble beginnings. However, did you know that one of America's greatest restaurants grew out of an old gas station?  True fact.

I don't know if the origin of the Inn's structure gets the credit but outside of the small fortune required to be a guest, there is no air of pretentiousness or elitism that I could detect among the staff or patrons.  Rather, it felt like you were staying at your eccentric uncle's farm house. It was comfortable, quiet and accommodating. Admittedly, we were waited on throughout our stay but it was done so in a friendly and helpful manner that made us feel comfortable.  We were given what we wanted before we considered asking for it and were not put in the awkward position of turning down unnecessary service that often comes with high-end hotels. "Yes, come to think of it, I would like some more tea" rather than "no, I don't need you to turn the page of my menu."

I don't know how a business strikes the balance between pampering and overbearing but the Inn was able to do it.  Then again, I don't know how they do half the things there... I'm just happy that they do. The Inn at Little Washington on Urbanspoon