Tired but charming: A review of The St. Regis Houston
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At TPG, we sometimes travel the world to review luxury hotels. But sometimes, we just travel around the corner.
Case in point: my most recent hotel stay. I only walked five minutes from my apartment to check into The St. Regis Houston.
I’ve passed by this hotel more times than I can count, so I’ve been curious about the vibe, the clientele and the experience of staying there. As a luxury hotel in one of Houston‘s most upscale neighborhoods, would its somewhat nondescript 1980s-era facade reveal something more lavish inside?
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If you’re into the classical style of luxury that the St. Regis brand is synonymous with, you are very much in luck. Don’t expect the hipness of some of Marriott‘s other brands like Edition or W Hotels — there’s really not a “scene” here. Instead, expect a worn-in, clubby type of luxury. There’s a small display near the lobby, for example, that features some photos and memorabilia from the Houston Polo Club, which is five minutes away.
And while the rooms and amenities may not have the hallmarks of up-to-the-minute trends or technology, the hotel still provides a solid setting for a comfortable (albeit unremarkable) stay.
Nestled in Houston’s upscale Uptown neighborhood, The St. Regis Houston offers old-school luxury and ornate touches with a Texas twist (think: bow-tied barmen, leather-walled elevators and intricately patterned marble floors reminiscent of ranch fencing).
There was very little to make this space feel contemporary. But that’s kind of the point.
You’ll find none of the WeWork-style public spaces designed for coworking and socializing that Marriott’s fledgling brands like Moxy embrace. Instead, the lobby is reached through a labyrinth of hallways that set a tone of hushed privacy.
While our interactions with the staff were superb, including a helpful bellhop and a room service attendant whose efforts would have been appreciated at a Michelin-starred restaurant, I was disappointed that the butler service for which St. Regis is so well known was never mentioned or offered. It wasn’t until later that I found out there was indeed butler service at this hotel, but you need to know to ask for it. That contrasts with other St. Regis hotels like the original in New York and The St. Regis Atlanta, which make the service a staple and feature it prominently on their websites.
Another drawback? The hotel does not field many food outlets, and the few options that do exist offer limited menus. Likewise, some parts of the hotel are clearly in need of a renovation, including guest rooms, which sport some chipped furniture.
Those shortcomings did not seem to bother the other guests we encountered. The older-skewing demographic (think: well-heeled women clutching expensive handbags or massive strings of pearls and male counterparts suited up for business meetings or large social gatherings) seemed to fit right in with the traditional vibe of the property.
The St. Regis Houston is about 30 minutes by car from George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and about 20 to 25 minutes from William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), with Ubers to and from the airports running around $30 to $40 these days. The property is easily accessed via the West Loop freeway, and valet parking is available for $42 per day.
Both cash rates and point redemptions run rather high at this 232-room hotel, especially in a market like Houston, where there are a number of other Marriott Bonvoy properties that are both solid and affordable. My two-night stay, which was booked weeks before the elimination of Marriott’s award charts, priced out at 55,000 Bonvoy points per night for a base-level superior room, though other nights the same month cost 45,000 points per night.
TPG currently values Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.8 cents per point, so redeeming 110,000 points would have been like spending $880 for my stay. The prepaid cash rate of $903.66 made it a virtual wash, so we decided to save our points and pay out of pocket. Using my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, I earned 3 points per dollar spent on this travel-related purchase.
It’s worth noting that the Bonvoy redemptions for this hotel have decreased in cost since the program ditched its award chart. In the next few weeks, there are some two-night stays available for as few as 80,000 points.
- Bartender Harry at The Remington Bar is a gem and makes an outstanding Texas take on the classic St. Regis bloody mary. It can be made with tequila or vodka and features a very spicy base garnished with a whole jalapeno and a Gulf shrimp.
- The traditional afternoon tea service was a highlight and took place in a formal setting with live harp music. The delicious selection of tea paired perfectly with the sandwiches and pastries served alongside it.
- A St. Regis bed means an excellent night of sleep for this traveler. The sheets were a high thread count and soft, and the mattress felt new and was the perfect firmness for me.
- The well-designed pool deck transformed a relatively small space into an inviting area to lounge in. The addition of a small waterfall was not only visually appealing but it also created just enough background noise to block out the din of Houston’s busy San Felipe Street below.
- With dinged-up furniture and worn-out upholstery, the hotel’s decor is showing its age and is long overdue for a renovation. The last one occurred in 2013.
- Limited, uninspiring food options and a sterile-feeling restaurant made the cuisine here a bit of a letdown. The dinner venue featured a menu that largely consisted of fancy bar food, while the breakfast and lunch eatery felt more like a cavernous ballroom than a restaurant, with gray walls and few accent colors.
- The lack of a grand lobby is a missed opportunity for this hotel. Reconfiguring the space and moving the bar into the lobby could make this area a much more interesting and special part of the hotel that could potentially draw in local residents.
The St. Regis Houston has a classical and formal ambiance, with marble floors and arched ceilings in the corridors that serve as the hotel’s lobby. This sets the tone for the rest of the property.
Most guests we ran into — especially at night — were older and dressed in expensive formalwear, looking like they were about to head out to a $2,000-a-head fundraiser. However, not every space feels so upscale that you need to wear your Sunday best to visit.
The more casual Remington Bar features darker tones, warm-hued lamps and abstract art on the walls. The cool, relaxed setting creates an ambiance similar to that of a speak-easy — a place where you can loosen your tie, enjoy a cocktail and have a smoke (just don’t actually do that indoors at a bar in Houston, as it’s illegal). While I enjoyed this area the most of any space in the hotel, it didn’t feel like the type of spot that local Houstonians (like me) would frequent for casual happy hour drinks.
The superior guest room (the hotel’s base category) that I stayed in was about 500 square feet and had a small-but-smart entryway that gave it a regal feeling. The carpeting, curtains and even the ceiling all had a toned-down, taupe floral pattern.
Two leather chairs with orange-brown accent pillows inspired by Texas’ landscape were in one corner of the room, while another corner featured a large wooden desk that made me feel like one of the corporate executives who regularly stay at this hotel when I sat down to do a little work.
A bureau held a large high-definition TV that — as is standard at Marriott properties — could be used to access streaming services, either by logging in via your own device or by the somewhat cumbersome process of using the remote. A tray with three different types of glasses and some cocktail stirrers was also placed here, should you choose to indulge in the minibar.
One nightstand featured a clip-on power port featuring two regular and two USB outlets — something that seems to have been added since the hotel’s last renovation.
Beyond the main room in the entryway were a closet with ample space for luggage, the well-stocked minibar and an Illy espresso machine (which had been cleaned thoroughly) with complimentary Illy-branded espresso pods.
The large bathroom sat just off the entryway through a door and featured marble countertops in brown and beige hues, marble accent walls and warm tones throughout. Both Salvatore Ferragamo Tuscan Soul and St. Regis-standard Laboratoire Remède toiletries were offered — two higher-end brands befitting a luxury hotel. Water pressure was excellent in the shower-bathtub combo, though a tall person would find the shower head too low for comfort.
Unfortunately, the biggest downside of my stay at this hotel had to do with the condition of the room. While the accommodation itself was spotless — a testament to an excellent, hard-working housekeeping staff — I found chipped furniture and threadbare accent pieces almost everywhere I turned. There were chips in the desk and mirrors, and some pillows were showing their age in spots.
With the amount of wear and tear this hotel has experienced since it was last renovated in 2013, I imagine the property will be planning another refurbishment in the not-too-distant future.
Food and drink
The St. Regis has two eateries, which are open at different times of the day. While the options are limited, all the food we ordered was very tasty and at better-than-expected prices.
The first night, we ate at The Remington Bar, where our bartender, Harry, whipped up one of the best bloody marys I’ve ever had. The bar’s Texas-inspired iteration was made with either tequila or vodka, featured lots of heat and was garnished with a large jalapeno pepper and a Gulf shrimp for flair ($18).
Overall, the bar’s food was top-notch, too. Highlights from our visit included the appetizers of tequila shrimp mini tacos ($17) and blue cheese Caesar salad ($15). Although the ribeye steak I ordered was not steakhouse quality (and I did not expect it to be), it was cooked to my desired temperature and garnished nicely. My girlfriend raved about the cheeseburger she ordered, saying it tasted like a high-quality tavern burger and was grilled to perfection.
Breakfast and lunch are served in the somewhat sterile-feeling Remington Restaurant, which has drab gray walls and few embellishments, though the solarium room where we had one of two breakfasts has a much better ambiance thanks to the airiness of the light-filled space, which makes you feel like you’re dining outside — minus the Texas heat.
My pecan wood-smoked salmon platter with a bagel ($19) was absolutely delicious, and I say that as a born-and-raised New Yorker. The pancakes ($16) I ordered the next day were light and fluffy and perfectly garnished with blueberries and powdered sugar.
The in-room dining menu was quite limited — it was essentially the same menu as The Remington Bar — but as a millennial, I appreciated the ability to place an order through my phone via a QR code distributed at check-in. My burger ($18) and raspberry creme brulee ($10) came in exactly 30 minutes when I was quoted 45 minutes. The food was hot, delicious and nicely presented.
A complimentary coffee bar was set up near the elevators each morning. Much to my surprise, the coffee and tea on offer were pretty tasty.
The best part of my stay, though, was the afternoon tea service ($59 per person, formal attire and reservations required), which is offered in a single seating on Fridays and two seatings on Saturdays and Sundays.
The experience featured two delicious tea courses (jasmine and black tea), a plate of sumptuous tea sandwiches (including an English classic: cucumber-watercress with Boursin cheese), a blackcurrant scone with clotted cream and preserves and, finally, a tower of pastries. Live harp music, a beautiful lounge setting and the hard-working waitstaff helped make the afternoon tea service feel special.
Amenities and service
Most of the hotel’s guest amenities can be found one floor up from the lobby.
The pool sits outdoors and features a waterfall detail at one end, plus loungers and chairs around three sides. Food can be ordered at the pool via the same mobile ordering system used for room service.
Nearby, the fitness center houses LifeFitness treadmills, ellipticals, weight machines and free weights. Unfortunately, there are no Pelotons, an increasingly popular amenity, especially at luxury hotels.
Next to the gym is the hotel’s spa, which is only open on Fridays and Saturdays. I did not use the spa during my visit, but a standard 60-minute massage will set you back $150, gratuity not included.
Several conference rooms are also available on the second floor and are located off of a tastefully appointed space with a cozy fireplace and some of the most eye-catching decor in the entire hotel.
As far as service goes, every staff member that I interacted with here provided excellent service. Despite limitations on dining and spa services, the hotel did not seem understaffed when it came to attending to guests’ needs.
Both check-in and checkout went smoothly. As a Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite member, I was automatically offered a late checkout by the friendly and efficient agent checking me in.
An elevator interaction with a bellhop particularly stood out — he made some great conversation and told us what to order at The Remington Bar.
Overall, the people working at this hotel seemed to be happy, which is important for the guest experience. While it was strange to not be proactively offered butler service at this hotel — a signature touch at many St. Regis properties (including this one) where it’s still available — this one hiccup was not enough to offset the otherwise superb service we encountered during our visit.
Out and about
The hotel is about a five-minute drive from Houston’s Galleria mall, the anchor of the city’s so-called second downtown. Upscale shops are also nearby at the River Oaks District and Highland Village retail developments. A Target selling an assortment of sundries sits across the street.
Restaurant options in the immediate area abound, too. In fact, some of my favorite Houston spots are within walking distance. Next door is Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette, which serves a selection of seafood dishes and fresh sushi, and down the street is Bosscat Kitchen & Libations, one of Houston’s best whiskey bars.
The St. Regis Houston is a fully accessible property. Its many hallways were wide enough for those who use wheelchairs, and there were ramps throughout, including down to the tea lounge and the restaurants. Additionally, the elevators were large enough to accommodate someone in a wheelchair, and the pool features a lift to allow those with mobility issues to enjoy the water.
Accessible guest rooms are available, too. Features you’ll find in these accommodations include roll-in showers, wheelchair-height toilet seats, flashing door knockers and lowered vanities.
I look forward to returning to The St. Regis Houston — after it’s renovated. This luxury hotel has delicious food and drinks, offers impressive service, boasts a top-notch location and hosts a memorable tea service. However, it’s impossible to ignore the condition of some of the property’s spaces, including guest rooms — something that must be held to high standards at a brand like St. Regis.
This hotel is one of the most expensive and upscale properties in Houston. The Houston hotel market has lots of more affordably priced options from all the major hotel chains, so unless this property undergoes a renovation, I’d probably consider booking a suite at a lower-level hotel before springing for the relatively high rates and points redemptions that this property commands for a standard room.
Featured photo by Ethan Klapper/The Points Guy.
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