Leave it to London-based Lore Group, the international hotel company behind the opulent Riggs in Penn Quarter, to put a luxury touch on Lyle DC. The renovated, 196-room property with a supposedly simple Contemporary American restaurant and bar inside opened today (Thursday, April 15) in Dupont Circle.
Lore Group creative director Jacu Strauss led the aesthetic makeover of the former Kimpton Carlyle hotel that used to house Michael Schlow’s retro-style Riggsby grill, which has plans to relocate to Bethesda. Strauss, an architect and interiors expert, lent his own artistic talents for the Lyle hotel, painting 37 abstract pieces sporting red-and-black shapes from his “studio” on the roof of Lyle’s sibling hotel downtown. That property, a historic bank-turned-hotel with an extravagant brasserie inside, marked Lore’s first splash into the D.C. market last year after building a name overseas with Pulitzer Amsterdam and Sea Containers London.
The visual star of the show in the dining room at Lyle’s restaurant and bar (1731 New Hampshire Avenue NW) isn’t Strauss’s artwork on the soft cork-covered walls, however. It’s the massive white, pillowy couch that runs through the center of the floor. The color is an aggressive choice for a full-service restaurant, but “we needed a bright centerpiece,” Strauss insists. “And everyone looks so good in it.”
A Lore colleague “sacrificed” a glass of red wine on the couch to test the stain-resistant fabric from manufacturer Kravet. It “wiped right off,” Strauss says. That’s good news, considering the 20 reds by the bottle (six by the glass) at Lyle’s. Wine prices aren’t too steep, either, starting at $9 by the glass and $32 by the bottle. Because nothing is indestructible, however, the couch covers are thankfully removable and washable.
Chef Nicholas Sharpe’s menu aims to create a reliable neighborhood atmosphere with options running from an approachable white cheddar cheeseburger with Thousand Island dressing to a delicate scallop crudo that’s all dressed up in green (jalapeno, green apple, and yuzu). A gem lettuce salad with shaved vegetables and avocado in a “vegan” coconut ranch will likely be a popular order. A gluten-free fried chicken gets rested overnight in potato starch, coated with rice flour, and served with hot honey, sunchoke, and pickled vegetables.
Japanese-style lanterns designed by Herman Miller in the 1950s were innovative lighting accents for their time. The cloud-like fixtures floating above diners transition well from the day as “beautiful white orbs” to glowing pendants at night, Strauss says.
The redesign intentionally went for a high-end residential feel to harken back to the Art Deco building’s original life as an apartment in the 1940s, “which felt like the right thing to do,” Strauss says. The architect was going for the feel of a big house that belongs to an “aunt and uncle with very cool [and] contemporary taste,” he says.
Even the kitchen door’s small glass windows are covered with a red pigment to “add a warm color” when diners try to get a peek into the action from their seats. Upon entry, a midcentury modern bar is dotted with smooth brown leather banquettes and ottomans snaking through the space.
“We [wanted to] avoid any second class seating — every spot is special,” Strauss says.
A bar menu features a short list of drinking snacks like crispy artichokes, lamb meatballs, and smoked trout toast. All are meant to play well with throwback classics like a cacao Manhattan and a gin Collins accented with peach and basil.
Unlike a museum, the textures and fabrics at the hotel are meant to be enjoyed. Even some of the public areas feature suede walls. The bartop is made out of Italian Carrara, considered the Ferrari of marble. “We want people to touch things,” Strauss says.
He says guests should interpret the paintings that took him nearly two months to create however they’d like.
“It’s almost a surreal landscape or a massive red rock floating,” Strauss says. “It makes you dream for a bit — [we] want people to dream a little more.”
- The Neighborhood Restaurant Inside Dupont’s New Hotel Won’t Be as Simple as It Seems [EDC]
- Penn Quarter Has a Grand New Hotel Brasserie That Pushes ‘High-Low’ to the Max [EDC]
- The London Mixologist With All the Cocktail Awards Opens His First U.S. Bar in D.C. [EDC]
- The Riggsby Will Bring Its Brand of Throwback Comfort Food to Bethesda [EDC]
- Inside The Riggsby, Dupont Circle’s Retro Neighborhood Joint (with Fabulous Wallpaper) [EDC]