Talk about the ordeal by fire. After a lengthy series of delays, Fairmont Austin finally opened its doors on Monday March 5th – just in time to greet the crowd that comes to town for SXSW.
The 37-story luxury hotel on Waller Creek at 101 Red River St. is a showpiece with Italian marble floors, a variety of large-format commissioned works by local artists, and towering artificial trees.
Austin’s newest hotel also has five ambitious hospitality projects: a fine dining restaurant, a large lobby bar, a coffee shop with local gifts and take-away, a poolside bar with great city views, and a dining room with four different concepts rolled into one. With the exception of the pool bar, all hotel facilities are now open. Rules & Regs will open at a later date.
Revue, the dining room, is the heart of the hotel’s culinary operations. CultureMap offers an exclusive first look at the concept and its extensive menus.
The space is divided into four areas, including a large central raw food bar, an Italian osteria, a pan-Asian restaurant, and an artisanal pastry shop. It also acts as a gateway to the contemporary BBQ garrison, which is open for dinner. The dining room is intended as a film set, with each individual concept telling its own story. Garrison’s entrance, designed to mimic the porch of a stately Austin home, protrudes in the background, while each of the mini-restaurants has a unique facade.
For dinner, the raw bar, which is covered under glass with the names of local breweries, offers oysters, various raw vegetables and a shrimp cocktail – all prepared so that the quality of the ingredients shines. The towers combine favorites like salmon sashimi and sack of tuna (and, in the case of the $ 120 tower, a whole lobster). There’s plenty for those who dislike raw seafood, including a Niman Ranch porterhouse steak, a tinned truffle Angus burger, and charcuterie.
The brick-walled Italian concept ranges from ham omelets and sweetcorn pancakes for the morning hours to simple Neapolitan-style pizzas and handmade pasta such as ravioli filled with ‘nduja, served with lobster bordelaise and charred rapini. The fish sellers use a risotto with a frutti di mare made from oysters, mussels and prawns.
Colorful paper umbrellas hanging over the chef’s counter are the focus of the Asian concept, which includes everything from traditional Thai papaya salad and curry laksa (a Malaysian-style noodle soup) to lemongrass prawn gyoza and okonomiyaki (a Japanese pancake with dancing bonito flakes). It’s also one of the few places in Austin to get Hainan chicken rice, which is slightly modernized here.
The final offering is a bakery that has desserts that complement the other stalls in the hall, including a cheesecake with matcha and melon and green tea mochi, a kahlua flavored affogato, and a decadent shake with milk from McGregor, Texas’ favorite Mill-King. The shop also makes a wide variety of pastries and cooks sweet crepes folded with ingredients like lemon curd and hazelnut spread.
André Natera is the hotel’s head chef, but he shares the spotlight with two regular chefs, both Fairmont vets. The senior sous-chef Atticus Garant, who made a name for himself under Daniel Boulud in the DB Bistro in Vancouver, comes from Fairmont Pacific Rim, where he converted the kitchen into a scratching business where all sausage products and canned goods were made. The chef of the Revue Matthew Schaefer, most recently a member of the Fairmont Orchid in Hawaii, was the Sous Chef under the famous chefs Bill Telepan, Marcus Samuelsson and Eric Ripert.
After dinner, customers can take the jewel box elevators (certainly Austin’s next selfie hotspot) to the Rules & Regs bar on the seventh floor. Although not quite finished, the Fairmont CultureMap offered a glimpse of the menu, which includes snacks like roasted garlic hummus, “dirty” french fries (poutine), rice paper salad rolls, and fried artichokes with curry dust, green olive salsa verde and herb yogurt.
Under beverage manager Andrew Grenz (formerly beverage director and general manager of Kuneho) the drinks at Rules & Regs include a daily punch; a selection of zero-firm hangover regimens made from fresh fruits and stomach-setting ingredients such as kombucha, wine and local beer; and a curated cocktail menu. The offerings are light and quaffable, including a Hill Country 75 (a version of the French classic with Balcones Rumble Whiskey) and Daisy’s Siesta (Espolon Blanco tequila, Cointreau, lime and coconut water washed with coconut oil, served with a coconut salt rim)).
The concepts are rounded off by Fulton, a sprawling lobby bar dominated by a large central tree with blue and green carnival lights, and Good Things, a café and counter restaurant for meals on the go.