Monday, October 3, 2016

A Stay at the Brown Palace

 

Flashback to October of 2009 - one of my BFFs was getting married in Denver, so I flew out for an extended weekend.  Our group of six had been pretty tight in high school and by some miracle, all of us were able to make it to the wedding.  My friend Meaghan rented a car, while I took care of accommodations for the two of us in Denver. And while Denver has lots of options, I knew exactly where I wanted to stay.



The Brown Palace Hotel is the second-oldest hotel in Denver and one of the oldest atrium-style hotels anywhere. The stately triangular building with a facade of Colorado red granite and Arizona sandstone is dwarfed by modern office buildings, but manages to hold its own on style points.  The Brown Palace has hosted the Beatles, Presidents, crime bosses, and the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown. There are also rumors that it's haunted. 



I arrived in Denver in the early afternoon and checked in to the hotel. Our room was up a short flight of stairs. To be quite honest, it was just another (large) hotel room, albeit with some grand headboards and a slightly swankier ice bucket. The bathroom was really nice - a card on the mirror suggested a spa day and cards and chocolates left on the bed provided a bit of trivia about what the Beatles had ordered for room service. I went out to explore; Meaghan arrived later that evening.




After a night's stay and a short excursion round downtown Denver, Meaghan and I headed to tea. It was Meaghan's first afternoon tea, and she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  For me, it was so much fun sharing her delight - Meaghan's a teacher, and very good at pointing out the interesting stuff. Plus, it was nice to just sit and relax after a morning out, before heading south for wedding festivities.



The atrium of the Brown Palace is a beautiful space.  It's separated from the lobby desks by dark wood and frosted glass partitions.  The entire area is lit by the large glass skylight, eight stories up, and the light contrasts with the rest of the space, which is all marble supports and coppery arches and iron rails.  The carpet pattern features swirling green vines, pink roses, and pale blue blossoms on a black background.  Perhaps the time of year helped, but the atrium was wonderfully uncrowded while we were there, while not being totally dead.  The tables are small and round, and the empire-style chairs are upholstered in champagne and red.  Each table is given room to breathe, with only about twenty total.



Being guests of the hotel, and in Denver rather than London or New York, I did not feel out of place in a sweater and jeans.  However, the elementary-age princesses one table over were decked out in their finest and seemed to be having just as much fun as we did.

The service was a nice balance of helpful without being overbearing.  After the first pour, you were on your own for refilling your cup, but strainers and rests were provided with the silver pot. I think I prefer it that way with two people - it makes it easier to have a conversation without awkward pauses to thank your server.

We had champagne and chocolates before our tea.  Typically, I just don't "get" the idea of having a drink before tea, but it was nice, given that this was a special occasion.  Each glass came topped with a raspberry and a blackberry, and were appropriately bubbly.



The sandwiches were decent, but after tasting the ones at the Empress in Victoria, I think I'm spoiled for life. Usually, I'm a scone purist - clotted cream and jam only, thankyouverymuch - but these had currants in them, and were amazing.  They looked slightly rustic and tasted perfect for the early fall weather.



The entertainment was a single pianist, playing classical music and Broadway hits.  I also suspects he moonlights as a psychic, as just as I was sitting there, really, really wishing he would play 'Johanna' from Sweeney Todd, he did just that.  It made my day.


 

The top tier of desserts was good as well, if a little heavy on the chocolate. I know, I know, how can you have too much chocolate? But some custardy tarts balanced it out. From snooping around google images, it looks like the types of desserts served are changed out pretty often.



Overall, it was a great experience and at $40 per person (champagne included) one of the better tea-in-a-grand-hotel bargains I've found. Whether or not you stay at the Brown Palace Hotel on a visit to Denver, I'd highly recommend having tea there!


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