I’ve had drinks on the rooftop at the Vendue a handful of times, I’ve recommended it to countless friends, I’ve sent my parents to stay there, but until last week I’d never actually been a guest myself at “Charleston’s art hotel”—I can finally say I’ve checked that off my ultimate hotel list (yes, I have one of those in Excel spreadsheet form … don’t you?).
Historic properties are great and all, but when it comes to travel, I love nothing more than a sophisticated boutique hotel with equal parts charm and quirk. The Vendue offers the best of both worlds: Located in Charleston’s French Quarter, it’s housed in a pair of old warehouses that date back to the 1700’s, but also boasts an extensive, alluring contemporary art collection—more than 300 works, in fact—scattered throughout the rooms and in the common areas. It received a major update in 2014 so everything seems shiny and new.
Human pin art? Genius. I used to play with one of these things for hours when I was a kid.
We had a corner room, and it was nice and huge and I wanted to take the bed home with me; it was one of the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in. The room also overlooked East Bay Street—and, from it, if you crane your head as far out the window as you could go, you can see the fountains at Waterfront Park—so I could do a little discreet people watching (read: creeping).
We didn’t take advantage of the complimentary sherry—I know, who have we become?—but it was a very hospitable touch. The truffles on our pillows at night, however, did not last long.
We did, however, drop our bags and head straight up on the rooftop to purchase cocktails instead. Priorities, people.
Even if you’re not staying at the Vendue, that shouldn’t stop you from grabbing a drink or two at the Rooftop. The views at sunset are pretty satisfying, and I was obsessed with the unbreakable plastic glassware (as well as the inventive cocktail concoctions).
We only had time for a quick drink before dinner, though, as we had reservations downstairs. I was happy to find that the Vendue’s flair for the creative carried over into the Drawing Room, the resident fine dining restaurant.
We settled right in with some bubbly, and the server made our night when he told us that a tasting menu was available if we so chose (we did) and inquired if we had any food allergies or aversions (we do not). If you know me in real life, you know that making decisions is not my strong suit, so the fact that I didn’t have to choose what to order and the chef would do so for me was super appealing.
Plus, as big of foodies as we are, we do like to try a little of everything. There’s nothing worse than getting FOMO when the diners at the next table over ordered better than you did!
The menu was heavy on seafood, no surprise as we were in Charleston and seafood is what they do best, after all. Each plate matched the artistic vibe of the hotel. It was almost too pretty to eat (key word: almost).
P.S. That’s not even a real egg, just ingredients made to look like one! Genius, right? But the chef, who stays in the experimental realm of cooking, is not only an artist, but a magician and a chemist. The things he did with textures and flavors—powdered olive oil? shut the front door!—blew both of our minds. Delightful little white fish crackers came layered with sea urchin custard on top of lump crab and other assorted crunchables. There was even a mango shooter!
The staff was attentive with the right amount of tact to leave you alone just as you’re taking a bite of spicy glazed lamb, or deer tenderloin, or grouper, or Ahi tuna, then swoop in if they see you eying an empty glass with more than a flirty pout. It was by far the best meal we had throughout the course of our five days in Charleston—and we ate a lot, too! (Again, who’s surprised?)
We didn’t get to spend much time in daylight hours enjoying the hotel as we had a food tour one day and wedding festivities for my sister the other, so I’m glad we had the first evening to really delve into what makes this property so special, from the colorful splashes of art to the top-notch service to the nightly cookie hour, which you know went over well with this girl.
The Vendue is not only one of the best boutique hotels in Charleston, but one of the best boutique hotels I’ve ever stayed in, period. Our stay at this charming property definitely set the tone for this visit to Charleston being one of our best trips in a long time.