The much-anticipated Epicurean hotel will open for business — for the most part — today, complete with grand opening celebrations, tours for travel writers and bottles of champagne popped for VIPs, investors and politicians.
Some things are yet to be finished. The spa. Thepatisserie. The wine shop. And hotel managers are only booking 34 of 137 rooms for tonight — one floor.
Yet, many of the signature assets are gloriously complete, including the gourmet kitchen, the cooking stadium/classroom, the full-service restaurant, the rooftop cocktail lounge, the ballroom, main lobby and pool. Despite all the marketing and promotion, a few details emerged that symbolize the ethos of the food-centric, upscale boutique hotel.
-- The “doorknobs” for the main Culinary Classroom are a pair of 7-foot-tall knives and forks, hand-made in Tampa.
-- Each guest can “check in” at the front curb and receive an RFID card that acts as their room key, and guests can install an Epicurean app on their phone to order room service, make dinner reservations, schedule a taxi or call for extra towels.
-- The lobby is actually a covert gift shop. Shelves have original artifacts from the Bern's Steak House across the street, including hundreds of copies of 1960s-era classic cookbooks, rolling pins used in the restaurant, coffee grinders and ingredient scales. Each item will eventually have a pricetag and proceeds will go to the James Beard Foundation.
-- The staff aren't “employees.” They're “Epicureans,” and the hotel motto is “To awaken apetites unknown.” Epicurus himself was an ancient Greek philosopher and writer who, among other things, explored ideas of experience, pain, inner-strength, natural law, and he espoused the virtuous aspects of pleasure. Now he's perhaps best known as a touchstone for culinary delights.
-- The hotel lobby has a full-sized shoe shine station, reclaimed from the Nordstroms store in Tampa during its renovation. Prices aren't set, but a professional shoe shiner is set to start next week.
-- Guests can borrow old-style cruiser bikes to roll around the neighborhood.
-- The hotel wine shop has racks for bottles and they're on wheels. Managers can shift them around to open up the space for special events for up to 40 people.