We had never been to Houston before. But even if you have, we’ve got the buzz on some very cool places to stay, eat, and visit that are new and absolutely fabulous!
We went first to West Houston's hip new area called
CityCentre. This 37-acre urban redevelopment of offices, retail, dining and luxurious living is located at I-10W and Beltway 8, in the Memorial Villages area. Because of this location, it’s quickly becoming a favorite destination for Houston locals and visitors. Those smart enough, or just plain lucky, to have chosen to live in the new brownstones, lofts and apartments, already know its charms.
We stayed at the recently opened, Italian-inspired Hotel Sorella CityCentre. The hotel has 244 rooms, including 30 suites and one presidential suite. We found the “sense” of Hotel Sorella to hit all the right design marks. It’s cool but not cold; it’s smooth but not slick; it’s calm but not boring. The large central polished wood staircase practically “embraces” you as it leads you up to the lobby floor.
As we headed to our room, exiting the elevator, we especially noticed the ultra-cool décor of the halls. We noticed this same theme used throughout the entire hotel and, to our surprise, it was also on the bridge over the central plaza’s pools.
Our junior suite was all understated luxury and warmth. Along with the sumptuously comfortable king-sized bed, there was a work table, large leather couch and an oh-so-relaxing chaise. Our windows looked down on the CityCentre main plaza, which was seasonally lit with sparkling white lights.
Hotel Sorella, a part of the Valencia group, has two restaurants, Bistro Alex and Café Rose, and a terrific lounge called Monnalisa. Hotel guests receive a complimentary continental breakfast in the 2nd floor lobby lounge where they are treated to pastries, cereal, fresh fruit, assorted juices, and complimentary Katz coffees, cappuccino or espresso. In addition to their own fitness center and spa, Hotel Sorella offers access to CityCentre’s 140,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art Lifetime Fitness. Sorella also has a rooftop pool with it own lounge.
As a tourist, getting around a city, i.e. easily finding restaurants, shops and sights, is often a problem. Where to go? How to get there? Hate to trek from shopping to eating? At Hotel Sorella CityCentre, you are surrounded by what you want, when you want it!
The complex even features weekly outdoor concerts and unique events. The night we visited, the Mambo Jazz Kings and a concours d'elegance with over 40 antique cars was scheduled. Unfortunately, the festivities were cancelled due to a nasty storm, but future visitors can look forward to other concerts, entertainment and special events in this splendid new district.
Entering Monnalisa, the bar area drew us in like moths to a light as it provides most of the illumination in this romantic dimly-lit space. Creating an exotic illusion is the sparkling black teardrop chandelier running the length of the bar.
After ordering our drinks, we moved through the packed crowd to the other main source of light, the open fire pit in the center of the lounge. We sat on high chairs and enjoyed the vibe of the room, while listening to the band playing in the far corner. Around the perimeter of the room are semi-private sitting areas with cozy couches and people obviously enjoying themselves. Monnalisa seems to excel at creating that atmosphere.
Sorella’s two on-site restaurants are Bistro Alex and Café Rose. Both are owned by Alex Brennan-Martin, who runs Brennan's, long a Houston favorite. We didn’t have time to eat at Bistro Alex on this trip, but an excited crowd, enticing menu and an imposing hallway, lined floor-to-ceiling with bottles of wine, beckoned us to return.
Down Hotel Sorella’s grand staircase to the first floor is the more casual Café Rose. This coffee-and-wine bar sports an eclectic décor that is smart and comfortable. There is an L-shaped bar with stools, regular tables and several small sofa sitting areas.
We tried Café Rose for breakfast and met the manger, Carson Hammett, who assured us that coffee at the café is under his watchful and knowledgeable eye at all times. Being a coffee lover himself, Dennis savored Carson’s coffee choice, all premiums, fair-traded.
The morning menu offers a variety of wraps, eggs and a unique Breakfast Banana Split. It consists of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla low-fat yogurt between slices of banana and sprinkled with their home-made granola. Dennis devoured it with glee.
Marilyn ordered the Breakfast Biscuit with Ham and Cheese for $4. The delightfully crusty biscuit is the same recipe but larger than their regular biscuits that are available by themselves with butter and jam.
Browsing Café Rose’s lunch and dinner menus, we found their list of items both tantalizing and reasonably priced. In the evenings, they feature an array of entrees as well as charcuterie and fromage. The meats range in price from $8 each to $20 for larger combinations. Various cheeses are listed daily at $7 to $25. These plates are great for noshing and enjoying Café Rose’s ambitious selection of wines and other mixed drinks.
Houston is vast, covering over 500 square miles with hundreds of hotels. As an integral part of CityCentre, Hotel Sorella stands out at the vanguard of a new urban movement, where visitors, residents and workers can delight in the instant availability of shopping, services and employment, without using a car. We’re sure you’ll appreciate all their features, just like we did.
800 West Sam Houston Parkway North
I-10W & Beltway 8
Houston, TX 77024