In late March I was invited to the official opening of the Lorien Hotel & Spa at 1600 King Street in Old Town, Alexandria. Part of the Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, the Lorien Hotel & Spa is connected to Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s newest formal restaurant, Brabo, and accompanying business-casual Brabo’s Tasting Room. Both opened for business on February 12. The chef’s accompanying gourmet fromagerie, charcuterie and wine market, The Butcher’s Block: A Market by RW, unlocked its doors just over a week ago. Chef Wiedmaier and staff provided savory hors d’oeuvres for those circulating throughout the hotel and a sampler of desserts for guests who stopped by Brabo afterwards.
An array of mini-desserts and appropriate drinks, such as a silk-smooth Chocolate Martini with an amaretto cookie-crumb rim, introduced the restaurant to those visiting for the first time. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Brabo has a warm, unpretentious elegance about it. Its white tables, orange light sconces, chocolate walls flecked with cream, and seats alternating between traditional white wood and contemporary brown leather create an inviting and classy ambience. Near the door leading to King Street, an intimate, copper-topped bar offers a lovely place to meet a friend, with conical lamps throwing a diffuse spotlight on the plush copper bar stools.
Brabo’s Tasting Room has an agreeable clean and industrial feel, with brushed-steel counters, high ceilings, metal stools at a central long table and white-tabled booths with chocolate leatherette seats. The business-casual restaurant served mozzarella-prosciutto and duck-confit flatbreads at the gala. I could not taste them, since I arrived there after hungry visitors had inhaled all available slices. A meal there can cost between $50 to $75 per person if you include appetizers, main courses, desserts, and wine. I plan to return for a full review soon.
In stopping by the Butcher’s Block: A Market by RW, I found a lovely addition to the DC area’s gourmet shopping options for discerning foodies and chefs. Black-and-white tile floors and stainless steel wire shelving create a clean and spartan atmosphere that showcases the specialty merchandise, which is primarily meant to accompany meats and cheeses for sale. The Butcher’s Block offers exotica such as black lava and pink Himalayan salts, along with varieties of vinegar, oils, capers, and Gaillard Black Truffle juice. In the small refrigerated dairy and drink section, you can buy anything from Belgian beer to Devon double cream and truffle butter.
Oenophiles should note the store’s wide selection of good and reasonably priced wines. The friendly manager, Selena Zellers, mentioned that the Butcher’s Block’s wines and champagnes mostly range between $15 to $100, with about 60 percent under $25. The management plans to hold tastings and other events frequently. Zellers added that Chef Wiedmaier opened the shop because he had tired of the dearth of good meats available in the DC metropolitan area. You can find duck sausage, veal chops, quail, squab, and lamb tenderloins here, along with cheeses and other options. Also, the deli counter offers casual to-go sandwiches for busy tourists and office workers grabbing lunch or dinner. So far the turkey club sandwich with red onion marmalade and avocado has been the biggest seller.
This high-end but down-to-earth restaurant complex and four-star hotel provide a charming balance between the modern and traditional in both décor and cuisine. The four-star Lorien Hotel & Spa makes a very pleasing addition to the upper end of King Street in Old Town, Alexandria. In addition, the food I tasted at the attractively appointed Brabo foreshadows a memorable experience when I return to dine there and at the Tasting Room.
Brabo at the Lorien Hotel & Spa
1600 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314