Modern Asian in Melbourne
The Seamstress. History and a prime Central Business District location are both draws for The Seamstress. Before it was a restaurant, the space was used as a tailor shop, a brothel and even a Buddhist temple. Sewing machines, spools of thread and swaths of fabric decorate the three-floor bar and restaurant concept. Inventive cocktails, such as a gimlet with pomegranate, are more satisfying than much of the Cantonese-inspired food. Spicy rare duck with chile was among the most interesting dishes while the daily dumpling special was dull. The primarily Aussie wine list features lively descriptions and the crowd is packed with young and hip urbanites. 113 Lonsdale St., Central Business District 6. Melbourne (VIC). 61 3 9663 6363 9 (ph). Lunch and dinner Mon. to Fri.; dinner only on Sat. Median entrée price: $25 Australian dollars.
In Baltimore, a Bustling New Wine Bar
Junior’s Wine Bar. Spacious dining areas and an affordable menu make Junior’s Wine Bar one of Federal Hill’s best new dinner destinations. Junior’s sits in the building formerly occupied by the wine bar Vespa, but most of the similarities end there. All of the entrees on Junior’s menu cost less than $20, and the wine list is split into Old World and New World whites and reds. If you’re in the mood for lighter fare, order one of the pizzas, which come topped with unexpected but appetizing meats like braised duck with roasted onions and Stilton cheese. The service can be sluggish at times, but the food is worth the wait. 1117 S. Charles St., Federal Hill. 410/727-1212 (ph.). No lunch Tues.-Fri. No dinner Sun. Closed. Mon. Median entrée price: $17.
Luxe Lodging in Denver
The Ritz-Carlton, Denver. No trace of the former Embassy Suites remains in this ideally located, beautifully renovated property whose warm woods, elaborate glass fixtures and luxurious details appeal to those seeking rich appointments and the well-heeled business set. Two blocks from the 16th Street Mall and within easy walking distance or a taxi ride to other major attractions, the Ritz also makes it tough to leave the sumptuous rooms, with their buttery leather furniture, featherbeds, oversize baths and espresso machines. The independent, state-of-the-art fitness center is complimentary for guests; the spa is scheduled to open by June. Comfortable, sophisticated Elway’s restaurant offers superb steaks and seafood. Pros: Gracious service; room service fare delicious and expedient; inviting public spaces. Cons: Pricey; fitness center staff not as service-oriented as hotel’s; tiny minibar refrigerator means no saving Elway’s leftovers. 1881 Curtis St., Downtown, Denver, 80202. 303/312-3800 (ph). 303/312-3801 (fax). www.ritzcarlton.com. 202 rooms. In-room: safe, WiFi. In-hotel: 1 restaurant, room service, pool, gym, spa (open spring 2008), laundry service, concierge, executive floor. Rooms start at $339.
In Sydney, a Boutique Hotel Stunner
The Storrier. This gorgeous new boutique hotel is named after Ozzie artist Tim Storrier, whose art is hung in the lobby and hallways. Each of the sleek black and white rooms is furnished differently but all have shag bedspreads and plenty of mirrors that will make guests feel like porn stars. Tucked between tony Potts Point and rowdy Kings Road areas, the location is ideal for exploring the city. Many of the rooms have private balconies that overlook the city and breakfast can be brought up to the roof to savor the view. Pros: cool rooms, some with amazing views and hip staff who can get guests passes to the local gym. Cons: neighboring Kings Road can be seedy and the hotel’s lobby and restaurant often blast loud music. 15 Springfield Avenue, Potts Point, NSW 2011. 61 2 8988 6999 (ph.), 61 2 8988 6998 (fax). www.thestorrier.com.au. In room: safe, kitchen, mini-bar, DVD, TV, WiFi. In hotel: 1 restaurant, room service, laundry facilities, public WiFi, non-smoking rooms (all). Rooms start at $275.
Tranquil Getaway in Downtown St. Louis
Four Seasons Hotel, St. Louis. This tastefully modern, uber-luxury hotel is conveniently located downtown near the St. Louis Arch. The hotel’s guests enjoy the marble-dominated, yet modern décor. The hotel is close to sports venues, several casinos (one is attached), and nightlife. The hotel restaurant serves fine Italian fare and overlooks the Arch, but nearby restaurants may better please at a similar price. The expansive full-service spa features caviar facials, exotic body-wraps and massages; guests have full access to the spa’s relaxation lounges, steam rooms, saunas, and whirlpools. The rooftop pool and hot tub overlook the Arch. Rooms are outfitted appropriately for business guests, and tourists will enjoy the pampering and exclusivity. Pros: attentive service, great location near downtown sports venues, nightlife and theatres. Cons: aside from the casinos, the closest nightlife caters to a sub-30 nightlife crowd. 999 North Second Street, downtown (Laclede’s Landing), St. Louis, MO 63102. 314/881-5800 (ph.), 314/881-5700 (fax). www.fourseasons.com/stlouis. In-room: safe, DVD, Ethernet, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: 1 restaurant, room service, bar, pool, gym, spa, children’s programs (ages 3-9), laundry service, concierge, public Wi-Fi, airport shuttle, parking (fee), no smoking rooms. Rooms start at $345.
Provencal Flavor in the Big Apple
Bagatelle. Situate yourself at a table in Bagatelle’s elegant and spacious white dining room, sip on a cocktail like La Poire Royal (pear vodka, pear brandy, pear puree, cointreau, and champagne), and watch the Meatpacking District’s beautiful people strut and coo at the bar. Executive chef Nicolas Cantrel’s appealing menu of Provencal bistro classics includes some excellent appetizers: buttery elbow pasta with veal juice, ham, and Swiss cheese, and a tartine with goat cheese and tomato confit are highbrow, addictive comfort food. There are still a few kinks to work out though. Filet mignon was nicely cooked and seasoned but accompanied by unmemorable frites, and the flavorful bouillabaisse–a Provencal fish stew with rouille and croutons–suffered from rather bland seafood. Leave room for dessert, especially “”le Paris Brest”–choux pastry, praline cream, and almonds. The wine list includes many French varietals; only a few are offered by the glass. 409 W. 13th St. Meatpacking District. 212/675-2400. No lunch; closed Sun. Median entrée price: $28.
Contributors: Joanna Cantor, Sam Sessa, Kyle Wagner, Dave Wolkowitz, Liza Zimmerman