Have you visited your local neighborhood Westin Savannah Resort and Spa lately? Chances are you have not, but if the plan put in place by Westin General Manager Marc Spadoni and his staff goes as well at they hope, well, that might just be all about to change.
The Westin held what was billed as a “Grand Opening” Thursday night to showcase something old and something new. The old is their restaurant “Aqua Star” on the 2nd floor. Home of Savannah’s best Sunday Brunch-hands down. Also getting a makeover was their lounge Midnight Star on the
first floor just off the pool area. Both of these areas have been there as long as the hotel, 14 years. They, however, have been remodeled, re-branded and re-crafted to appeal certainly to tourists, but they want to see more locals spending time over the river. Frankly, I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t.
The evening was perfectly set against the hotel’s picture windows looking back across the Savannah River at River Street. Filled with guests and perfect lighting, the rain outside did nothing to dampen the mood inside. It was one of the better events I’ve attended in this city. A city that looks for any excuse to pour itself a cocktail and celebrate something.
The Westin has always been a beautiful hotel, we all know that. However, outside of the Sunday brunch, there was nothing about Aqua Star that made locals say “Let’s go over to the Westin.” The décor needed love, as did the menu. I can remember having Brunch there years ago and thinking I had walked into an Asian fusion restaurant. There was practically more sushi and sashimi than anything else. Sure, there was an omelette station, but the attention to the best of what Savannah has to offer was missing. For a long time. Similarly, the Saturday night “Epicurian Seafood Buffet” was a good idea a while ago, perhaps, but Savannah is evolving and the menus around town need to reflect that.
Enter the new look Westin. I think they nailed it.
I visited last weekend ahead of the official “Grand Opening” to see what was different and you see it immediately. I had been told what the plan for renovation was, but until you see it, you cannot
really appreciate it. Aqua Star still has the same layout, but they have made the middle area where guests walk in far more inviting. It’s certainly darker, but not dark. Most importantly, inviting for a relaxing evening and a glass of wine. “We want Savannah to think about us when they just want to enjoy an evening before or after dinner.” says David Moses, Director of Public Relations with the Westin. “We want people to know they can hop the free ferry boat and ride over from River Street and enjoy an evening here with us.” Chairs and couches have been set up in front of their windows to allow guests to hang around for a while, which I am sure they will. Now back to the party…..
The menu was extravagant. Cheeses from Flat Creek Farm and Dairy in Swainsboro (Some of the most popular around right now-with good reason.) Oysters, shrimp, all KINDS of cured meats and charcuterie. That was for starters. A touch of champagne and we were off and running.
The main courses were all items from the new menu at Aqua Star. There were crab cakes, whole fish, perfect green bean sides, bourbon blackened rubbed New York strip steaks and of course the scallops. Ohhhh those scallops. Their signature dish. Seared in duck fat and served in a garlic, plum tomato, basil broth with porcini risotto. Chef Roger Michel and Aqua Star won best Entrée at Taste of Savannah a couple of years ago. I was a judge. I fell in love with them that night and can say the same for this night. Simply awesome. Now they are on the menu to enjoy anytime.
The final stop of the evening was on the first floor at Midnight Sun essentially the Westin’s just-off-the-lobby bar. It’s now a bourbon/chocolate bar. Inside you will find a case filled with Savannah Chocolatier Adam Turoni’s handcrafted jewels. Along with that, 120 bourbon varieties.
Sometimes the Westin is easy to forget when you are thinking about something to do or some place to eat in Savannah because of the location. The great people in charge know this and are doing everything they can to change that perception around town with locals. This latest revamp is a huge step in the right direction. It looks better, it actually feels better and I can say without question-if regular restaurant service and quality is anything like what we were served at the grand opening, then it will undoubtedly taste better. There was a whole lot of Eating and Liking going on. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who was there.
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