Talk about trial by fire. After an extended series of delays, Fairmont Austin finally opened its doors on Monday, March 5 — just in time to greet crowds coming into town for SXSW.
The 37-story luxury hotel, located along Waller Creek at 101 Red River St., is a showpiece, boasting Italian marble floors, a variety of large-scale commissioned pieces from local artists, and towering faux trees.
Austin's newest hotel also features five ambitious hospitality projects: an upscale restaurant, a large lobby bar, a coffee shop with local gifts and grab-and-go food, a poolside bar offering sweeping views of the city, and a food hall offering four different concepts in one. All of the hotel's hospitality features, with the exception of the poolside bar, are now open. Rules & Regs will open at a later date.
Revue, the food hall, serves as the heart of the hotel’s culinary operations, and CultureMap has an exclusive first look at the concept and its sprawling menus.
The space is broken up into four areas, including a large central raw bar, an Italian osteria, a pan-Asian eatery, and an artisanal pastry shop. It also acts as the gateway to contemporary grill Garrison, open for dinner. The food hall is envisioned as a movie set, with each separate concept telling its own distinct story. Garrison’s entrance, meant to mimic the front porch of a stately Austin home, looms in the background, while each of the mini-eateries boasts a unique facade.
For dinner, the raw bar, canopied under glass printed with names of local breweries, offers oysters, various crudos, and a throwback shrimp cocktail — all prepared simply to allow the quality of the ingredients to shine. The towers combine favorites like salmon sashimi and tuna poke (and in the case of the $120 “indulge” tower, a whole lobster). There’s also plenty for the raw seafood-averse, including a Niman Ranch porterhouse steak, an Angus burger spread with truffle preserve, and charcuterie.
Over at the brick-walled Italian concept, the offerings range from prosciutto omelets and sweet corn pancakes for the morning hours to simple Neapolitan-style pizzas and handmade pastas like ravioli filled with ’nduja served with a lobster bordelaise and charred rapini. A risotto makes great use of the seafood vendors with a frutti di mare of oysters, clams, and shrimp.
Colorful paper umbrellas hanging over the chef’s counter form the focal point at the Asian concept, which offers everything from traditional Thai papaya salad and curry laksa (a Malaysian-style noodle soup) to lemongrass shrimp gyoza and okonomiyaki (a Japanese pancake featuring dancing bonito flakes). It is also one of the few Austin places to get Hainanese chicken rice, here slightly modernized.
The last of the offerings is a bake shop that provides desserts that complement the other stalls in the hall, including a cheesecake made with matcha and topped with melon and green tea mochi, an affogato flavored with Kahlua, and a decadent shake made with milk sourced from McGregor, Texas’ cult-favorite Mill-King. The shop also produces a wide variety of pastries and cooks up sweet crepes folded with ingredients like lemon curd and hazelnut spread in full view of guests.
André Natera is the executive chef of the hotel, but he shares the spotlight with two pedigreed chefs, both Fairmont vets. Executive sous chef Atticus Garant, who earned his chops under Daniel Boulud at DB Bistro in Vancouver, comes from Fairmont Pacific Rim, where he transitioned the kitchen into a full scratch operation creating all the charcuterie and preserves. Revue chef de cuisine Matthew Schaefer, most recently of the Fairmont Orchid in Hawaii, has had sous chef stints under famous chefs Bill Telepan, Marcus Samuelsson, and Eric Ripert.
After dinner, customers can take the jewel-box elevators (sure to be Austin’s next selfie hot spot) up to the seventh-floor Rules & Regs bar. Although not quite completed, the Fairmont provided CultureMap with a peek at the menu, which includes comfort food snacks such as roasted garlic hummus, “dirty” fries (a take on poutine), rice paper salad rolls, and curry dusted fried artichokes served with green olive salsa verde and herbed yogurt.
Under beverage manager Andrew Grenz (formerly the beverage director and general manager of Kuneho), the drinks at Rules & Regs include a daily punch; a selection of zero-proof hangover cures made with fresh fruits and stomach-settling ingredients like kombucha, wine, local beer; and a curated cocktail menu. The offerings are light and quaffable, including a Hill Country 75 (a version of the French classic using Balcones Rumble whiskey) and Daisy’s Siesta (coconut oil-washed Espolon Blanco tequila, Cointreau, lime, and coconut water, served with a coconut salt rim).
Rounding out the concepts are Fulton, a sprawling lobby bar dominated by a large central tree hung with blue and green carnival lights, and Good Things, a coffee shop and counter service eatery for meals on the go.