I have always associated real estate magnate Donald Trump with glitz, but a recent stay at Chicago’s 339-room Trump International Hotel belied this preconception. Housed within a 92-floor tower, the new property proved to be a gilt-free exercise in contemporary good taste.
Our room was on the 28th floor, which is as high as the hotel goes, those from 29 to 88 being reserved for private residences. Nonetheless, an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling windows afforded spectacular views of the river, Lake Michigan, the clock tower of the Wrigley Building and the ornate spire of the Chicago Tribune building. The interior has been done in a sophisticated palette of grays and creams, and the furniture is modern, comfortable and unadorned. Clad in creamy limestone, the spacious bath had a deep soaking tub and a separate shower. The hotel also offers 53 spa rooms adjacent to the 23,000-square-foot spa. A health club comes with a 75-foot lap pool.
The principal restaurant is Sixteen (so named because it is on the 16th floor). Here, 30-foot windows frame the Wrigley and Tribune towers. I especially enjoyed a starter of pumpkin with creamy Burrata cheese, Serrano ham and cranberry chutney. A main course of prime filet of beef was flawless, as well as a reminder of the huge difference between the USDA gradings “Choice” and “Prime.” It came with a surprising—but not discordant—side of escargots with celery root purée, plus irresistible horseradish potatoes dauphine with a silky Béarnaise sauce. The service was efficient and friendly throughout.
The new Trump is a notable addition to the Chicago skyline, and the property itself is now a worthy competitor to The Peninsula and the Four Seasons.
Trump International Executive King Lake View, $565; Grand Deluxe King Suite Lake View, $995. 401 N. Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611. Tel. (312) 588-8000.
The Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport, California
Sequestered south of Los Angeles in the hills between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, The Resort at Pelican Hill looks, from a distance, like a slice of Tuscany transplanted beside the Pacific. Its 504 acres of grounds have been landscaped with groves of olive, cypress and fig trees.
Pelican Hill is actually two hotels in one. There are 204 Bungalow accommodations south of the main building, set at different levels to ensure privacy and memorable views. Then there are 128 Villas to the north, in two-, three- or four-bedroom configurations with full kitchens and butler service, plus a dedicated pool and clubhouse. These are separately gated and have become popular with Hollywood notables in search of discreet getaways.
The bungalows come as single rooms, or as one- or two-bedroom suites with combined living and din-ing areas. Our single room proved airy and bright, with a gas fireplace set in a handsome limestone chim-ney, and a comfortable sitting area adjacent to an expansive terrace. The spacious bath had granite counters, a walk-in shower with a stone bench, and a soaking tub.
The centerpiece of the resort is the Coliseum Pool, a perfect circle 136 feet in diameter, made all the more eye-catching by 1 million blue-glass tiles. Pelican Hill’s formal restaurant is Andrea, in the main build-ing, where the focus is on Northern Italian cuisine. Standout dishes from our dinner included a superb pasta of pumpkin ravioli with parsley pesto, and a roasted pork loin with seasoned sliced potatoes.
Tom Fazio designed the 36 holes at Pelican Hill’s two championship golf courses. Also notable is the resort’s 20,000-square-foot spa. Overall, this is a well-managed resort in a lovely setting.
The Resort at Pelican Hill Bungalow Room, from $495; Bungalow Suite, from $745; Two-Bedroom Villa, from $695. 22701 Pelican Hill Road South, Newport Coast, CA 92657. Tel. (800) 315-8214 or (949) 467-6800.