Relais & Chateaux Hotels in Texas
In Texas, where things are never done at half measure, two luxury hotels purvey the fine art of living on a grand scale. One transports you to the gilded era of Old New Orleans, where white-gloved waiters bear canapés on hefty silver platters. The other whisks you off to the tranquil seclusion of an exclusive ranch and resort, where its exquisite Spanish interiors are matched only by the wild beauty of the land. They may be worlds apart, but they share a common bond as the only establishments in the state belonging to the prestigious Relais & Châteaux. This is a rarefied circle of independently owned and operated hotels around the globe that uphold the strictest standards of personal service, amid an idyllic and luxurious backdrop.
Hôtel St. Germaine
A declared historic landmark, this charming three-story Queen Anne mansion just north of downtown Dallas has been a retreat for the discriminating set, from Prince Albert of Monaco to Oscar de la Renta to Martha Stewart. Built in 1906 as the residence of a prominent family, the iconic house along Maple Avenue, then known as Millionaires’ Row, was transformed into a boutique hotel in 1991. Proprietress and Louisiana-native Claire Heymann furnished all seven suites with the elegant trappings of a turn-of-the-century New Orleans address, without sacrificing modern conveniences. Although no two suites are alike, each is lushly appointed with a canopied feather bed, a soak tub or a Jacuzzi, a working fireplace and French antiques, as well as a fax machine and high-speed wireless Internet. The premier suite boasts a 19th-century Mallard king-size bed framed by a vaulted ceiling; while the most popular has a separate sitting room anchored by a Napoleon III campaign daybed.
The opulent dining room is a visual feast in itself. Adorned by a dripping chandelier and a 200-year-old Aubusson tapestry, it overlooks the hotel’s French Quarter-style courtyard through a bay of gracefully draped windows. The restaurant welcomes guests and non-guests alike; however, getting a seat at the AAA Four-Diamond-award winner might prove difficult, since reservations are often filled days to weeks ahead. The prix fixe full-service European meal, covering seven to eight courses, is served on a precisely laid table of antique silverware, heirloom Limoges china and Waterford wineglasses over Frette linen. The gourmet menu changes regularly, but expect a fare as decadent as lobster mousseline, seared foie gras and Colorado lamb chop on goat cheese polenta. Gentlemen are required to wear jacket and tie.
The hotel is a popular weekend getaway for Dallasites who don’t want to travel out of town. On an evening of concert or theater, city folks unwind over caviar and oysters Rockefeller at the Champagne bar where more than 130 labels are on stock.
The Inn at Dos Brisas
At this 313-acre resort and ranch, nestled on the eastern foothills of Central Texas Hill Country, being cut off from civilization is the perfect excuse for ultimate indulgence. Less than an hour drive from Austin or Houston, it’s a bucolic paradise of rolling meadows, winding creeks and verdant pastures where horses roam. The Inn has only 10 rooms, but they are palatial in comparison to most resort accommodations. Each of the six 1,795-square-foot haciendas is designed like a private residence, with lofty cathedral ceiling and French oak floors, a stone fireplace and a flat-screen HD TV in both bedroom and living rooms, a king-size outdoor shower and an enclosed porch and patio with a heated plunge pool. The spacious bathroom, equipped with his and her sinks, are furnished with L’Occitaine en Provence toiletries; and the beds are made with 1,200-count Egyptian cotton sheets. Of course no luxurious abode is complete without a jetted soaking tub, a walk-in closet, a dressing room and a powder room at the foyer. For shorter stays, guests often check in to any of the four smaller 750-square-foot casitas. Whichever suite you choose, you have a personal golf cart to use throughout your stay.
The Inn carries the distinction of having the only Forbes five-star restaurant in Texas. Fresh produce harvested daily from the resort’s certified organic farm go into the delectable French-inflected dishes, executed in Asian minimalist techniques and presented on stunning custom Bernardaud china. To accompany the superb cuisine is an impressive selection of wine from a cellar that has earned a “Best of Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator magazine. After choosing your poison, sit back and savor the eight-course Grand Tasting menu in the romantic environs of a Spanish country manor, where a majestic 18th-century fireplace from the Loire Valley Region in France holds court.
The gastronomic adventure doesn’t have to end at the table. If you want to learn the nuances between a Burgundy and a Bordeaux, a wine tasting session with the sommelier is a must. The Inn also offers organic gardening lessons for the novice, as well as the green thumb.
For the sports-minded, there’s always plenty to do but not enough time. You can test your angling skills, saddle up a horse, hit the trails on foot or on a mountain bike or try clay shooting. However you want to enjoy the great outdoors, don’t miss the scenic carriage ride and a relaxing spa therapy to round off a lavish five-star vacation.