Sébastien Giannini, the Frenchman who stepped in as executive chef of the historic Watergate Hotel at the start of the year, has made good on his promise to overhaul the menu at the rooftop bar overlooking the Potomac River.
The hospitality vet (W Montréal, St. Regis) previously said he planned to turn the scenic Top of the Gate into a Mediterranean beach resort for the summer, aiming to replicate the glamorous seaside culture that boomed in France in the 1960s. Think eggplant caviar (extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, goat cheese, orange zest) and cocktails spiked with popsicles.
A new Club Med-style menu introduced this month is heavy on meze plates built around Moroccan, Lebanese, Italian, and French flavors. That represents a 180 from last summer’s lineup from former Watergate chef Michael Santoro that focused on pizza.
Dishes include hummus with warm pita, grilled octopus tentacles, lamb shish kebab, and harissa-marinated chicken thighs ($4-$19). Platters designed for sharing atop the sprawling lounge include veggie crudite platters and meat and cheese boards ($24-$29).
The new rooftop menu marks the latest wave of culinary changes since the iconic hotel underwent a $125 million transformation in 2016.
Top of the Gate Menu_May 20... by on Scribd
A duo of simple desserts calls for lemon and orange sorbet served in carved-out fruit shells.
A trio of $20 icy cocktails also aims to beat the rooftop heat with flavored frozen treats shoved inside. A pomegranate mojito is filled with Bacardi Rum, mint, soda, and a pomegranate popsicle, while a mango mule is built around mango vodka, ginger beer, fresh lime juice, and a mango popsicle.
More straightforward mixed drinks ($17) include a dirty martini, Aperol spritz, cosmo, and an Old Fashioned.
Saint Tropez-inspired drinks also includes a Lemon Sparkletini (Moët imperial ice champagne, fresh lemon juice, Tito’s vodka); a Rose Mary G&T with Mediterranean herb-infused gin, rosemary, and tonic; and a “Medhattan” with bourbon, bitters, and amaro.
There’s also a big focus on rooftop bubbly. The “by the stem” section comes with a clause: “Rule #2 at The Watergate Hotel: Champagne is a Food Group.” Flutes start at $15.
Some orders — like eggplant caviar and tuna tartare (lemon preserves, harissa, fresh mint, almond, medjoul date, quail egg yolk) — are also found downstairs at Kingbird.
That revamped lobby-level restaurant unveiled its new Mediterranean menu earlier this spring, priding itself on serving super seasonal selections with minimal intervention and playing up simple and clean ingredients native to the French Riviera. That includes whole fish simply prepared with French olive oil and and silver tins of asparagus paired with Taggiasche olives sourced from Nice, France.