A Southern Belle inspired by a legendary hotelier Cesar Ritz—the king of hoteliers and the hotelier of kings—the word has come to be synonymous with an oh-so chic sense of refined elegance and luxurious style. And that heritage takes on a whole new spin at the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta, the grande dame of the historic “Southern Belle” city.
For travelers who appreciate combining business, golf and the opportunity to explore the local history of a city and its environs, the hotel proved a perfect mix of modern sophistication and tradition Southern charm. Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, just minutes from the centers of finance and government, as well as leisure attractions like the High Museum, the CNN Center and the world famous Georgia Aquarium, it occupies pride of place as the only luxury hotel in the district—and does it with a unique flair. Entering the lobby, I found myself surrounded by sleek tones of dark wood and cream marble highlighted by softer, more whimsical decorative accents that reflected the local color. This skillful melding of old and new was a motif throughout the visit. Chef Julio Delgado, who is often in the lobby at cocktail hour, was offering tiny tastes of his New South cuisine to go with the cocktails served up at Lumen, the lobby bar. Jazz and modern Latin music add a cool vibe to the mix.
After settling in, I headed down for a bite in the hotel’s signature Atlanta Grill, which features funky art murals by contemporary artist Nigel Cooper and a fascinating collection of vintage photographs of the city. Carrying on the tasteful mix of old and new, the cuisine features a cutting edge selection of dishes inspired by traditional Southern dishes—Gratinée of Sea Scallops with Black Tea & Mint Mousseline, Georgia Peaches, Pork Belly and Pecans is just one of the mouthwatering entrees. It had been a long day and after a post-prandial house martini at the ultra chic restaurant bar, I was already dreaming of the luxurious Frette sheets upstairs.
With work done, who isn’t ready for some playtime? Atlanta offers superb golf for those who want to get in 18 holes before heading home. Located five miles from downtown, historic East Lake Golf Club, home course to Bobby Jones and the oldest course in the city, is a top choice for serious players. (And speaking of serious golf, word has it that during the Masters Tournament, golf cognoscenti often stay at the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta and hire a driver to go back and forth to Augusta so they can enjoy the play by day and the fine dining and entertainment by night.) I also had a chance to explore the Atlanta History Center, which has a great exhibit on Bobby Jones, and the Margaret Mitchell House, which will appeal to fans of Gone With The Wind.
Alas, my visit to the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta ended all too quickly, and as I reluctantly headed off to the airport, I could think of only one way to describe the experience. Ritzy. In every sense of the word.