It was fine, until it wasn’t.
After a long and Covid-impacted relationship with the Capital Hotel, this year we decided to take our anniversary celebration out for a test drive and see what others had to offer.
Our tradition had been: stay overnight at the Capital Hotel (an annual splurge), either eat there or go to another restaurant in downtown Little Rock for dinner, have coffee or breakfast at the hotel the next morning before departing back home.
We missed a year because Covid, but even then we spent a pleasant five minutes on the sidewalk, taking pictures like gawking tourists.
Things have changed at the Capital Hotel, though, and while still a fine place to stay, it isn’t what it used to be.
So, on to the traveling roadshow.
Generally speaking, for birthdays or anniversaries or special events, we don’t go to the same restaurant. We like to mix it up.
We had never been to Table 28, which is conveniently located inside the Burgundy, billed as a “four star” hotel in west Little Rock.
The hotel offered a reasonable date night package that included dinner, a night’s stay, room service breakfast, plus some champagne and other goodies, including a very cute rubber ducky.
Seemed like a good deal, and it was fine, until it wasn’t.
Then it went back to being fine again, mostly, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s break this up into chunks.
Table 28 is a cozy space, just off the hotel lobby and down a few steps. As first-time visitors we didn’t know what to expect, but friends had described it as a “chef-y” joint, the kind of place you can get bone marrow.
A quick perusal of the menu online showed some adventurous choices, including the bone marrow, and some terrific-sounding desserts.
After being seated, we were served sliced bread and hummus gratis. The menu, seasonally based, had shifted into summer mode, and some of the heavier choices had been removed. Among the items removed was the touted bone marrow, but that was fine because the thought of eating bone marrow makes me physically ill.
Anyway, the menu really is an adventure. And the date package provided a $150 gift card for dinner, so we ordered more than we would typically. No money left on the table or the gift card.
We chose two items to start: Chicken skins with pimento cheese and pepper jelly with the other being roasted local mushrooms.
Both were good. Neither were expected.
The fried chicken skins came out like pork rinds, which was fine, but made the pimento cheese tricky to spread or scoop. The mushrooms were full of flavor. They were served with two large pieces of what could be described as savory French toast. The mushroom dish also had a dollop of ricotta, which tasted terrific.
The mains we ordered were a filet with roasted parmesan Brussels and mashed potatoes, while the other was a sauteed calamari served with rice, pineapple, peppers and onions.
It was tasty but felt like it was missing a sauce.
The steak came with Bearnaise and was well seasoned. The sprouts were the stars. Younger me would be horrified of older me and his enjoyment of Brussels, but in fairness to my younger self, everything was boiled then.
Dessert was sticky toffee pudding with ice cream and a tres leches cake with peaches.
Both were really good. There’s some significant signage in the hotel proclaiming Table 28 as the best dessert in town.
Those signs are right.
Not being British, our sticky toffee pudding experience was limited to what you get at Costco, so the restaurant version was a revelation, and an impressive contribution for a country that serves beans on toast and calls it good.
The tres leches was moist and delicious with sweet-tart peaches and a touch of cinnamon.
Now for the less good. Table 28 had, at least in my mind, street cred for fine dining. And the food certainly covered that base, but the ’80s rock soundtrack screamed Jr./Sr. Prom, class of ’88, more than a place with $60 steaks and a food bill, sans drinks, in excess of $150 for two.
It also lacked some of the little touches. The dishware was unusual yet beautiful, but the mismatched pieces of the silverware just seemed odd. The service could be charitably described as inattentive and the pacing of the meal was strange, but the hostess also brought us a happy anniversary card, which was a nice touch.
We didn’t get drinks, so no comment there. The wine list looked impressive, and the bar menu cocktails appeared as inventive as the dinner menu.
I’d also note, the portions were exceedingly ample. We chose two starters thinking they would be small. However, there’s still leftover pimento cheese in the fridge, so it isn’t a place with two-forkful portions.
Would we go again? Yes. The food was really good and the overall ambience was nice. Just tamp down any expectations in regards to a “fine dining” experience.
The manicured landscaping, glass elevator, and multi-story atrium all made a good first impression.
Though not a suite, our room was large. A separate seating area had a sectional couch and chaise lounge and its own television. The space was well appointed, and we were greeted by a rubber ducky with the Burgundy logo as well as some bottles of water.
The bottle of champagne was already chilling in an ice bucket on the coffee table and the mini fridge had a tray of chocolate-dipped strawberries ready to eat.
Now that’s a four-star hotel.
As for the bathroom, it was stocked with Bath and Body Works products and also had the little amenities tucked away: ear plugs, nail files and the like.
The included room service breakfast had a menu request that needed to be filled out and returned to the front desk, and like the Table 28 menu, it had some adventurous choices and looked appealing.
Storms Sunday meant no evening swim, but from our pool view room, it was alternately amusing and horrifying to see people in and near the outdoor pool as lightning crashed behind them.
The bed was king-sized with good linens and pillows.
Then morning came. And the four stars started dropping.
First, the breakfast order had been misplaced at some point between the front desk and restaurant and was discovered only after we called to check. So breakfast was an hour late. The eggs Benedict and the breakfast BLT were good, as was the coffee, which tasted like Leiva’s but I didn’t confirm the brand. The coffee was enhanced by a small pitcher of heavy cream which was just ridiculously good.
The late breakfast meant that instead of a mid-morning pool dip, it was almost noon, but no matter; the date night package came with a 1 p.m. checkout.
The Burgundy pool area is a pretty oasis, and we had it almost to ourselves.
However, after our swim, we couldn't get back inside the hotel as our key didn’t work. A helpful guest, on day 90 of his stay thanks to having his home destroyed in the March 31 tornado, let us back in.
Then we couldn’t open the room door, either, so I went to the front desk to find out what was the what. Turns out the keys automatically cut off at 11 a.m., which seems like something that should have been noted to us or simply corrected by the front desk before I drip dried in the lobby.
That soured the moment.
Back in the room, it was time to pack up and head home, where we at least had power, unlike many others in central Arkansas.
My mood brightened when a herd of unicorns was spotted in the lobby.
The Burgundy has a display wall of all its fine liquors, spirits and wines out in public view. There I spotted all three varietals of Pappy Van Winkle, the exceedingly hard to find Kentucky bourbon that’s an absolute pleasure to drink, if you’re so inclined.
Having Pappy puts the Burgundy in some rare company.
It will set you back some dollar bucks.
The date night package was roughly $375, a pretty good deal as it included two meals. Our dinner, with tip, exceeded the $150 gift card, though not by much. The included breakfast was several steps above the free breakfast buffet at say a Hampton Inn, so that was nice.
The final tab ended up near $425, with about $50 of taxes because Little Rock A&P charges for everything. Maybe A&P does something productive with that money, but those efforts aren’t readily observable.
Will we return? Possibly.
The Burgundy is owned by the Makan group. They’re the ones building the luxury hotel in downtown North Little Rock, and that place will be on the list when it opens.
Another one or two other joints could be worth checking out around town and there are casino-based options in Hot Springs and Pine Bluff that might be worth the drive.
But that’s a problem for next year.
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