Although I’ve been to the baller beef emporium Mastro’s in the same complex, last night was my first visit to the $300 million Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston, the aiming-to-be Five Star Hotel brought to you and me by the one and only Tilman J. Fertitta. Upon entry (after cutting through a flank of friendly doormen ushering me in), I found myself in a soaring, enormous lobby — with a $1 million custom chandelier at its centerpiece. Hotel VP Craig Thomas cheerfully informed me that there is only one other like it in the world — and it’s in Dubai — so that should give you an idea of the over-the-topness of the whole establishment.
Yes, there are fountains, private cabanas and a firepit incorporated into the Vegas-y pool area. And yes, there are sparkling new Rolls Royces parked indoors outside the main ballroom (a dealership is attached). So, you can imagine I had high hopes for the two hotel restaurants I was there to try — Bloom & Bee and Craft F&B — and both dining rooms exceeded all of my expectations.
First up was Craft F & B, where I had the pleasure of sitting with Executive Chef Jean Luc Royere (who oversees all of the hotel’s restaurant concepts) as he explained his goals for making the culinary experience truly Five Star. Royere is a classically trained French chef from Bordeaux, a member of the renowned “Maitres Cuisiniers de France” and has 12 years’ experience working exclusively at luxury properties across the United States. Prior to joining The Post Oak, he was the Executive Chef of the Mandarin Oriental in Miami.
“There is an attention to detail here at the hotel that you won’t find anywhere else,” Royere says. “Look at this glass,” he adds, picking up a water glass. “I think I showed Mr. Fertitta 80 different styles before he selected this one. He chose every plate, every serving piece, every chair you see here.”
Royere also has extremely high standards — for staffing, supplying and food quality. Seven of his own staff jumped at the chance to come with him from Miami when he was hired at The Post Oak, which is a testament to his leadership and the work environment he creates. He’s also focused on local sourcing as much as possible; right now he’s looking for a local charcuterie partner if anyone has any ideas.
So back to the elevated comfort food: we started with a giant soft pretzel, still warm from the oven and accompanied with dipping sauces made on site (in fact, everything is made on side, including the mayonnaise). Then it was time for super-thin crust Neapolitan pizza with pepperoni that might have been the best version I’ve ever had. It paired well with the Negroni I ordered — which featured a single over-sized square ice cube — again, details. When the weather complies, you can dine al fresco on the adjacent patio.
Off to Bloom & Bee, right off the lobby and awash in shades of pink. This concept specializes in fresh, locally inspired cuisine in a garden-like surrounding that overlooks the pool area. Don’t forget to look up: abstract, hand-blown glass flowers cover the ceiling. And then look around: gorgeous floral bouquets dot every table.
What I’d recommend: starting with the seasonal oysters topped with green apple foam. And you non-vegetarians don’t want to miss the lightly smoked beef tartare with shallots, capers and egg yolk jam served with two freshly baked popovers. This dish qualifies as perfect.
There’s a very nice burrata and heirloom tomato salad, and then I also tried the Gulf Coast bouillabaise, loaded with clams, mussels, shrimp and the fish of the day. The broth is ideal for dipping; good thing this one comes with grilled ciabatta.
At this point I couldn’t eat another thing. And then dessert arrived — a beautifully presented Baked Alaska with meringue shell, vanilla been and elderflower ice cream, with a raspberry rose gel. So I ate it. Not all of it.
Until recent years, most hotel restaurants have existed solely to capture hotel travelers, and few were considered fine-dining. No longer. The restaurants of The Post Oak complex are destinations in themselves.