It’s not unusual that a hotel has a well-known restaurant, but at Epicurean Hotel in Tampa, food and wine really take center stage. In one room that’s literally true: there’s a big kitchen theater for demonstrations.
The Epicurean Hotel launched last decade as the brainchild of the owner of legendary Bern’s Steakhouse across the street. Long known as the restaurant with the best wine selection in town, it was only natural that a hotel rising a cork’s throw away from Bern’s would put what guests eat and drink at the forefront.
That food-focused hotel aspect is apparent as soon as the valet takes your car keys and a concierge offers you a glass of wine: the two reception desks are wine coolers and the whole wall behind them is made from slats of wooden wine storage boxes.
You only linger here if you want to though. Otherwise you can take your wine with you and head up an elevator to your room. These are no ordinary rooms either. Like the rest of the property, they’re the result of plenty of thought and design discussions. The culinary angle plays through, with silverware motifs on the pillows, wine-themed icons for the room numbers, and a good wine, liquor, snacks, and craft beer selection in the minibar. It’s all handled in a subtle and whimsical way, however, rather than hitting you everywhere you turn.
Throughout the quarters there’s a mix of surprising and expected. In the former category you get a clunky old-school telephone, a cocktail shaker, a built-in ice bucket hole in the table, and a sliding bathroom door made from thick wood planks.
In the amenities department you get fast and free WiFi, capsule coffee makers, a grand array of toiletries in the baths, rain showers, robes, and a desk with outlets you can actually reach from your seat. At the time of our visit, there were plans to upgrade to Smart TVs with streaming services and roll out Bluetooth speakers to all the rooms. Although this hotel is part of The Autograph Collection, the rooms aren’t stuffed with nagging signs or advertisements and there’s an electronic “do not disturb” or “make up room” button by the entrance door.
Some of the rooms have a terrace area and it doesn’t cost a whole lot more to upgrade to a suite. These are twice as large and have a full living room set, a kitchen area, and separate bedroom. Some have a furnished balcony as well.
This is a hotel where good design got as much attention as good food, but the food and beverage outlets are the big draw here. All of them get plenty of traffic from locals, whether it’s the rooftop craft cocktail bar, the comprehensive indoor-outdoor bar off the lobby, or the excellent Elevage Restaurant that has evolved a few times since my initial visit.
The menu at Elevage can now best be described as varied small plates and salads on the top half, full-on steakhouse at the bottom. So this way you can mix and match some lighter dishes if you’re trying to be good or healthy, or you can go all out and order steakhouse style with a slab of beef and your chosen sides. There are some nice international variations in that first half, with some Mediterranean roasted cauliflower, Indian lamb spareribs, and pork belly with pickled pineapple chutney.
The Butcher Cuts steak menu is more traditional, with a rib eye, a filet mignon, a bison ribeye, and a cut of lamb, with large dishes of salmon, sea bass, and chicken milanese also available.
Both the bars here serve up excellent cocktails, with about a dozen specialities of the house on the restaurant menu. When I met a friend for a drink, I took it as a sign that I needed to order the Epicurean Manhattan since it was made with Sagamore Rye. I had just been in the Sagamore Pendry Hotel in Baltimore a few months earlier and the owner founded that whiskey company. (In addition to a little company called Under Armour.) Then I switched to something prettier at dinner.
As expected, there’s a terrific wine list as well as 17 selections available by the glass. You can also get a good craft beer from Florida, including Tampa Bay favorites from Green Bench, St. Pete Brewing, or Coppertail.
Alas, the sweets shop on site disappeared during the pandemic and appears to be closed for good, someday to be replaced by something else in that space. Just down the street are plenty of other options for something sweet though including a good independent coffee shop, the Bula Gastrobar, and a Panera outlet in a pinch.
If you want to learn more of the culinary arts or perhaps increase your wine knowledge, the Epicurean Theater on site has terraced seating, video monitors, and mirrors over the cooking counter for classes and demonstrations. It’s outfitted with Viking equipment and Shun Japanese knives. The theater sometimes hosts workshops from big-name chefs or competitions between the best local ones. During my visit they were doing a sold-out whiskey tasting event and a wine one was scheduled for the same week. See the events schedule here.
There’s a complete gym on site to work off all these goodies and the hotel rents out hip cruiser bikes for free. This hotel is in a mixed commercial and residential area that’s good for biking, with Bayshore Boulevard a few blocks away having a wide bicycle and jogging path along the water that goes for miles and connects with the downtown Riverwalk.
The full Evangeline spa continues the wine theme with an entire wall in the lobby and manicure area made from more than 19,000 wine corks from around the world. There are a few enticing couple’s offerings, including a wine-themed one with a cabernet grape-rich scrub, steam shower, 50-minute massage, and then a bourbon pedicure or 50-minute anti-oxidant facial.
The outdoor pool is surrounded by cushioned lawn chairs and palm trees. Although there’s a bit of traffic noise from the very close Selmon Parkway, it is a fun hangout hotspot during the warm months, which is most of the year here in Florida.
Epicurean is a delight for the senses of sight and taste. Although it is now part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, little of its original edge has softened and this is a great alternative to the more standardized business chain hotels that dominate nearby downtown Tampa. The focus on good food and wine in genuine here, down to a well-curated wine and liquor store right off the lobby in case you don’t like what’s available in your room already.
Review and photos by editor Tim Leffel, who was one night at the Epicurean Hotel for purposes of review. All photos by the writer and as always, all opinions are his own.