Friday, August 29, 2008

Baltimore Hilton's Diamond Tavern

Yesterday was so dreary and gross, and all day long I dreamed about going home and curling up with a good book or my seemingly infinite pile of magazines. Since the new Hilton on Pratt Street opened just a block from our house, I've been ogling the spacious lobby and overstuffed chairs that seem perfect for pouncing on with a pile of good reads.

We headed over to the Hilton for our first walk-through last night, and I liked what I saw. It's only been open for less than two weeks, so it was endearing to hear the staff reciting lines that had clearly been drilled into their heads. (They'll find their own interpretations of this script in a few weeks). Although a Ravens pre-season game was going on just a block away, the hotel seemed barely occupied.

The indoor color scheme is blues and oranges, and I expected to see water flowing floor to ceiling. No water, but still very soothing. The carpet near the ballrooms though was a little Vegas for me - very busy patterns that force the eyes up. I could do without the carpet, but the rest of the decor, and certainly the floor to ceiling windows everywhere, were gorgeous. And all the twinkling lights! A great gift to west Baltimore.

We will definitely be back to frequent the lobby bar, which is very approachable yet upscale. We meandered our way over to the hotel restaurant, the Diamond Tavern, in the building opposite the main lobby across the overpass. Diamond Tavern faces Geppi's Entertainment Museum on the ground floor.

Gotta say, we weren't very impressed with the location. I was hoping for something higher up with a view of Camden Yards or the skyline. Instead, the restaurant bleeds out onto the brick sidewalks outside of the Light Rail stop. I asked if they plan to add outdoor seating, and our server told me that was supposed to have happened a week ago! The holdup is they have to build some sort of barrier for the outdoor tables so that people don't skip the checks and hop on the Light Rail as a getaway. Seems pretty high drama to me, but I guess that's what hotel managers are there to anticipate.

As for the Diamond Tavern menu, prices were fairly reasonable, the wine list had decent depth and included the staples, and the food was decent. Not great. We split the caprese salad as an app, I got the Pesto Orecchiette, and Joe got the Mushroom and Shallot Ravioli. The Cellar 8 Merlot was rich and smooth for me. Joe got his regular gin and tonic.

Obviously as a new restaurant, they're still working out some kinks. The staff was super friendly yet over eager and borderline intrusive with their repeated check-ups. Once, Joe and I were talking about a serious medical topic and had these intent looks on our faces, and our server stopped by to make sure we were ok! "Actually, no we're not Kelly. We're breaking up right now." What? Of course we didn't say that, and we weren't talking about anything related to relationships, but what if we'd been talking about something sensitive, and here's our server, bless her heart, checking in to make sure we're happy as clams? Rookie mistake.

The restaurant has the potential to be elegant, but the large flat screen TVs blasting college and Ravens football games made it feel more like a bar. At one point I got so excited to hear them playing Ray Charles' "Genius Loves Company" album, but the sound was quickly drowned out by TV sportscasters.

We both agreed though, give it a month and these small hiccups will be worked out. As Joe put it, "My dear, these are what you call the 'kinks'." But as west Baltimore dwellers with limited nearby dining options, we're more than happy to be patient with our new Hilton friends.

No comments: